Tag Archives: IPA

Colonel Williams knocks ’em out

My apologies to the cask ale drinkers of South Wales. I may have inadvertently set free a beast among you.

I learnt today that Colonel Williams East India Pale Ale, the collaboration beer I brewed at Brain’s brewery last month, sold out in less than 16 hours when it went on sale in the Goat Major in Cardiff last week, the fastest-selling craft beer the pub has seen.

That’s good – it very much suggests that people were coming back for more than one pint after the first. But what is particularly surprising about that is that Colonel Williams is six per cent alcohol by volume. American readers may say: “So what?” But British draught beer drinkers simply don’t normally drink beers that strong in quantity. It appears that, completely inadvertently, I may have designed a beer that goes down like a session bitter, despite having almost a third half as much more alcohol than session bitters normally do. Dangerous.

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How I brewed my own IPA at Brain’s

Big Brains
‘People who know beer have 14-foot brains’ – I’ll drink to that

You can’t be a credible beer blogger in Britain today, it seems, if you haven’t been invited to do a “collaboration brew” with a commercial brewery. Dredge and Avery have done one. Cole has done one. Brown has done several, as has Pattinson. So when the South Wales brewery Brain’s emailed to ask if I would like to come down and brew a beer of my own design on the 10-barrel “microbrewery” plant they’ve just had installed, my first question was: “What time is the train to Cardiff?”

Actually, it wasn’t, of course. My real first question was: “What stab at a historic recreation with at least some vague pretence of authenticity can I inflict on the drinkers of Wales?” Fortunately, Brain’s had narrowed down the choices by specifying that they wanted an India Pale Ale, as part of a series that would be following on from Barry Island IPA, designed by Simon Martin of Real Ale Guide and named in imitation of Goose Island IPA from Chicago. The follow-up question, therefore, was: “Is there any historic link at all to be found between India Pale Ale and Cardiff?” One troll through the byways of Google later and the answer was: yes, a little convoluted and obscure, but one with some lovely resonances.

One of Brain’s best-known pubs in Cardiff is called the Goat Major. This was the title of the man who looked after the goat that was the regimental mascot of the Royal Regiment of Wales. That regiment was an amalgamation of several other regiments, one of which (the one that began the tradition of a regimental goat) was the 41st Regiment of Foot. The 41st Foot was in Madras in 1831, in the middle of a 20-year posting to India, when it was granted a territorial affiliation, becoming the 41st (Welch) Regiment of Foot (sic – the regiment always preferred the old-fashioned spelling of “Welsh”). Undoubtedly the “Welch” affiliation came at the request of the regiment’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Sir Edmund Keynton Williams, whose family were from Maesrhyddid, Bedwellty.

I have no evidence for saying that Colonel Williams and his fellow officers drank India Pale Ale while they were in Madras (the troops would have preferred porter), but as Pete Brown has said, sometimes a historian has to declare: “Garn! They must’ve.” It would be far more surprising to discover that they didn’t drink the beer that was the popular refresher of middle and upper class Britons in India at the time.

In 1843 the 41st (Welch) returned home after taking part in the 1st Afghan War, and was garrisoned for a brief while in South Wales. It would be fun, I decided, to try to imagine for the 21st century the kind of beer the officers and men of the regiment might have been given if, when they were back in South Wales, they had gone along to their local brewer and said: “We drank this great beer out in India – can you reproduce it for us?” I even had the name for it, in honour of the man who linked the regiment with Wales: Colonel Williams’ East India Pale Ale.

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London’s brewing, London’s brewing …

The London Brewers Alliance beer festival at Vinopolis, by Borough Market, a couple of Saturdays ago was a terrific event, thoroughly enjoyable. In one room were gathered a dozen or more (I forgot to count) stalls representing breweries from in and around London, with the brewers themselves serving their beers and happy to talk to the punters about them.

It was the kind of “meet the brewer” show common in the US but almost unheard of in the UK that we really should be seeing repeated across this country. And it’s good to see London’s brewers working together in the 21st century to support each other in exactly the same way their ancestors did almost eight centuries ago, when the Brewers’ Guild was founded at All Hallows’ Church, London Wall.

It was also good, for me, to see that the Brewery History Society had a stall there: the LBA clearly has an interest in London’s history as a world-class brewing city, and everybody needs to be reminded of this almost forgotten heritage. I’d argue that, historically, London has an excellent claim to be regarded as the greatest brewing city in the world. Yes, I AM a Londoner, so of course I’m biased, but I dare you to deny that over the centuries London has given the world more new beer styles than any other brewing centre on the planet:
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Four IPA myths that need to be stamped out for #IPAday

There’s an amazing amount of inaccurate, made-up rubbish that has been written about the history and origins of IPA, or India Pale Ale. So read on, and turn yourself into  an IPA mythbuster for #IPA day:

Myth 1: “IPA was invented by a brewer called George Hodgson from Bow, in East London.”

Fact: Hodgson was the best-known of the early exporters of pale ale to India. But there is no evidence at all that he “invented” a new beer style. Pale ale was already being brewed in England before Hodgson. And the beer Hodgson brewed wasn’t called “India Pale Ale” until more than 40 years after he is first recorded as exporting beer to the Far East. Indeed, there is no evidence that IPA was “invented” at all. It looks more likely the style developed slowly from existing brews as “Pale Ale prepared for the India market”, and was eventually, around 1835, given a new and separate name, East India Pale Ale.

Myth 2:IPAs started life as a British export to their troops stationed out in India back in the 1800s.”

Fact: Pale ale was around from at least the 17th century and pale ales were being exported to India from at least the 1780s, if not before. And they weren’t drunk by the troops, either those of the East India Company’s forces or the later British Army forces in India, who much preferred porter, and continued drinking porter in India right through to the end of the 19th century. The pale ales exported by Hodgson, Bass, Allsopp and others were drunk by the middle and upper classes among the Europeans in India, the military officers and the “civil servants”, the civilians who worked for the East India Company, trading, administrating and collecting taxes.

Myth 3: “British brewers discovered that if they put lots of hops and alcohol in the beers they were sending out, the strong beer wouldn’t go sour on the four-month voyage around Africa.”

Fact: Beer did not need to be strong to survive the journey to India, and IPAs were not particularly strong for the time: they were only about 6 per cent to 6.5 per cent abv. Certainly by the 1760s brewers were being told that it was “absolutely necessary” to add extra hops to beer if it was being sent to somewhere warm. But this was not limited to India. And there is absolutely no evidence that George Hodgson of Bow introduced the idea of hopping export beers more strongly than beers for home consumption.

Myth 4: “A few India-bound beer ships were wrecked on the coast of Scotland, which gave locals the chance to sample the cargo. The secret was out, and IPA has been a staple in the UK ever since.”

Fact: There is no record of any shipwreck being associated with the sale of IPA in the UK. Update October 2015: never say never. It turns out there WAS a shipwreck off the coast of Lancashire, in 1839, after which pale ale which had been on its way to India was sold off in Liverpool – you can read about it here.  But even so, “pale Ale brewed expressly for the India market” and “suitable for warm climates or home consumption” was on sale in London in 1822, no shipwreck needed. And IPA never took off in Britain until around 1841, after the railway had arrived in Burton upon Trent and made it much easier for the Burton brewers to send their bitter beers to markets around the UK.

For more about the history, and myths, of IPA, go here for a summary of IPA history, here for a (much) longer version and here to learn more about what George Hodgson really did.

Argh no! Otley and Protz in Burton Ale fail!

This is not going to make me popular in Pontypridd, and it will go down very badly in St Albans. But Otley Brewing Company, the widely admired Welsh brewery, and Roger Protz, doyen of British beer writers, have got together to revive a vanished classic and brewed entirely and utterly the wrong sort of beer.

Yes, I must tell you that the “Burton Ale” the Colonel and Otley have just created under the name O-Roger, and which Roger describes in detail here, isn’t a Burton Ale at all, but an IPA.

This is NOT a Burton Ale

They’ve reproduced a beer that has certainly been called “Burton Ale”, from the mid-1970s, when it was first made under that name at the former Ind Coope brewery in Burton upon Trent. And they went to the trouble of asking two former Ind Coope brewers to tell them about that beer, so they could make their reproduction as accurate as possible. Unfortunately the beer called Burton Ale that those guys brewed at Ind Coope in Burton, which was Champion Beer of Britain at the Great British Beer Festival in 1990, was NOT a Burton Ale in the sense of being in the Burton Ale style, the slightly sweet, not-too-bitter, darkish ale popular right across Britain until the 1950s, but something utterly other.

Continue reading Argh no! Otley and Protz in Burton Ale fail!

An Imperial Stout cocktail and other titbits

I used to think Americans said “tidbit” because of some squeamishness over the word “tit”, but in fact “tidbit” is the older or original version, and it is the British who have been the lexical corrupters. (And in any case, if you believe the Oxford English Dictionary, which I’m not sure I do, “tit = breast” has only been in use since the 1920s.)

'Imperial double stout porter' from 1822

Anyway, here are some tidbits/titbits that don’t individually make up a full blog post on their own, including an excellent antedating for “Barclay, Perkins and Co’s imperial double stout porter, from the butt, ditto in bottle” from 1822 in the wonderfully named Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser on Saturday December 21, 1822. So now we know that a version of Imperial Stout, brewed by Barclay Perkins, was being exported as far away as Tasmania in the early 1820s.

I also tripped over a recipe for a beer cocktail including Russian Stout which, according to the Daily Express in February 1941, used to be served at Romano’s in the Strand, a once-famous London theatreland restaurant that opened in the 1870s on the site of what is now Stanley Gibbons’s stamp-collectors’ shop (or is that Stanley Stamp’s gibbon-collectors’ shop?), and where, it is claimed, Edwardian gallants really did drink champagne from a beautiful chorus girl’s shoe. If fizz flavoured with female foot was not to your taste, then Bendi, Romano’s head cellarman, had a favourite concoction he called “The Three Angels” – a mixture of Russian Stout, Bass No 1 barley wine and “ordinary bottled beer”, this last ingredient, I’m guessing, being pale ale, which must have given Three Angels an abv of about 8 per cent. King Edward VII, who was a regular patron at Romano’s when he was Prince of Wales, “loved a beaker of it”, according to the Express. Probably tasted better out of a chorus girl’s shoe than champagne, too. It was a batch of Bass No 1, of course, that Tedward helped brew when he visited Bass in 1902, and which was bottled as King’s Ale.

Continue reading An Imperial Stout cocktail and other titbits

Interpreting Victorian beer ads

Only a particularly sad beer history geek – that is to say, me – would greet the excellent news that Fuller’s, the Chiswick brewer, has released a reproduction of a 7.5 per cent 19th century brew under the name Past Masters XX Ale with the cry: “Hang on, that’s not an XX – it’s too strong.” OMG, FST XX NTST. So I was relieved that Ron Pattinson, who was heavily involved in helping Fuller’s produce this new-old beer, the first in what is apparently planned to be a series of absolutely fascinating journeys back into the Griffin brewery’s brewing books, calls it an XX(K). Because an XXK is exactly what it sounds like: 1065 to 1075 or so OG, which would have sold at one shilling and sixpence a gallon wholesale, and seven pence a (quart) pot, at a time when actual proper XX was selling for four pence a pot. (And if that doesn’t sound much – a mere two pence a pint – according to this extremely useful site, 2d in 1890 is the equivalent, in average earnings, to £4.10 today.)

Victorian brewers in Britain had a fairly rigid hierarchy of beers in terms of gravity and price: each of the three main styles, ale, pale ale/bitter and porter/stout, would be sold at one of five or six “price points”, the price per gallon dictated by the original gravity. Not every brewer sold every beer at every price-point, but brewers sold, normally, nine to 12 different beers. The remarkable lack of inflation in Victorian Britain also meant that ales and beers kept the same retail prices from the 1840s through to the rises in tax that began with the Boer War.

Many of the names brewers gave the different brews were fairly standard: ales (remember, we’re talking about a time when ale was still different from beer, being less hoppy, and usually sold “mild”, that is, unaged) were almost always given an X designation, the more X’s, obviously, the stronger the ale. A light one shilling (1s) a gallon bitter ale was almost always called AK. Why? After 25 years pondering this question, I still have no good idea. The big London brewers all seem to have indicated their versions of Burton Ales with the letter K, and Ron Pattinson has amassed good evidence for this meaning “keeping”. But “K” can’t mean “keeping” in AK, because AK wasn’t a keeping beer. In addition, “K” can’t be taken to mean solely the Burton Ale style, or a keeping beer: other, smaller London brewers than the really big ones, as we shall see shortly, used “KKK” to indicate, for example, a pale ale, not a Burton Ale.

Putting that problem aside for a moment, here’s a table that should enable you to work out from any Victorian beer advertisement what the likely OG was of any beer in it, and also the likely retail price (if the ad only gives the price per firkin, or nine-gallon cask, double it to get the price per kilderkin, of course): Continue reading Interpreting Victorian beer ads

IPA: the hot maturation experiment

In any modern account of the history of India Pale Ale, you’ll generally find a declaration that the casks of well-hopped beer sent out to India by ship via the Cape of Good Hope in the late 18th century matured and developed quickly in a way that the same beer kept at home in Britain did not. It was this accelerated maturation in a short time (three to four months or so) caused by travelling through the warm waters and hot climate of the central Atlantic and the Indian Ocean as the sailing ships twice crossed the equator that gave IPA the character that was so much appreciated by expatriate Britons in Bombay, Madras and Calcutta, supposedly. But is this actually true?

You’ll be pushed to find contemporary (that is, 18th and 19th century) confirmation of the “hot maturation” theory for IPA’s popularity in India. Contemporary writers talked about the enthusiasm with which IPA was consumed in the Indian heat, but never seemed to mention whether it was altered to the good on its way east.

Certainly “hot maturation” can’t be the cause for any popularity for IPA back in Britain, since if the beer did go through any accelerated changes on the voyage to the sub-continent, this couldn’t be happening to the beer stored in chilly cellars back home. Are current writers on beer guilty of assumptionism (otherwise known as “you’re making this up”), the crime of assuming without evidence that situation A must surely have brought about result B – that beer on board a sailing ship travelling through the tropics must surely have matured quickly?

Continue reading IPA: the hot maturation experiment

IPA: the executive summary

Well, that was all rather too much: nearly 4,000 words and more footnotes than a Jerry Lee Lewis concert. So here’s the executive summary on what we know, what we don’t know, what we can justifiably assume and what we can’t assume about the history of India Pale Ale, and I promise to keep it to under 700 words. But first, here’s an extract from a book written in 1882, called Our own country: descriptive, historical, pictorial:

The India Pale Ale is a device wholly of the present century. In the year 1822 one Hodgson, a London brewer who had settled at Burton, brewed something like the present bitter ale, which he accomplished in a teapot in his counting house, and called it Bombay beer. A retired East India captain named Chapman improved on this, and Burton ale soon attained the celebrity that has made the names of Bass and Allsopp household words all over the world.

How many mistakes did you find in that collection of cobblers’ awls? I believe there’s not a single statement there that could be said to be correct, with, everything, including the teapot and “Captain Chapman”, unbelievably mangled. It’s a lesson for anyone who believes that if it’s in an old book, it must be right.

So, to summarise my last post, and my other posts on the subject:

We have evidence that pale ale was being made at least as early as 1675, brewed under that name by 1705 and that pale ale was being sold in London by 1709 at the latest.

We have evidence that ale and beer were being exported, apparently successfully, to India as early as 1711.

We know that by the 1760s brewers were being advised that it was “absolutely necessary” to add extra hops to beer if it was being sent to warmer climes. There is no evidence linking this advice, to hop export beer more heavily, to any specific brewer.

We know that pale ale, along with porter, brewer unnamed, was being exported to India from at least 1784.

We know that pale ale and porter brewed by Hodgson of Bow was being exported to India from at least 1793.

We DON’T know whether the Hodgsons were putting extra hops into their pale ale sent to India in the 1790s, as brewers were being advised to do in the 1760s. Somewhere up to “quite probably” they were, I’d say. But still short of “definitely”. They ought to have known that they should do. But there’s no evidence that they did.

We can guess that one of the reasons why Hodgson’s beers were shipped to India in preference to other brewers’ beers was not the quality of Hodgson’s product but because the Bow brewery’s owners were willing to give the East Indiaman ships’ captains extended credit on their purchases of beer to be sold to Europeans in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.

We know that in 1817 one London brewer, WA Brown at the Imperial Brewery, Bromley by Bow, a short distance down the Lea river from Hodgson’s premises, was brewing “Pale Ale prepared for the East and West India Climate”, though we don’t know how it was “prepared”.

We know that a specific hopping rate was being stated for beer for “India voyages” by 1821.

We know that as early as January 1822, “Pale Ale brewed expressly for the India market” and “suitable for warm climates or home consumption” was on sale in London (though the brewer was unnamed).

We know that a couple of decades later, at least, in 1843, “the Pale Ale prepared for the India market” was described as “carefully fermented, so as to be devoid of all sweetness, or, in other words, to be dry; and it contains double the usual quantity of hops.”

We have evidence, 30 years after the event, but collected from an important witness, Samuel Allsopp’s maltster, Job Goodhead, that a Burton brewer was encouraged in 1822 to take on Hodgson in the Indian market.

We know from multiple references that, despite the increased rivalry from Burton brewers, Hodgson’s beer was hugely popular in the east, being described in 1829 as “by far the best and most sought after in India”.

We know that no “pale ale as prepared for the Indian market” seems to have actually been called India Pale Ale (specifically “East India Pale Ale”) until 1835.

We know that Hodgson’s, at least, used East Kent hops in its “Pale India Ale”, and we are entitled to guess that these were East Kent Goldings. We also know that Hodgson’s dry-hopped its pale ale.

We know that the Hodgsons evidently became greedy, and lost the Indian market to others, including Bass and Allsopp from Burton and Ind & Smith from Romford, just east of London (later Ind Coope).

We know that from 1841 onwards East India Pale Ale became increasingly popular in the British market.

We know that in 1869 William Molyneaux claimed that “The origin of India ale is by common consent accredited to a London brewer named Hodgson … The brewery where pale ale was first brewed, according to popular opinion, was the Old Bow Brewery.” But Molyneaux offered no evidence to back this up, and we know the Bow brewery wasn’t the first place to brew pale ale per se.

All we know from the evidence we do have is that Hodgson was one of the brewers exporting pale ale to India, and became the most famous. We can guess that Hodgson quite likely knew of the opinion expressed in books on brewing written in the 1760s that it was a good idea to highly hop ales for export to warmer climes. But there is no evidence at all that Hodgson was the one to discover this. Eventually that general knowledge about the need to hop beers for export to places like India apparently led to brewers to announce for sale something they called “Pale Ale prepared for the East and West India Climate” and similar designations, which was eventually shortened or summarised as “India Pale Ale”. The fact that Hodgson called its beer “East India Pale Ale” in 1835 means it was probably “prepared for the East India climate” and so more highly hopped: whether it was so prepared in 1793 we don’t know.

And the executive summary summarised? IPA – no evidence of an actual inventor, no evidence of an actual invention.

The first ever reference to IPA

(Note: three years on from this post, the earliest mention of the phrase IPA has been pushed back another six years: see here.)

This is a truly historic document: the first known use of the expression India Pale Ale. It comes from an advertisement in the Liverpool Mercury newspaper published January 30 1835, a remarkably long time after pale ale started being sold in India. Before January 1835 (and indeed for some time afterwards) the beer we now call IPA was referred to as “pale ale as prepared for India” or some similar circumlocution. It took a while for the new phrase to catch on: “India Pale Ale” was not used as an expression in advertisements in The Times of London for another couple of years, and even in 1841 the beer was still being referred to as “India Ale”, “pale India ale”, “pale export India ale” and other variations alongside IPA.

The Liverpool Mercury ad has several points to note, apart from the first use of the phrase India Pale Ale, quite possibly a century or more after pale ale was first exported to India. It is interesting, though not necessarily significant in the way you might think, that the ad was for the “well-known house” of Hodgson & Co, the brewer from Bow, London who was for several decades the best-known shipper of pale ales to India.

Hodgson’s had established an agency in Liverpool as early as 1825 (1) for the sale of “pale bottling ale” to “merchants and others”: by then the Bow brewery was starting to have strong competition in the Indian market from Bass, Allsopp and other brewers in Burton upon Trent. The Burton brewers had relatively easy access to Liverpool and its docks via the canal system, and a large part of the shipping from England for overseas was leaving Liverpool rather than London. It looks as if, despite the problems the Hodgsons must have had getting their own beer to Liverpool compared to the relative ease the Burton brewers had in sending their beer to the docks there by canal, the Bow brewers were eager to capture some of the export trade leaving Lancashire for both the sub-continent and the Antipodes. (Ads in newspapers in Australia and New Zealand in the 1830s for “Hodgson’s ale” and “Hodgson’s pale ale” show the Bow brewer’s beer was not just going to India.)

You will also have spotted that specific emphasis was made in the ad about Hodgson’s East India Pale Ale “being brewed from the finest East Kent Hop”. This must, surely, have meant Goldings, which were described, in 1848, at least, as “undoubtedly the finest, richest and most valuable of any grown” in Kent. So: Hodgson’s EIPA used East Kent hops, probably Goldings.

(As an aside, look at the price of that newspaper – seven pence, when a pint of beer was two pence, the equivalent of a paper costing perhaps £10.50 today. Newspapers were still being taxed at four pence an issue, which only dropped to a penny an issue in 1836, and the tax did not disappear completely until 1855.)

But the Liverpool Mercury ad (hat tip to Pete Brown, incidentally, for putting me on its trail) is equally as interesting for what it doesn’t say. It mentions the beer’s “fine tonic properties … much recommended by the faculty [meaning the medical faculty] even to invalids.” However, it says nothing, despite the competition from upstart brewers of pale ale destined for India such as Bass, about Hodgson’s being the inventor or originator of IPA. Nor does any other ad for Hodgson’s beer. Because despite what many have written over the past 140 years, Hodgson never invented India Pale Ale.

Continue reading The first ever reference to IPA