A Brief History of India Pale Ale

India Pale Ale and curry

A typical IPA Beer

India Pale Ale (IPA) has seen a huge increase in popularity in the last few years, originally from the craft brewers of America (we can’t laugh at their fizzy rubbish anymore) and now from the many micro-breweries popping up in the UK. So what is IPA?

History has it that IPA was the answer to supplying beer to the far flung corners of the British Empire in the 18th century, and more specifically to India. The sub-continent’s climate did not lend itself to brewing locally and it was a 6 month journey by sea from the UK. This meant many beers arrived in very poor condition and were undrinkable.

By making a strong, heavily hopped beer called October Ale, a British brewer called Hodgson cracked the problem and this beer became very popular amongst the East India Company’s employees. The Ale was refined and ultimately turned into the IPA we know and love today.

When refrigerated transport arrived, the IPA’s popularity declined and many other styles of beer became more common. Fortunately the American’s came along and started brewing their own versions as their craft brewing industry took hold in the 80s. Then Brewdog came along in Scotland in 2007 and started rebuilding IPAs popularity almost single-handedly across the UK.

India Pale Ale and Curry

For me IPA works with curry for a few of reasons;

  • Firstly it’s not massively gassy like the regular lagers that most restaurants offer and that consequently fill you up to bursting by the end of the first pint.
  • Secondly it’s usually quite citrusy or floral and isn’t overpowered by the stronger curry dishes although it’s not great with everything – see below.
  • Thirdly it all depends on the curry – if it’s a Thai curry then it’s a great match but maybe not with a heavily spiced dish which will kill off the hoppy flavour. The best thing is to experiment.

Now everyone is different, so I’m not saying it’s a must and I also like the Steam Lagers of this world just as much but I do hope that restaurants will try and get a bit more adventurous with their beer selections so that at least we have a choice.

 

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Author: the editor

Editor of Curry Culture and lover of IPA

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