The earliest use of the term India pale ale was … in Australia?

The continuing fantastic expansion in the number of old documents scanned, OCR’d and available on the internet is presenting the lucky historical searcher with constant opportunities to push back the boundaries. The latest terrific find is an ante-dating of the first use of the expression “India pale ale” by almost six years, taking it from Liverpool in January 1835 to Sydney, Australia in August 1829.

Advertisement for East India Pale Ale, Sydney Gazette, Saturday August 29 1829
Advertisement for East India Pale Ale, Sydney Gazette, Saturday August 29 1829

That advertisement for East India pale ale comes from the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser of Saturday, August 29 1829. Unfortunately it doesn’t mention whose East India pale ale Mr Spark was selling at his stores. However, the “Taylor’s” also mentioned in the ad is almost certainly the London brewer better remembered as Taylor Walker, which was well-known in Australia, having been exporting its stout and porter to the colonies from at least 1822, but which had also been exporting pale ale to New South Wales since early in the decade, an advert in the Sydney Gazette from Thursday 20 November 1823 shows.

EIPA, 'the best summwer drink', in the Colonial Times, Hobar,t February 19 1830
EIPA, ‘the best summer drink’, in the Colonial Times, Hobar,t February 19 1830

The 1829 ad seems to say that Mr Spark had two sorts of pale ale on sale, Taylor’s and East India. If there were two, the other one might have been the unhoppy version of pale ale that London brewers had long been making (see later). On the other hand, an ad just a few months later in the Colonial Times of Hobart in Tasmania on Friday, February 19 1830 lists “Taylor’s Brown Stout, East India Pale Ale (the best summer drink) and XXX Ale for sale”, meaning that whatever interpretation you put on that 1829 ad, Taylor Walker’s still (currently) takes the prize for the earliest named beer to be called an IPA (oh, all right, an EIPA – same difference). The XXX ale, meanwhile, probably WAS pale, lightly hopped ale.

We can be fairly certain that the EIPA in the 1829 ad wasn’t Hodgson’s, the best-known of the hopped pale ales exported to the East before 1830, because the Bow brewery’s beer was highly admired and regularly praised, and would have been specifically named by anybody selling it: another Sydney newspaper, the Monitor, complained in April 1828 that “Colonial beer” was “not so good as” Hodgson’s pale ale, and adverts in Australian newspapers for Hodgson’s pale ale from at least 1823 called it “celebrated” and “highly esteemed”. (Though a “Letter to a Gentleman in London” printed in the Australian newspaper in Sydney on Wednesday 16 July 1828, talking about being served Hodgson’s and Taylor’s beers on board ship on the five-month voyage out to the colonies, complained that these were “names that I had never heard of when in London”.)

East India pale ale, brewer unnamed, continued to be advertised in newspapers in Sydney to 1831 (including one mention of “India fine pale ale in casks”. Then in October 1832 the Sydney Herald carried an ad for “Barclay and Perkins’ East India Ale”, in hogsheads, showing that another big London porter brewer, like Taylor Walker, was now in the India pale ale business. (In November 1833 the Herald printed a notice for “Thirty-five Hogsheads of ‘Taylor’s’ BROWN STOUT fifteen ditto of ditto East India Pale Ale”.)

Barclay and Perkins East India Pale Ale, Sydney Herald, October 29 1832
Barclay and Perkins’ East India Ale, Sydney Herald, October 29 1832

The next month, on December 20, the Hobart Town Courier included an advert for, among a long list of other items “landed in good order by the barque Forth from London”, “Ind & Smith’s India pale ale, and best brown stout in Hhds [hogsheads, 54-gallon casks] and in bottle.” Ind and Smith were the brewers from Romford in Essex who, in 1845, became Ind Coope, and who went on to open a brewery in Burton upon Trent in 1856, at least in part, it seems, to serve the export trade.

The names missing from exports of something called India pale ale to Australia, you’ll have spotted, are the major Burton upon Trent brewers Bass and Allsopp, who were, from 1823 onwards, pushing Hodgson out of the pale ale trade in India itself. Bass pale ale does not seem to appear in ads in any Australian newspaper until 1830, years after Hodgson and Taylor’s.

It’s perhaps not THAT surprising that Australia should have started using the name India pale ale earlier than Britain. Although “pale ale as prepared for India” was on sale in London in 1822, it did not become a widely available drink in the UK until after the Burton brewers started using their new railway connections to ship their bitter pale ales to London, in 1841. Only at that point was it necessary to differentiate between the hoppy pale ales the Burton brewers made and the mild pale ales that the ale brewers of London, such as Charrington’s, Mann’s and Goding’s, had been producing for many years, and calling the hoppy version “India pale ale” was a good way of doing it.

In Australia they were getting the well-hopped beers made by Hodgson AND the lesser-hopped ales, like Charrington’s XX pale ale, both on sale in Sydney and elsewhere in the Australian colonies in the 1820s, 15 or 20 years or more before Britons began seeing hoppy pale ales in quantity. Hodgson’s was well-known to Australian consumers and known to be bitter, so perhaps didn’t need calling something to flag its bitterness. Taylor’s, Barclay’s and Ind’s pale ale, however, might have been mistakenly thought by Australian consumers to be the sweeter kind of lesser-hopped ale, like Charrington’s, and so perhaps needed to be called an India pale ale to make it clear these were well-hopped, bitter drinks, something British consumers didn’t need flagging up because they weren’t getting the new hoppy pale ales yet. (I confess I don’t find that argument hugely convincing, but it has its points. And remember, when IPA-like brews did finally take off in Britain, a new term had to be invented for them by the consumer: bitter beer.)

Addendum: in the light of comments below, I should add, because it’s not clear from what I said above, that I strongly suspect the “East India pale ale” designation was strictly a retailer’s usage, in Australia, and not one used by the brewers themselves, or even by the shippers. So I wouldn’t expect to see any brewer’s records, or shipping records, talking about IPA this early.

Sydney in 1828, incidentally, had seven operating breweries, though their average output per month was only around 120 barrels each, despite “Colonial beer” selling for six pence a quart and London porter at 20 pence a quart.

(Hat tip to the Foods of England website for pointing me to “India Pale Ale” ads in early Australian newspapers.)

A label registered in Australia by Ashby's of Staines, Middlesex, England in 1876
A label registered in Australia by Ashby’s brewery of Staines, Middlesex, England in 1876

35 thoughts on “The earliest use of the term India pale ale was … in Australia?

  1. I’m wondering about the ‘East’ in East India Pale Ale, particularly in the earlier occurrences. It may not mean anything, though. According to the OED ‘East India’ could either refer to ‘the East Indies’ or simply to India – there doesn’t seem to be any way of telling except from the context.

  2. Barclay Perkins couldn’t have brewed their East India Pale Ale for long. It doesn’t appear in any of the brewing books I’ve looked at. Unfortunately there don’t seem to be any records for Stoney Lane (where it probably would have been brewed) between December 1828 and May 1832.

    EIPA might appear in ACC/2305/01/548, which is the Stoney Lane book covering 1823 to 1828. If anyone fancies taking a look, it’s held at the London Metropolitan Archives.

    1. I strongly suspect, Ron – indeed, I hinted so, perhaps I should make this clearer – that the “EIPA” designation was strictly a retailer’s term, and not used by the brewers. So I wouldn’t be surprised to not find it in brewing records. What needs to be searched for in the brewing records is suspiciously hoppy pale ales, rather than something actually designated EIPA/IPA.

      1. I’ve a Reid beer from just a few years later that’s called IPA on the brew sheet. EIPA, IP, IPA turn up all the time, even in the early 19th century.

        Barclay Perkins Ales of the period are just X and K Ales. Normal London stuff. A beer to be shipped that far would have been a special brew, like their EI Porter.

    1. Yes and no – the East Indies (Malaysia, Indonesia &c) were also referred to as ‘East India’. But the use of the term seems to have been quite fluid.

    1. That would be confirmatory, of course, but as I said to Ron, I strongly suspect that the “EIPA” designation was strictly a retailer’s term, and not used by the brewers – or, indeed, the shippers.

      1. I agree but if you start seeing routes, scale of shipments and that sort of thing you may see a richer pattern. Plus, I think you will find bills of lading more detailed than you may imagine. Notice how the Hudson’s Bay Co in the 1670s were detailed in their cargo: You may also be able to find insurance for these ships which would be detailed as well as 100 hogshead of ships beer would have a vastly different value than 100 hogsheads of XXX.

      2. Martyn,

        question on this article:
        would it b possible to interpret the Mr. Spark differently?
        Has there been a brewery called “Taylor’s and East” selling India Pale Ale?
        Anyway, in order for the term IPA or EIPA making sense in an ad, obviously this expression must be known to the potential customers. Thus, I believe it can be assumed this term was around earlier than the advertisement of M. Spark. Obviously there is no evidence for how long.

  3. That’s very interesting, but I’d argue “pale ale as prepared for India” (1822) is the same thing essentially, just a different way of saying it, just as East India Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, IPA, EIPA are variant descriptions. The oldest term known so far IMO is India Ale as reported from a brewer’s records (BP as I recall) by Peter Mathias. (That gent is still with us, why don’t you go up and visit him, Martyn! I wonder if he is aware of all the work done in recent years since his landmark early study).


  4. I’ve checked the various online newspaper databases for British newspapers and the first reference to East India Pale Ale or, indeed, India Pale Ale seems to be in the Liverpool Mercury for 27 February 1835. It is an ad from Hodgson’s agent on Merseyside J Willson referring to a ‘superior pale ale’ with superior keeping qualities.

    It’s odd that there is nothing before as there is nothing in the ad which suggests that it is new product.

    1. Actually, the very first appearance of that ad was on January 30 1835, as I discussed here – it’s an unfortunate fact about OCR and scanned newspaper databases that the “false negative” factor constantly needs taking into account, so that if you find an ad, in particular, with something in, there’s a very good chance the ad appeared one or more weeks earlier but the OCR has failed to pick it up.

      Hodgson’s was certainly well-known by 1835, but indeed, there’s no description of it as India Pale Ale until early 1835. As I suggest in this post, that may be because British consumers didn’t have much contact with bitter pale beers, and therefore didn’t need them flagging up as different to the pale mild ales they were used to: the explosion in mentions of India Pale Ale doesn’t come until 1841, as I discussed here, and it must be connected with the arrival of the railway link between Burton and London, allowing the Burton brewers to transport speedily and cheaply their pale bitter beers in the capital, which had previously pretty much only known pale ales that were mild and lightly hopped.

        1. Yeah, I was talking solely about the X ales, I tend to forget the K ales. However, you’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but the point about K ales, and their close relatives Burton Ale and Edinburgh Ale/Scotch Ale, as far as I can make out, appears to be that they combined heavy hopping (for keeping) with a fair degree of residual sweetness underneath the bitterness, while as Jonathan Pereira wrote in 1843 in A treatise on food and diet, “the Pale Ale prepared for the India market … is … carefully fermented, so as to be devoid of all sweetness, or, in other words, to be dry.” So the perceived bitterness of IPA was going to be greater than that of an XXK. I don’t think, even blindfolded, anyone would mistake your Fullers XX or Old Burton Extra, or Young’s Winter Warmer, probably the closest beers we have today to a K ale, for an IPA or bitter.

          1. That’s why I think the IPA would be easy to find. My guess would be that it appears as EIPA in the brewing book. Their Indian Porter was called EIP, so EIPA would seem a logical choice.

  5. […] worldwide popularity. The earliest known use of the phrase ‘India Pale Ale’ is from an Australian newspaper advertisement in 1829, and IPA was also exported to the United States. The connection between the name and a […]

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