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The Complete History of the IPA, Part 3: India-Style Ale is Born

When we last left the story, bitter beer was all the rage, England turned India into one of it’s colonies, Burton Upon Trent was becoming one of the most important brewing cities in the world and George Hodgeson invented the India Pale Ale and there was much rejoicing.

Okay, I lied, about that last one. As I hinted last week Hodgeson has gotten a lot of credit for the style but no evidence suggested he had much to do with the style, but Britain was becoming one of the largest exporters of beer in the world and Hodgeson wanted in.

The East India Company, which owned all the ships that sailed to and from India, was interested in selling the wealth of Indian spices, silks and other goods to Europeans. But they had little to no interest in what went to India and, as a perk, the captains of these ships were allowed to haul pretty much whatever they liked to India for free, sell it and pocket the profits. These ship captains began shipping English goods to colonists to bring them a little taste of home. These good included wine, cheese, clothing, perfume, jewelry and, of course, beer.  

Most breweries in Burton Upon Trent were focused on the Russian and Eastern-European markets so Hodgson found himself a niche. And, by offering special loans to the ship captains he managed to more or less carve out a small but attracive monopoly.

The Bastard Brewer

Besides offering generous terms to the ship captains, Hodgeson had a reputation as a ruthless, even underhanded businessman. Whenever another brewery became interested in shipping beer to India, he promptly lowered his prices to drive them out of the market. And once he had complete control again, he would restrict supply and drive the price back up. Though his loans helped, he gouged the shippers whenever he could get away with it.

The last straw came when Hodgeson attempted to cut out the middle man and send ships under his employment, a move that angered both the ship captains and the East India Company. The timing of this move was astoundingly bad as trade disputes with Russia and the Napolionic wars dried up almost all of the export market for British Beer. For a long time India was a relatively tiny market and most businesses were content to let Hodgeson have his little monopoly. 

But with India becoming an important trade center, Bow Brewing was about to face some stiff competition.

Allsopp All Up Ins the Market

Legend has it that a British businessman sent a sample of Hodgeson’s pale ale to the brewmaster at Allsopp brewing and, using a teapot, managed to brew his own version of this pale ale. After some tinkering the began producing a beer of equal quality to Bow brewing. Hodgeson’s beers were gaining a reputation for being inconsistent, murky, overly sweet and suffering from supply problems. It is even reported that people in the supply chain were filling empty Hodgeson bottles with some kitchen swill further damaging Bow Brewing’s reputation.

By the mid 1800’s Hodgeson brewing was on its way out. It would be bought and sold a few times before going bankrupt entirely 1862.

India Pale Ale Is Born:

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment the IPA was invented. But in the early 1800’s there seemed to be some idea that pale ale heading for India was intrinsically different. The first references to IPA are in the form of advertisements in the 1817 and 1822 referring to ‘Beer brewed for the East and West India Climate.’ (Note that, at the time, the West Indies were the Caribbean islands, Mexico, South America, The Bahamas and Florida. So, in a sense, India Pale Ale is as much a product of Central America as India.)

But, according to Mitch Steele’s history of the IPA, the words ‘India Pale Ale’ first appeared in an Indian newspaper, the Bengal Hukaru in 1828.  

It should be noted that, while the beer enjoyed some success from Indian colonists, the surge of popularity came from beer drinkers in England. Interest in the style got a major bump in the early 1800’s and there is a strange legend to explain why.

The story goes that a ship bound for India found itself adrift and wrecked off the coast of Scotland. Barrels washed ashore and the locals, being the good sort of people who would never let beer go to waste, cracked open the casks and marveled at the delicious elixir contained inside. Once the barrels were empty, the townspeople being thirsty, sober and… well… Scottish, demanded more of this mysterious new style of ale. Thus IPA became famous.

There is absolutely zero evidence that this story is true and, more likely, the popularity began with colonists coming back to England and craving the same style of beer they enjoyed abroad. But a couple other factors contributed to IPA’s rising popularity as well. First was the perceived medicinal qualities of heavily hopped beer; IPA was seen as a treatment for, stomach problems, diabetes and simply as ‘a restorative beverage for invalids and convalescents.’

In addition, while darker porters and milds were the preferred drink of the working class, IPA was a middle-class beer. It’s brilliant clarity looked especially good in a clear glass and it became a popular drink to pair with Champaign.

I guess what I am saying is that IPA is the original Champaign Of Beer so High Life can suck it.

ANYHOO!

The 1800’s and beyond:

But the popularity would not last.

Toward the end of the century, trends began to emerge that would threaten IPA’s popularity. First was emergence of the temperance moment that would increase demand for lower alcohol beers.  And the second was the increasing popularity of lagers, especially German pilsners and similar styles. 

As the first World War set in, it seemed that India Pale Ale was destined to fade into obscurity. And then, just as the last vestiges of this style started to fade into history, something weird happened in on of England’s old colonies.

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Recipe: Traditional British Bitter

Unlike the last recipe we did, this week features a style that, although has certainly evolved over the centuries, is still brewed consistently. It is a style that has been lovingly passed down in England from brewer to brewer, who made occasional adjustments for local and cultural changes but kept the basic idea of the beer alive. It is the British Bitter.

What is a British Bitter?

According to the Beer Judge Certificate Program (BJCP), English Bitters covers a spectrum of pale, bitter beers that range in strength from 3.2% to 6% ABV. They are pale to amber-colored, moderately to highly bitter and easy drinking.

The most important thing that sets this style apart from an American Pale Ale or IPA is that the flavor should feature the malt.  Bready, toasty, biscuity flavors should dominate with maybe some slight caramel or toffee flavors as well. The hops are there for bitterness and balance. That’s it. Okay, maybe they can present some light, herbal, woody aromas but they are not meant to be prevalent.

So What Is An English Pale Ale Then?

Depending your definition, that’s what we’re brewing. The BJCP doesn’t recognize a style called British Pale, rather Pale ales fall under the heading of Bitters or IPAs depending on their relative strength. 

For this brew, we shall be cooking up a Strong Bitter I call Vicious Upon Trent

Ingredients:

Water:

I don’t normally go into water chemistry on this blog because that’s a whole, long, crazy-making discussion.  Plus it varies from water source to water source so anything I write here using Boise City water may not translate. But the water such a well-known and integral part of the story for this style, that I feel remise not mentioning it. 

As I mentioned in our history of IPA, the water in Burton Upon Trent, where the British Bitter gained notoriety, is legendary. Plus, the water content is extremely well documented, so why not use the most famous water profile in the history of brewing?

The best and most reliable way to do this is, of course, to start with distilled water and add the minerals until it could have been pulled from the River Trent itself. Of course not everyone has the time or inclination to build their water. So for the brewer that would like to get sorta close, two or three teaspoons of Burton Water Salts will help. It won’t be the same, but it’s a start.

The River Trent. Just Add Water.

Malt:

Just like our last recipe, I think you have to start with a base of Maris Otter. I mean, yes, you could go with American Two Row but it lacks some malty fullness. The rich bread flavors fall short and you’ll actually be able to feel your beer silently judging you from your glass. So start with Marris Otter. Like ten pounds. or be prepared for a life of shame.

Next, some caramel malt. Not a lot, we’re not going for a lot of sweet toffee flavors. In fact, we want this to finish rather dry. So just a hint. Like under 10% of the total grist. So let’s say 12 ounces of crystal 40.

I also like to add a little something for a little malty complexity. Something that gives it an unidentifiable… well… something.  Unidentifiable… shut up.

Anyway, I’m a fan of Victory malt for it’s toasty, nutty flavor so let’s toss a handful of that it. Like 8 ounces.

Hops:

Well, last week I had a bit of a love affair with Golding Hops, so why not keep it going? Let’s throw in some Goldings!

In this case, theres no reason to get fancy with the hop additions. No first wort, whirlpool, mash or any kinky stuff here. This is the hop equivalent of the missionary position. A bittering addition at 60 minutes, a flavor addition at 30 and an aroma addition at 15. It’s tradition, Damn it!

Yeast:


Pretty much any English strain will do. Safale 04 or Nottingham if you’re into dry yeast. Or the multitudes of options in liquid varieties. If you’re asking me, and why not, we’ve gotten this far together, I like WLP005 as it tends to accentuate the nice, toasty malt quality of Marris Otter. Failing that, WYeast’s 1968 for the same reason. 

But again, just about any British strain will do. If it sounds vaguely british-esque, it’s probably okay. 

Procedure:

This is pretty much as standard brew as one can get. Add your minerals to your water, mash at 152 degrees, sparge, add hops at 60, 30 and 15 minutes, pitch yeast and wait a couple weeks.

Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy.

Wait, don’t actually put any lemon in. Wierdo.

Keg or bottle after fermentation, sit back and enjoy this highly drinkable, classic.

And while your English Bitter brews we will move on with the evolution of the India Pale Ale next week.

Vicious Upon Trent

Strong Bitter: BJCP 11C

  • 10lb Marris Otter Pale Malt
  • .75lb (12oz) Caramel/ Crystal 40L
  • .5lb (8ox) Victory Malt
  • 1oz Goldings, East Kent 60 min
  • 1oz Goldings, East Kent 30 min
  • 1oz Goldings, East Kent 15 min
  • London Ale Yeast (WLP013)
  • Estimated Original Gravity: 1.055
  • Estimated Final Gravity: 1.015
  • ABV 5.3%
  • IBUs: 35.9
  • Color: 8.8 SRM

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Profiles Of Hoppiness: Goldings Hops

“The ‘Golding’ has, of late years, been in high repute. It was raised by a man still living, Mr. Golding, of the Malling quarter of the district; who observing, in his grounds, a hill of extraordinary quality and productiveness, marked it, propagated it, and furnished his neighbors with cuttings from its produce.”

-William Marshall, The Rural Economy of The Southern Countries, 1798

Since we are getting deep into the history of the IPA, it seems only right and proper (proper and right) to talk a little more about their signature ingredient. Namely, the hop. 

In my last segment, I talked about English bitters. In one of those strange convergences of history, pale malt began to rise in popularity right around the time of another discovery; namely the Goldings Hop.

Goldings Hops:

The above passage is probably the first mention of Goldings hops in history which makes them, at least, about a quarter millennium old. And yet, to this day, the Goldings is still considered one of the quintessential British Hops (along with Fuggles cultivated around the same time strangely enough).

Along with some of the ‘noble’ varieties (Hallertau, Saaz, Tettnang, or Spalt) Goldings are likely one of the oldest cultivated strains of hops still available today.

Hoppy History:

The snippet above pretty much has all the information we currently have about the origin of the Goldings strain. The man who gave his name to the hop was growing a type of hop known as ‘Canterbury Whitebine’, a semi-wild hop variety that seems to serve as a sort of ‘missing link’ between modern cultivated hops and their wild ancestors. 

Brewers in Burton Upon Trent specifically loved the hop’s floral, spicy, lemony flavor as well as it’s clean, earthy bitterness. A few sources point to the Goldings hop as the hop used by Hodgson in his pale ale as well as the hop he used as a dry hop in the barrels heading for India.

Goldings is also, literally, the mother and grandmother of nearly all British hop varieties and more than a few U.S. ones in including Brewers Gold, Chinook, Northern Brewer and the now much-loved Citra. In a sense, given the proliferation of the latter hop, modern hazy IPAs owe a cursory nod to this ancient ancestor.

Brewing With Golding

Home-brewers in the U.S. are likely to run into three varieties of Goldings hops. The first are usually simply labeled ‘Goldings’ Or ‘U.S. Goldings’ which, as one might assume, are grown in the United States. Hop growers in British Colombia began experimenting with British hops in the late 1800’s and found that Goldings fared especially well in the Pacific Northwest. The hop fields have since migrated southward and most Goldings hops are now grown in Oregon and Washington.

East Kent Goldings:

Goldings are, to date, the only hop that have a Protected Geographical Indication from the European Union. Meaning that like champagne and parmigiano-reggiano cheese, East Kent Goldings have to be grown in… well, East Kent. The distinction is due to the idea that Goldings hops grown on their home turf yield specific flavors and aromas that cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world. In other words, Goldings hops grown in East Kent are inherently better.

I’ll leave the debate as to the validity of that claim for home brewers deep in a drunken geek discussion. But it’s enough to know that there is at least a perceived distinction.

Styrian Goldings:

Are, strangely enough, not Goldings at all but a breed of Fuggles. Nobody seems to know the origin of the name other than it’s one of those things that we got wrong many many years ago and we’ve just refused to correct it. 

Flavors and Aromas:

Goldings are known for their earthy, spicy, floral characteristics. East Kent Goldings specifically are said to have an especial pronounced lemon-citrus aroma that may explain why a good deal of ‘citrus hop’ owe their lineage to this hop.

Goldings make for a good dual purpose hop. Its clean, understated bitterness makes it an good choice for traditional English-style porters and stouts. But, of course, it is also an essential ingredient when brewing a traditional English Bitter.

And next week, we will throw out a recipe for a traditional English Bitter.

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The Complete History of The IPA: Part 2, British Bitters

So when we last left the story of the IPA it was 1700’s England. Hops were the latest craze and new malting techniques brought pale malt to foggy old England. Together, the two ingredients came together to form the first prototype for the IPA… in the same sense that the Wright Brother’s plane was a prototypes of the space shuttle.  The basic idea was there but it was a long, long way from our modern ideal of the style.  Yes, it was brewed with pale ale malt. Yes, it was strong. (Very, very strong) And, yes, it used a lot of hops. But it was nothing like a modern IPA. It was more like a barrel-aged sour barleywine.

The mid to late 18th century, however, saw a couple developments that would bring some beers closer to the IPA’s that we know. First, the development of English Bitter and, second, the colonization of India. 

Beer Goes Bitter

Around the same time as the development of October beer, brewers started producing ‘mild’ ale with pale malt. The term ‘mild’ in this case was used to describe the amount of aging the beer was intended to undergo. As opposed to ‘stock’ ‘stale’ or ‘keeping’ ale, which was aged in wooden barrels for a year or more, milds were low alcohol and brewed to be consumed quickly. At the same time a few enterprising brewers started adding extra hops for more bitter beers which were, as one might understand, called bitters.

These highly quaffable beers slowly began to gain a following for their light flavor and high drinkability. And one area in Britain was leading the way.

It’s Literally In The Water

This is where Burton Upon Trent enters the story. Some time in the late 1700’s people began to realize that bitters brewed in this region of England were just… well… better bitters. The hop flavor was sharper; more pronounced. They had a certain ‘bite’ that made them especially attractive. The overall flavor was well-balanced and they made for exceptionally easy-drinking ales.

Eventually people worked out what unique trait that Burton Upon Trent had that nobody else did; mineral-rich waters. Specifically Burton had a high concentration of sulfates as well as other minerals. This subtle difference in water chemistry explained why London Brewers (who were stuck using calcium-rich water) made exceptional porters and stouts but couldn’t replicate the lighter beer produced in Burton. But it an effort to get close, brewers all over England started adding minerals to their brew water to replicate the sulfate-heavy water. This ‘Burtonized’ water became the go-to template for generations looking to recreate that unique ‘British Bitter’ flavor.

And the British Bitter began to flourish. Not only at home but abroad…

The Navy Runs on Beer

The standard narrative of the IPA runs something like this: The British, having just played Game of Flags with India, did what British people do wherever they go, settle in for a pint. Except, of course, they needed to ship proper beer in from Britain. Except that beer would go bad on the long trip. So they just needed some way to get beer to the new colonies…

But the real story, as is so often the case, is far more complicated. First, beer on British ships was not new. In fact the British navy and merchant ships practically ran on the stuff since they first put out to sea.  Water quickly became unsafe to drink in the wooden barrels they used for storage, but beer would keep the sailors happy and hydrated for voyages that lasted months. I’m thinking it also provided a decent moral as well since sailors were rationed as much as a gallon of beer a day. So wherever sailors went, they brought beer which helped fuel a taste and demand for British beer in their colonies around the world.  And among those, of course, was India.

As well practiced as they were, shipping a perishable product around the world, especially hot climates like India came with predictable problems. Beer that was light in alcohol would usually go bad and the strong beer that could make the trip really didn’t appeal to people sweating through another blazing hot Indian day. 

Brewers for centuries had been experimenting with ways to ensure that their precious cargo would arrive in a drinkable condition. Some shipped strong beers with the intention of watering them down when they reached their destination. Some even made a rudimentary extract out of their beer by boiling the wort down to a syrup so it could be watered down and fermented on arrival. But, despite, several experiments, no tried and true method evolved. Getting beer to India was just a a dicy proposition. That is until…

George Hodgeson’s IPA

Goerge Hodgeson and Bow Brewing is often credited with inventing the IPA and the story often goes something like this:

George Hodgeson was sitting around his house one day thinking about a problem. India was very far away. And very hot. And packed to the gills with thirsty British soldiers. He knew they would sure like a beer but there was just no way to get it to them. Just then, inspiration hit.  He sat up and declared, “Why, by Golly, I have it! I shall produce a new style of beer. One with extra hops for which to make the trip to India. It shall extra hoppy pale, if you will. Yes, and I shall call this beer the India Pale Ale. And in a few centuries, hipsters in Portland will toast my name as they drink of my hoppy goodness.”

With that happy thought, Hodgeson went to his brewery and crafted the worlds first India Pale Ale. 

But again, this is not entirely true.

The Complicated Evolution of IPA:

George Hodgeson did run Bow Brewing and he did ship quite a lot of beer to India. Some of those beers were pale ales, but they were also porters, browns and even October beers. None of them was ever sold as and India Pale Ale. In fact Bow Brewing never used the words India Pale Ale in any marketing. Bow’s Pale Ale in India was more or less the same as Bow’s Pale Ale in England. They did toss a few extra hops to make sure it would make the trip but it was still their house bitter. There was really nothing to differentiate it from any other bitter made at Burton Upon Trent.

Rather, the development of the IPA appears to be a slow, gradual process. One that steeped deep in the dirty businesses of brewing, marketing and distributing beer. And we will pick up that story in a couple of weeks.

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Recipe: October Beer

The O.G.P.A

BJCP Category 27 Historical Beer

So last week I talked about the history of British brewing and the October beer, the first rumbling of the style that we would eventually come to know as IPA. A lot of the info came from Mitch Steele’s wonderful book on IPA’s titled, appropriately enough, IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. In the book he roughly described a recipe from the 1700’s for this extinct predecessor of the IPA

I’ve made some adjustments to the process and ingredients. In some cases its because the exact ingredients are not clear. In other cases they are just adjustments to make this easier for the home brewer to attempt.  

Let’s do this.

Grain:

If you took notes from last weeks post (or read it at all, you slacker) you would remember that this style came from the 1700’s when pale ale malt first became a thing. Specialty grains really didn’t enter into the equation which makes this grain bill exceptionally easy.

Grain Bill:

Pale Ale Malt

End Grain Bill

I mean, you can just get a bag of American 2-row barley but, in order to get just a little bit closer to the original style, I feel we’ve got to go with an old favorite mine Marris Otter.  Marris Otter is a British pale ale malt with just a touch more sweet malty, toasty flavors. Since we are depending on that grain alone for all the malty flavor, might as well use a good one. So get Marris Otter or I shall be forced to fling the brew spoon in your general direction.

How much?

Well that gets tricky. 

Steele sites a couple of recipes from a book written in 1736 which recommends “14 bushels of malt/ hogshead.”

… 

I literally don’t understand a single one of those measurements.

Well one is easy. A quick Google search tells us that a hogshead is about 64 US Gallons. We will be making a five gallon batch so we will be making approximately 7% of a hogshead.

While we are on the subject 7% of a hogshead sounds like something that should be included on hotdog warning labels.

ANYHOO!!

We do the math and we find out we need about one bushel of barley.  Which would be awesome if we knew what that hell a bushel was.

According to a website by Ohio State University, “Bushel is a volume measurement for grain created many years by Celtic peoples…and is currently considered to be about 1.25 cubic feet in volume.”

Guess I’ll get the cubic foot that I haul around literally everywhere I go?

….

You know what, bugger this. We don’t need to know how much grain per se, we need to know what are original gravity would be and, according to Steele, 11-14 bushels per hogshead would result in a gravity of 1.140.

So I hope everyone brought their big-boy panties because this beer is gonna be a monster.  If you’re running a 72-75% efficiency this means 27 or 28 lbs. And you might want to do 30 or 40 and I’ll explain why in a minute.

Hops:

According to Steele, the Alewives Of Yore (because this was still the age when women did most of the brewing) were rocking 6 lbs of hops per hogshead when they made October beer.

At least the math on this one is easier.

At that rate we will be using roughly a half-pound of hops in a five gallon batch. But what hops exactly?  Well, as you probably guessed you can put away your Cascades and your Chinooks and any hop with a trademarked name. (Lookin at you Citra)  We are going old school and that means Golding.  Goldings were first mentioned in the 1700’s which is right around the time period we are interested in and it’s more than likely that they were used in this brew.  So go get yourself a half pound of goldings.

Yeast: 

Again this is tricky. This is still the time period when yeast is referred to ‘godisgood’.  They knew it was a factor but they had no clue what was happening biologically speaking. Only that the beer bubbled and became awesome. So ideally we will need a British strain. Preferably one that can put up with a decent amount of alcohol. I suggest WLP 004 Irish Ale Yeast or WLP 007 Dry English Yeast from White Labs. That’s 1084 or 1028 for you Wyeast fans

The process:

Mash:

A single infusion mash at 152 should suffice as I can’t find any information on mashing techniques during this time period. One thing that you don’t want to do if you’re being all authentic and shiznit is sparge.  Sparging is a process developed by the Scots a century or later. 

What the British would do is mash and drain.  Then do another mash and drain again and repeat this four times.  Each time they would get a beer considerably weaker.  (Hence the need for more grain earlier)

But let’s assume you don’t have like a 50 gallon mash tun and are not looking to make twenty gallons of beer in one go. Go ahead and sparge. In fact sparge a lot. Getting a gravity of 1.140 is probably going to require a lot of boil-off on a normal home-brew system, so do what you have to do.

The Boil:

For me, that means collecting upwards of seven or eight gallons of wort for a two or three hour boil. This seems excessive but is probably close to what actually happened. Steele mentions that breweries in this time period would boil their wort for three to eight hours.  So let’s go nuts, let’s do a four hours boil! So what are you going to do during that time?

Well, it turns out add hops.

Steele mentions in his book that brewers of the time would often add and remove hops every thirty minutes or so. They believed that boiling hops longer than 30 minutes would result in harsh, unpleasant flavors. This doesn’t seem to be the case, but we are partying like it’s 1699. So why not? Assuming you’re doing a four hour boil, that makes it pretty easy. One ounce every thirty minutes. Take ‘em out or leave them in.  You do you!

Primary Fermentation:

Go into your carboy or bucket and pitch yeast as normal under normal ale temperatures. And let sit until the majority of fermentation is complete.

Secondary Fermentation:

This where things get real, son.  So after primary fermentation, beer was traditionally racked into oak barrels for aging.  If you are lucky enough to have a new oak barrel just laying around your house, go ahead and do that.

For the rest of us, probably should just go into our secondary fermentor of choice and let it age.  After six or seven months (or right around summertime if you were good and brewed this beer in October or November) it’s time to raise the temperature. It was summertime in foggy old London and there was no temperature control. So hitting the 80s or 90’s would not be out of the question.  And unless you have one of those oak barrels maybe toss in an ounce or so of oak chips just to get some of that oaky goodness.

Now heres the strange bit. We’re going to go sour. Not like full sour but… well it’s like this.

Traditionally when the weather started heating up the ale in these casks would start fermenting again. And the brewers would unbung those bastards and just let them sit open to whatever happened to be floating in the air.

On a side note, my new beer-themed punk band the Unbunged Bastards is going to be playing at a brewery near you so… you know, keep an eye out for that.

But instead of leaving the beer open and hoping something good happens, we’re going to go all modern on this. That means a second pitch. That’s right! More yeast!

In this case a Brettanomyces mix seems appropriate. Specifically White Labs WLP 645, a strain isolated from British stock ale in the early 20th century. It’s probably the best way to get the most authentic flavor.

Let sit another few months.

An October beer would traditionally age at least a year. Sometimes two. So come next October you can pour yourself the grandaddy of all IPAs.

What does it taste like? Not sure. Haven’t brewed it yet myself. But let us know if you do!