Zythophile’s response

by other

Here’s Zythophile’s response to my Is the IPA myth a myth? article.  It was in the original comment system, and I didn’t want to lose it.


An excellent attack on my theory, which probes a number of weaknesses, for which I thank you. However, there are a number of points I’d like to respond to (which I’ve had to split into several parts, as the whole thing is apparently too long for your blogging software to cope with:

“A beer can make it (and many did), but the chances are not in your favor. Because other beers can make the journey (in some percentage) is not a reason to claim there is no problem to solve.”

But a book called The East India Vade Mecum, a guide to people going out to India to work for the East India Company, and published in 1810, said: “Porter, pale ale and table beer of great strength are often drank after meals: all these are found in the utmost perfection, for indifferent malt liquors do not stand the voyage; and, even should they arrive in a sound state, would meet no sale.”  So it wasn’t just pale ale, but, indeed, porter and table beer that were making it to India successfully. This quote also counters your claim that IPA couldn’t possibly be strong because “high alcohol beers cause dehydration when over consumed” – the British in India were evidently very happy to consume “beer of great strength”. (All the same, I don’t believe IPAs sold in India were any stronger than those sold in Britain, that is, about six to seven per cent abv.) My idea in introducing very strong October beers into the discussion, though, was to show that before the arrival of IPA, brewers already knew how to make well-hopped beers that would last for years. But not all October beers were very strong, although they were generally “stock” ales, that is, made to age, with plenty of hops, and what I was trying to show was that IPA was in no real way different from”stock” bitter beers being produced by many other brewers.

To show Hodgson did not create the style, you would need to show another true IPA existed before Hodgson’s India Ale and was sold as such.”

Well, no, my thesis isn’t that Hodgson didn’t invent IPA, my thesis is that Hodgson sold an already existing style of beer, stock pale bitter ale, to the East Indiamen captains, and that this later became known as India Pale Ale. And Hodgson’s pale ale was not marketed as “India Pale Ale” until the 1830s, only as”pale ale”, with nothing to indicate it was different from other pale ales. Indeed, the name India Pale Ale did not come into being until the 1830s, four decades at least after pale ale was being exported to India. Even the expression “pale ale as prepared for India”, used before the name India Pale Ale arrived.

“while the market was shipping only 9 to 10 thousand barrels a year, nearly all of it was by the Bow Brewery”

No, it wasn’t, even in 1813 the Bow brewery was only shipping 4,000 barrels of beer a year to the east.

Only a small time brewer could take this market. Larger brewers would not be interested in the market until there was a higher demand for the product.”

But Barclay Perkins, Guinness and other big brewers were exporting beers from the late 18th century, to both the West and East Indies.

“[Hodgson’s] beer had two qualities other beers shipped to India did not. His India ales were hoppier and much drier.”

I don’t believe we have any evidence to say that about Hodgson’s beer as opposed to bitter stock beer in general. It certainly seems to have been drier and more bitter than the beer the Burton brewers had been brewing before they turned to the India market. But there is no commentary in any brewing book that I am aware of that would indicate that Hodgson had invented anything special.

IPAs probably succeeded other beers in India because it was lighter and dryer, both good qualities of a warm season beer (who likes porter on a hot summer day?).

Errr, large numbers of people, actually, which is why stout is still very popular in places such as the West Indies, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia. As indicated above, there was certainly a market for porter in India: Whitbread continued exporting porter to the East through much, if not all, of the 19th century. And adverts show Hodgson itself was exporting porter and stout. “Hodgson’s beer was known through lore and legend to be the first true India Pale Ale, if not actually documented anywhere. But Hodgson was not credited with the invention of IPA until William Molyneaux in 1869, in a book called Burton-on-Trent, its history, its waters and its breweries, made the claim, and Molyneaux was writing more than 80 years at least after pale ale had begun being regularly exported to India. The Bow brewery itself never made this claim, which surely, if it thought it could get away with the idea, it would have. Michael Jackson, incidentally, was the king of beer writers, but he wasn’t a beer historian: and when he wrote the World Guide to Beer in 1977 there had been little serious investigation into the accepted version of beer history, so he had no reason to doubt what had been repeated for more than a hundred years.

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DJ Spiess

DJ Spiess

Beer buddy

I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby!