What's an English India Pale Ale? • Hop Culture

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1.31.17

What’s an English India Pale Ale?

Born out of necessity, the English IPA remains a favorite centuries after its creation.

Written by Derek Offitzer

Image by Kinsley Stocum

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Imagine yourself a British seaman in the 1700s, preparing to make the treacherous six-month journey to India. Europeans and Indians alike enjoyed beer, and you needed one that could survive the journey. How to keep the beer from spoiling: add the bitter flower of the female hop plant, Humulus lupulus, which acts as a preservative.

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The English India pale ale (see where the name comes from?) typically contains fewer hops than its newer, hop-centric American counterpart, yet is still brewed with more hops than other popular styles, like porters. By the nineteenth century, the English IPA had started to become popular worldwide and was shipped to nearly all the British colonies, including the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

Thanks to the hops, English IPAs have a fruity aroma and flavor. They generally have an ABV of 5 to 7 percent and tend to taste bitter. They’re often translucent, with a rusty copper color and a medium level of carbonation. For the past few centuries, the English IPA has been one of the world’s more popular beer styles, with plenty of additions and variations.