There is a lot to celebrate this week with National IPA Day (August 6) which takes us right into another awesome holiday: International Beer Day (August 7)! So, Hoppy National IPA Day and Happy International Beer Day!
A Brief History of Beer
Depending on who you ask and whether or not you count water as a beverage, beer is the third to fifth most popular drink in the world. Proving once again that there isn’t much better than kicking back with a beer, some of the earliest known writings of our species refer to this wonderful beverage. The written histories of both ancient Egypt and ancient Iraq make mention of it. In fact, many historians believe that beer can be traced as far back as 9500 BC. There’s even a goddess of beer: Ninsaki, a Sumerian deity. A hymn dedicated to Ninaski is actually a recipe for brewing the good stuff.
As far as actual physical proof that beer existed centuries upon centuries ago, chemical evidence dating back to between 3500 and 3100 BC exists. It was spread by Germanic and Celtic tribes throughout Europe as far back as 3000 BC. However, what they consumed all those centuries ago would likely not be recognized as beer today. One massive difference between ancient versions and modern versions is the inclusion of hops. The first mention of hops to produce beer is believed to have been made around 822. And as we all know, without hops we wouldn’t have IPA.
We also wouldn’t have IPA if we didn’t have pale ale, of course. Pale ale is beer produced through warm fermentation. It’s made mostly using pale malt which is, obviously, light in color. The pale ale family of beers is one that spans a large range of tastes and strengths, from amber ale, blonde ale and scotch ale to the star of today’s holiday, India Pale Ale.
There are two major types of IPA, the first being English. In the 18th century, malting was improved and pale ale was the king of all beer styles in Great Britain. A poem was even penned that referenced one stout producer and three that crafted pale ales: “Oh Beer! Oh Hodgson, Guinness, Allsop, Bass. Names that should be on every infants tongue." Hodgson, by the way, is a name that introduces controversy and myth to India Pale Ale lore.
There’s a belief that George Hodgson of Bow Brewery invented IPA. The story goes that British troops in Calcutta were homesick and wanted their porters and ales and Hodgson figured out how to produce beer that could endure the long journey to India. The myth says that he knew hops, alcohol and copious dry hopping are all preservatives. Unfortunately, there is no actual evidence that supports any of those claims. Hodgson did at one point own maybe 50% of the beer market in India so he likely took advantage of the misconception that he had created a new category of pale ale and ran with it. India Pale Ale is essentially a shortened version of “Pale Ale prepared for the East and West India Climate” and variants thereof, which is how brewers referred to pale ales that were hopped for export.
As opposed to their balanced, bitter counterparts, American IPAs tend to be unbalanced with more aggressive bitterness and citrusy hop flavors. They are generally made using distinctively American hops like Amarillo, Cascade, Citra, Simcoe, Tomahawk and Warrior. Within the American IPA category are East Coast IPA and West Coast. The former places the focus more on the malt presence while the latter focuses much more on the hops.
Enjoy these two magnificent beer-centric holidays!
You'll find fantastic beers to try at the Craft Beer Pavilion and on the trade show floor at the 2016 Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show. Registration will open in October!