In the early 1700s Britain had a problem. Troops and British citizens living in India as part of the colonial rule did not have access to good British ale and any attempts to ship the malt British ales to them resulted in spoilage. India Pale Ale, or IPA, was the solution. The generous amount of hops in this brew protected it from the heat and motion of the British sailing ships of the day. Read the full story of this fascinating chapter in brewing history here.
IPA could have faded into history when the British occupation of India ended. But a fateful shipwreck firmly established IPA as its own style rather than a sub-style specialty brew. In 1827 a ship leaving London wrecked and damaged some of the casks of IPA on board. The casks were sold there in England and the unusually hoppy ale was a big hit. Soon the new brew was in demand and a new style
Lots of pale ale and a bit of crystal malt give this styles enough malt sweetness to stand up to the demanding hops. Lots of good English hops are traditionally used but some American breweries use local hops varieties like Cascade to give it a citrusy wang.
It will have a moderate, persisting head. The body will be golden to amber. A good IPA will have a pleasantly hoppy aroma. The flavor should be equally hoppy with plenty of balancing malty sweetness.
The overwhelming hops flavor of this brew make it a tough beer to pair foods with. Almost any sort of spicing clashes with the hoppy character. Roasted meats can work with a subtle barbecue sauce. Mostly, I prefer this beer alone so I can savor the hops.