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Happy IPA Day!

August 4th marks a holiday that most all of us beer-lovers can get behind – IPA Day! Always the first Thursday in August, this global celebration has its origins in the digital age, in the year 2011, where it started on social media with the goal of uniting bloggers, writers, brewers, educators and consumption-enthusiasts everywhere to engage in their love of beer – particularly IPAs.

IPA stands for India Pale Ale. It might surprise you that this style of beer did NOT originate in India, but actually England. In the 18th century, India was being colonized by the British and ships making the voyage needed a large-quantity beverage for the sailors on board that would be hold-up for weeks and months on end. The first notated India Pale Ale can be attributed to George Hodgson, a brewer who owned a brewery, simply named “Hodgson’s Bow Brewery,” located on the River Lea in London in the year 1751, next to the East India Dock, where ships India-bound began their long perilous journeys. Because of his excellent positioning by the docks, his business became famous and profitable. By 1809, the brewery then being run by his son Mark, had become so well-known that famous writers, like William Makepeace Thackeray, noted it in their works. In 1833, newspaper advertisements referred to Hodgson’s beer as “East India Pale Ale.” Over the course of many years, the Hodgson created a beer that would be tasty even after long periods of storage – this being the birthchild of our modern-day IPAs.

Just like most of history, depending on who you are, the story might be a little bit different. In some historian circles, George Hodgson did not “invent” or “develop” a new style of beer, as there were plenty of other, different brewers around the docks doing the same thing. Everyone who was selling to the ship captains knew that in order to have successful, stable beer for 4+ months at a time, per journey, and to a warmer climate, the beer had to be strong and heavily hopped. As per the anonymous Every Man His Own Brewer manual of 1768, a recipe for October Malt Wine consists of “the first two mashes of 22 bushels of malt, with six and a half pounds of hops per eight bushels of malt to ensure a year’s keeping.” As it seems, Hodgson was likely credited with being the “father” of India Pale Ale mainly because his brewery was successful due to its location and by word of mouth – he also notoriously gave credit lines of up to 18 months – so that could have also influenced his marked place in history!

IPAs started out in their early history as “October Beer” which is a form of a British strong ale. A strong ale or old ale is traditionally dark and malty with an ABV usually greater than 5%. The “October Beer,” took on a slightly paler coloration and was more generously hopped. As with the history of the ships and exports/imports to and from India, the “October Beer” began to be called “India Pale Ale.” Eventually, by the late 19th century, demand for this specific style of beer grew in popularity beyond the ports and into the city and further into the countryside and brewers started to drop the “India” altogether, maintaining the “Pale Ale” notation only, but still retaining the original qualities and features of the IPA style; This is especially true when English brewers began to export the IPA-style to other British colonies such as Australia and New Zealand.

Here in the United States, our craft-beer and micro-brewery revolution began in the 1990s, and brewers began to seek out unique and different beer styles not being mass-produced in the US, such as IPAs. Brewers found that traditional IPA recipes melded well with the strong and flavorful American-grown hops such as Cascade and Chinook. The resulting brews boomed in popularity across the country, and in truth, haven’t ceased in any capacity.

Today we have Black IPAs (dark, bitter, and hoppy with use of roasted malts), Brut IPAs (crisp, dry, with the enzyme amyloglucosidase added to remove sugars), Double IPAs or Imperial IPAs (stronger, greater hop content with ABVs typically over 7.5%), Triple IPAs
(with ABVs typically over 10%), New England IPAs/NEIPAs or East Coast IPAs (hazy and juicy with prevalent citrus and floral notes, smoother with less bitterness), Milkshake IPAs (a version of NEIPAs with added lactose giving the brew a creamy mouthfeel), West Coast IPAs (lower in malts, clear, dry, with a focus on hops – typically employing pine, grass or earthy notes), Sour IPAs (hoppy, usually fruited, tart and refreshing), and White IPAs (a combination of American-based IPAs with Belgian-style wheat beers).

Now to the good part! Giving you, the reader, my take on some of the best IPAs to sample!

The most recent IPA I’ve had is from Pennsylvania – Lightning Bug by New Trail Brewing Co. in Williamsport, PA. (6.5% ABV) This is a classic New England Style IPA – Hazy, hopped with Bru-1, Crystal, and Amarillo, and brewed with a mix of oats and wheats, it is dry and grassy with juiced notes of citrus and tropical fruits. SO FRESH. I owe my cousin Sam a big “thank you” for introducing me to this brewery down where he resides. Yes, you’ll have to travel down to PA, but given what I’ve already been introduced to, this brewery is worth the trip, especially if you’re a big IPA fan. Bonus? I LOVE the artwork of the can label – the foils give the appearance of little glowing lightning bugs when light hits the can – super cute!

My favorite Imperial IPA hands-down has to be New Belgium Brewing Company’s Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA. With an ABV of 9% but being exceptionally smooth, this brew goes down a little TOO easily if you’re not careful! It’s extremely tasty with a balanced see-saw of fresh pine and citrus notes. I went to the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, CO this past May and picked my own tall-boy of this brew directly off the line, bringing it all the way back to NY for consumption! (Hint, hint – Colorado and my brewventures there will be in an upcoming issue of Tablehopping!) But you don’t have to travel out west as this brew is widely-distributed and should be relatively easy to get your paws on – look in your local supermarkets and beer-hubs.

Best Go-To: Syracuse Pale Ale by Middle Ages Brewing Company – there’s no “India” in the name, but they do brew it in the style of a British Pale Ale. Easy to drink, crisp, clean and refreshing with a combination of malts and hops, you can easily find it on tap pretty much anywhere in the greater Syracuse area and its ALWAYS on tap at the Dome. (Football is coming upon us quickly!!)

I’m a huge fan of sours, so I’m always intrigued when I find a Sour IPA to sample. One favorite is, It Was Written – Mango, Passion Fruit, Pineapple by Rising Storm Brewing Co. in Avon, NY. It is truly LOADED with tropical fruits and perfect for summer – still hoppy, but with all the deliciousness of the fruits in addition. Take a drive out towards Western NY and head to the brewery itself, or head over to Branching Out Bottle Shop in Township 5, where they’re likely to be carrying it in cans. (Also, per Untappd, Board & Bar Charcuterie and Vincino’s Brick & Brew have it available as well! May as well have a locally and freshly prepared meal with your beer too while you’re at it!)

From East Coast to West Coast and anything in between, be sure to grab yourself an IPA on August 4th to celebrate IPA Day! Cheers!

Kristin Merritt
Just your average craft-brew loving gal slinging your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope to give a few recommendations for your grocery list, events to attend, and local hotspots to hit-up for shenanigans with friends, ideas for date night, or at the very least enlighten you with a bit of random knowledge to use towards trivia night or simply give you and your teammates a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! Cheers!