Who Really Invented The First IPA?

IPA is a subject of debate among beer lovers. Many craft beer enthusiasts enjoyed the flavor and mouthfeel of a well-crafted IPA. While flavor preferences are a matter of personal taste (pun intended), IPA is polarizing due to the trend toward hoppiness, according to Slate. Some love a bitter IPA while others prefer a fruity session IPA. While opinions about the taste of IPA vary, this isn't the only controversy. The historical origins are also up for debate. 

The OG IPA brews were probably milder than today's version. University of Colorado Beer archeologist Travis Rupp is the professor you wish you had in college. He recreates ancient and historic beer and decided to figure out how the original IPA may have tasted. "I've recreated Mycenaean beer, Viking beer, Ancient Peruvian beer [and] Revolutionary American beers," said Rupp told Wine Enthusiast. "But recreating the original India Pale Ale was by far the most difficult one for me."

In his quest, he simulated the brewing conditions of 17th-century England including coke-firing to roast the malt and replicating the journey to India. Rupp admitted uncertainty about whether the recreated IPA wouldn't meet modern standards. "I thought the beer was going to be awful, but it was actually quite nice," he said. Professor Rupp's research sheds light on what the original IPA was like. He believes early IPA brewers derived it from "October beer" or "malt wine." However, the origins are still a mystery.

The legend of India Pale Ale

Many claim George Hodgson of London's Bow Brewery invented the first IPA in 1793 (per Mental Floss). During Britain's colonization of India, at the time, sea voyages between England and India could take months. Some say Hodgson decided to craft a lighter pale ale that people would enjoy in a hot and humid climate. His IPA had a higher alcohol content and an extra dose of hops to preserve the flavor during the journey.

But the plot thickens. Similar pale ales existed decades before Hodgson's legendary brew. Decades earlier, some claimed extra hops were "absolutely necessary" for beer that would be shipped to places with hot climates (via Beer Connoisseur). Whether that was true remains in dispute. Ancient Egyptians brewed beer as early as 3150 B.C, built the world's first beer factory, and classed their beer by flavor profile and alcohol level, according to World History Encyclopedia.

During Hodgson's time, less hoppy beer like porters made it to India from England unspoiled, so the extra alcohol and hops were not essential to preserving the beer. Porters were very popular in England at the time, but many found the flavor more suited to a chilly climate.

Thanks to Hodgson's generous credit policy and Bow Brewery's proximity to the East India Trading Company's dock the beer became popular in colonial India (via Beer Connoisseur). Nobody knows the real genius behind the invention of IPA. Still, its unique role in beer history is undisputed.