IPA: much later than you think part 2

king-barnes-ipaClick to read part 1
From 1823 the Burton brewers began to brew pale ales for the Indian market. I’m not going to go into the development of Burton pale ale here, but between them the big Burton brewers and Hodgson of Bow certainly never had a monopoly of the Indian pale ale trade. In November 1831, for example, when the Hope brewery, “near the Friend at Hand”, Hammersmith (in what is now West London) was put up for auction, its stocks, according to the advertisement in The Times, included “150 barrels of pale ale for the Indian market”.

But this was still not being called “India Pale Ale”. Even Hodgson’s product, even when it was being advertised directly at “Families from India”, as it was in an advertisement in The Times in July 1833 (clearly the brewer was hoping for custom from people now back in England who had enjoyed its beers out East), was still only referred to as “Hodgson and Co’s Bottled Pale Ale”. No mention of India in the name of the beer, no indication that this was special or different from anybody else’s pale ale, except for the brief hint in the note that “The Nobility, Gentry and others (especially Families from India”) could be supplied with the product.

In October 1834 a London wine and spirit merchant, WG Field and Co, of Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, was advertising in The Times “Burton, Edinburgh and Prestonpans Ales, Pale Ale as prepared for India [my emphasis], Dorchester Beer and London and Dublin Brown Stout”. Earlier in the century Thomas Field of London had been a big customer of Bass in Burton upon Trent, and it seems quite likely this was the same firm, probably selling Bass’s “Pale Ale as prepared for India”, carried down from Burton by canal or wagon. In the 1840s Field was certainly selling Bass pale ale. What was “Pale Ale as prepared for India”? William Loftus explains, under the heading “India Pale Bitter Ale”, in his book The Brewer: A Familiar Treatise on the Art of Brewing,, published in 1856. The book says about “Bitter Ale” that “that prepared for the home market is less bitter and spirituous than that which is prepared for exportation to India.”

So – “Pale Ale as prepared for India” was hoppier and stronger than bitter ale as sold at home. No surprise there. But does this mean that making “Bitter Ale” more bitter and more spirituous for the Indian market had been some brewer’s deliberate original act? By no means: as we have seen, brewers were exporting all sorts of beers to India in the 18th century, weak and strong and, doubtless, hoppy and less hoppy. It seems more likely, to me, that after initially exporting a mixed cargo of beers they found that stronger, hoppier pale ales worked better, surviving the journey out more successfully, maturing more fully and being more popular with the expats in India than the less hoppy, weaker beers they were also exporting.

allsopps-ipaAfter discovering this, brewers may then prepared all their pale ales for India, where price was no, or not much of, an object, with extra hops and malt. The market in Britain, however, until the early 1840s, wanted something cheaper and so got something weaker and less hoppy. The Burton brewers had to prepare a different, paler, more bitter beer than the ones they had been exporting to the Baltic when they started to export to India from 1823, but they were imitating Hodgson’s beer, and Hodgson’s beer as exported to India is nowhere stated to be any different to the beer it sold in the Bombay Grab pub in Bow.

But no brewer ever took credit for discovering stronger, hoppier beers worked best for export to the East, and as I stated earlier, no brewer was given credit for it until William Molyneaux claimed in Burton-on-Trent: its history, its waters and its breweries in 1869 that

“The origin of India ale is by common consent accredited to a London brewer named Hodgson, who … discovered the process of brewing a beverage peculiarly suited to the climate of the East Indies and which, under the name of ‘India Pale Ale’, monopolised the Indian trade in English ale … The brewery where pale ale was first brewed, according to popular opinion, was the Old Bow Brewery.”

However, as we have seen, there is no evidence Hodgson made any such discovery, he didn’t have a monopoly of exporting beer to India, even before the Burton brewers moved in on the trade, the Old Bow Brewery wasn’t the first place to brew pale ale, which was a known style of beer before Hodgson, and Hodgson’s beer wasn’t called India Pale Ale until 1837, when it had already lost its pre-eminence in the East.

Field, and its successor firm, Field Wardell, continued to use this expression “Pale Ale as prepared for India” until at least 1846, probably in part because that was the expression used by one of the early 19th century’s best-known medical men, Dr William Prout, in a book on the treatment of diabetes and dyspepsia (On the nature and treatment of stomach and urinary diseases, third edition, 1840), which recommended Burton bitter beer for dyspepsia sufferers. People with stomach disorders cannot, he said,

“assimilate the sweeter ales. Some of the finer kinds of Burton ale, however, are unobjectionable; particularly those prepared for the Indian market, which are not only carefully fermented, so as to be quite dry, or free from saccharine matter; but they also contain double the usual proportion of hops.

There is another clue to the nature of 19th century IPA: dry, and twice as many hops as “ordinary” ale.

barclays-ipaWhile Field Wardell carried on using the clunkier expression, however, others eventually picked up on the snappier brand name apparently invented by Mr Shove to describe the product of, as it happens, messers Hodgson of Bow. (Which means it is certainly true that the first beer to be described as India pale ale was Hodgson’s, though not until 1837.) A year later Mr Shove had evidently lost the agency for Hodgson’s beers to E. Abbott of Wapping (who was shortly to be a partner in, and then owner of, the Bow brewery). Abbott was advertising himself in The Times as the only London depot for the “long-celebrated beers”, “Hodgson’s East India Pale Ale and Stout”, the latter beer shortly afterwards renamed “Export Stout”, underlining the fact that Hodgson wasn’t just sending pale ale out east. (While some later brewers sold both an India Pale Ale and an East India Pale Ale, incidentally, the latter beer being in these cases more expensive and thus stronger, in general the two terms, IPA and EIPA, were used as synonyms.)

In August 1839 the railway arrived in Burton upon Trent, slashing the cost to the town’s brewers of getting their goods to market elsewhere in England. Freight charges between Burton and London fell from £3 a ton to 15 shillings, and the time it took a cask of ale to travel from Staffordshire to the capital dropped from a week to 12 hours. Over the next 18 months London’s wine merchants began advertising anonymous India pale ales, names of brewers not given. Then, on April 15 1841, the following advertisement appeared on page seven of The Times:

EAST INDIA PALE ALE – BASS & Co respectfully acquaint the public that a printed list of the bottlers of their INDIA ALE may be procured on application at the London Store, 49 Great Tower-street, where it may be had in casks of all sizes. This particular kind of ale differs greatly from the common malt liquors. It is more perfectly fermented, and approaches nearly the character of a dry wine; it has the light body of a wine combined with the fragrance and subdued bitter of the most delicate hop. That it is wholesome in an eminent degree is proved by it being drunk as the common beverage in India, where, from the nature of the climate, nothing which is not friendly to health can be used as an article of diet by Europeans. Many of the faculty also prescribe this ale to invalids. Dr Prout, who has examined that brewed by Bass & Co, in his work on diet &c, especially recommends it to weakly persons on account of its dryness, its mild tonic properties, and because it is not liable to turn ascecent in the stomach as other malt liquors are. The high esteem in which the pale ale of Bass & Co is held in India will be seen by a statement given below of the comparative quantity shipped by them and by Hodgson & Co to Calcutta in the season 1839 and 1840: Shipped by Bass & Co 4,936 hogsheads, by Hodgson 1,463 ditto.

Points to note there are that East India pale ale, India Ale and pale ale are all used as synonyms of the same article; and that Bass reckoned its EIPA had a “subdued” bitterness of “delicate hop” – not a teeth-puckering hop-filled wallop. But Bass itself wasn’t calling this “Pale Ale as prepared for India”: it clearly liked the sound of “India Pale Ale”.

Another cheeky point to note is that Bass failed to mention its biggest rival and fellow Burton brewer, Allsopp, which responded with its own ad in The Times the very next day:

EAST INDIA PALE ALE – In consequence of the increased consumption of this malt liquor, and at the request of several eminent medical men, who are strongly recommending its use to their patients, Messers ALLSOPP and SONS beg to inform the public, and the trade generally, that they can be supplied with their ALES in casks of various sizes, by application to Mr John Edwards at their stores, Old Swan-lane, Upper Thames-street. The reputation which this ale has acquired in all parts of India can be ascertained by a reference to the mercantile prices current, by which it can be seen that it commands a preference over all other ales which are now offered to the public … Parties in the country can be supplied with casks direct from the establishment, by addressing their letters to Burton-on-Trent, or to Old Swan-lane.

Sucks to you, Bass – we’ve got several medical men on our side, not just old Prout, and we sell for a higher price in India than you do, nyaa nyaaa …

April 1841 appears to be the moment “Pale Ale as prepared for India” took off in England, or at least in London, with up to five or six small ads from wine merchants inow apearing in The Times every day for “India Ale”, “pale India ale”, “pale export India ale” and other variations. Bass and Allsopp were not the only Burton brewers selling to the London market: Others included Mason and Gilbertson, whose brewery in Horninglow Street was later owned by the Thompson family, eventual partners in Marston’s, and who were advertising their India Pale Ale, “now so much recommended by the medical profession”, in The Times on October 29 1841.

Another was Saunders & Co: William Saunders began brewing on the north side of Horninglow Street around 1835, and was “probably” (according to CC Owens’s The Development of Industry in Burton upon Trent) absorbed by Allsopp’s in 1865. In December 8 1842 The Times carried an advertisement for Saunders’s “East India Pale and Golden Ales”, with the claim that “The fermentation being conducted upon a principle which renders them entirely free from acidity has brought them under the notice of several of the most eminent physicians in London … Invalids generally will find these ales an agreeable and refreshing beverage.”

From now on, India Pale Ale became part of the mainstream brewing offer in Britain. But though as a style it was more than half a century old, having developed from the pale ales brewed in England and shipped out, along with porter, small beer and other brews, as a name it was remarkably new.

0 thoughts on “IPA: much later than you think part 2

  1. Great stuff! I’ll be nicking loads of this. I’ve found it very difficult to track down much on the early history of IPA.

    The first IPA I’ve found in brewing records was one brewed by Reid in 1839. At 1057, it wasn’t particularly strong., but it was hopped at 26.6 pounds per quarter. Quite a hefty rate.

    Like the Barclay Perkins label, too.

  2. I find this line of reasoning persuasive and the revelation of such information certainly is fascinating to any person interested in the history of India Pale Ale (or beer in general, I suggest).

    I want to throw something out prompted in part by this disclosure of ads from the 1800’s referring to beer “prepared” for the India market, and in part by reading recently that the addition of preservatives in bottled beer was not unknown in the 1800’s.

    Molyneaux uses the term “brewed”, i.e., that Hodgson allegedly brewed a special kind of beer for East India. But the older references you mention, Martyn, seem often to speak of a manner of preparation. Could this possibly suggest that some (non-hops) additive was added to some beer exported to India which helped preserve it and this made the fame of India Pale Ale or at least of some brewers who sent pale ale to India?

    Even if when pale ale was taking root as a style U.K. law prevented the addition of a (non-hops) preservative, perhaps the law did not apply to beer sold for overseas consumption (much like German brewers I understand are not required to observe the Pure Beer Law for beer exported to places that have no such law).

    Here is a brief extract from an 1888 book called A Treatise on Beverages or the Complete Practical Bottler, by Charles Herman Sulz:

    “Preservation Of Small Beers

    The preservation of these beers is accomplished, to a certain extent, by the skillful manipulation of the preparation in the course of its process, and a good worked beer will always last longer than one that has not worked well. The addition of certain substances, such as salicylic acid, peroxide of hydrogen, hypo-sulphurous acid, bi-sulphate of lime, and numerous others, which tend more or less to check the fermentation, have always aided the bottler and brewer in this particular way, although it is not always recommended to make use of them, especially not the latter mentioned one, which is even very objectionable, although most applied, and particularly for cider, on account of its effective working and low price at which it can be bought. A very good preservative is made by dissolving one ounce of salicylic acid in three ounces of alcohol, and adding it to a barrel of beer that has been properly worked and filtered; this will preserve and keep the beer much longer. This addition is not generally necessary, being only required where the goods are stocked for some considerable time, and should only be added when racking off for bottling”.

    I am wondering if perhaps some brewers and possibly Hodgson alone (at least initially) hit on a method of adding one of the substances mentioned by Sulz which prevented their pale ale from souring or becoming infected from the long overseas voyage in unrefrigerated wooden barrels. If this is so, this might explain too why no brewer ever vaunted the practice because even if it was lawful to do so for the Indian market (as I assume it was although I do not know for sure), no brewer would want I should think to offer up this information – plus it might have been a trade secret.

    I know of course that Loftus, and e.g., M.L. Byrn too (1852), refer to the pale ales sent to India as simply more hopped than regular pale ale to assist its preservation. Indeed I don’t doubt that any beer sent far away in those times likely was hopped more strongly than on average for that style.

    Still, I wonder if there is another – or additional -explanation for why some brewers anyway became good at supplying the India market in the days before pasteurisation and refrigeration.


  3. I should add that the need to ensure sound condition would, in the days before pasteurisation in particular, apply to beer sent over both in bottles and in wood (i.e., I am mindful that India Pale Ale was mainly, at least as time wore on, a bottled beer).


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