Written by Martyn Cornell for Zythophile.wordpress.com
(Note: a little minor editing was provided, simply because the other IPA articles are not posted here. The Professor suggests you check Mr. Cornell’s posts at Zythophile if you wish to read previous entries- Prof. GA)
Hereâ€™s the executive summary on what we know, what we donâ€™t know, what we can justifiably assume and what we canâ€™t assume about the history of India Pale Ale, and I promise to keep it to under 700 words. But first, hereâ€™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 cobblersâ€™ awls? I believe thereâ€™s not a single statement there that could be said to be correct, with, everything, including the teapot and â€œCaptain Chapmanâ€, unbelievably mangled. Itâ€™s a lesson for anyone who believes that if itâ€™s in an old book, it must be right.
So, to summarize… my other posts on the subject:
We have evidence that pale ale was being made at least as early as 1675, 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 â€œabsolutely necessaryâ€ 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 DONâ€™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 â€œquite probablyâ€ they were, Iâ€™d say. But still short of â€œdefinitelyâ€. They ought to have known that they should do. But thereâ€™s no evidence that they did.
We can guess that one of the reasons why Hodgsonâ€™s beers were shipped to India in preference to other brewersâ€™ beers was not the quality of Hodgsonâ€™s product but because the Bow breweryâ€™s owners were willing to give the East Indiaman shipsâ€™ 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 Hodgsonâ€™s premises, was brewing â€œPale Ale prepared for the East and West India Climateâ€, though we donâ€™t know how it was â€œpreparedâ€.
We know that a specific hopping rate was being stated for beer for â€œIndia voyagesâ€ by 1821.
We know that as early as January 1822, â€œPale Ale brewed expressly for the India marketâ€ and â€œsuitable for warm climates or home consumptionâ€ was on sale in London (though the brewer was unnamed).
We know that a couple of decades later, at least, in 1843, â€œthe Pale Ale prepared for the India marketâ€ was described as â€œcarefully 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.â€
We have evidence, 30 years after the event, but collected from an important witness, Samuel Allsoppâ€™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, Hodgsonâ€™s beer was hugely popular in the east, being described in 1829 as â€œby far the best and most sought after in India.â€
We know that no â€œpale ale as prepared for the Indian marketâ€ seems to have actually been called India Pale Ale (specifically â€œEast India Pale Aleâ€) until 1835.
We know that Hodgsonâ€™s, at least, used East Kent hops in its â€œPale India Aleâ€, and we are entitled to guess that these were East Kent Goldings. We also know that Hodgsonâ€™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 â€œThe origin of India ale is by common consent accredited to a London brewer named Hodgson â€¦ The brewery where pale ale was first brewed, according to popular opinion, was the Old Bow Brewery.â€ But Molyneaux offered no evidence to back this up, and we know the Bow brewery wasnâ€™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 â€œPale Ale prepared for the East and West India Climateâ€ and similar designations, which was eventually shortened or summarised as â€œIndia Pale Aleâ€. The fact that Hodgson called its beer â€œEast India Pale Aleâ€ in 1835 means it was probably â€œprepared for the East India climateâ€ and so more highly hopped: whether it was so prepared in 1793 we donâ€™t know.
And the executive summary summarised? IPA â€“ no evidence of an actual inventor, no evidence of an actual invention.