The excuse given for Wikipedia is that its articles may not be the best, but they provide a good leaping-off point for finding out more. That’s not true of the Wikipedia entry on India Pale Ale, however, which is so completely, uselessly wrong as to be actively dangerous: the mistakes in it are going to be repeated by other writers too lazy to do their own research, and they are likely to take years to stamp out.
Just to list a few of the worst errors: there was NO real difficulty exporting beer to the East: contemporary evidence shows everything from small beer to porter surviving the journey. There were NO “tremendous efforts” by British brewers to solve this non-existent problem (the article fails to recognise that the Indian market was tiny, at 9,000 barrels a year in 1800). There is NO evidence George Hodgson, a small-time porter brewer, actually invented IPA, or deliberately designed a recipe for a beer to survive the journey to India. (The writer seems unaware that brewers had been making ales that would last at least a couple of years in cask for more than a century before Hodgson started brewing) There is NO evidence India was a “very tempting” market for British brewers before the 1820s: if it had been, a small brewer such as Hodgson would not have been able to build up a substantial slice of the trade.
The beer exported to Russia was NOT called “Imperial Pale Ale”, it was either Burton Ale if it was pale ale from Burton upon Trent, or Imperial Stout if it was a strong stout from London. It is NOT true that “The national IPA was less hopped compared to the export version, in order to speed up the fermentation” – by “national” IPA (is this an Indian English expression?) I assume the writer means IPA sold in Britain. If this was less-hopped, it was to speed up maturation, not fermentation.
Oh, and the East Indiamen ships did NOT travel “along the coast of Africa” on their way to India, they went via Madeira, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and St Helena to get round the Cape, and then up through the Mozambique Channel.
I’ve put another myth-buster up on the “Frequently Addled Quotations” covering IPA, and outlining what I believe is the correct version of history: that IPA developed out of the strong, well-hopped stock ales, designed to last a year or two in cask before being drunk, that British brewers were already making before entrepreneurial ship’s captains decided to make a few bob taking beer out to sell in India. The stock ale went through a speeded-up maturation on the journey, and arrived out East in prime condition.
Even in the 1890s J Harris Browne of the Hadley brewery near Barnet was calling its IPA “Stock Ale”, and in 1898 Waltham Brothers’ brewery in Stockwell, South London said of its India Pale Ale: “This Ale is heavily hopped with the very best Kent hops, and nearly resembles the fine Farmhouse Stock-Beer (their emphasis) of olden times.” Overseas imitators of IPAs also emphasised that this was a beer which needed to be matured: an advertisement from the end of the 19th century for CH Evans’s brewery in Hudson, New York for its IPA said the beer was “Allowed two years to ripen in the Wood before bottling”.
Still, at least Wikipedia spells Hodgson’s name correctly, unlike one American beer book I have which calls him “Hogsdon”. This same book is again written in ignorance of the existence of strong well-hopped English beers before IPA, and claims, with no evidence at all, that he dry-hopped his beers: he may well have done, but there ain’t no records to say so. Another American beer encyclopedia, talking about IPA, says that “porter did not ship well”, a nonsensical claim: when the First Fleet arrived in Sydney Cove, on the east coast of Australia, to set up a pioneering penal colony in 1788, the new arrivals drank toasts to the success of the settlement in glasses of porter brought 11,000 miles from England.