India Pale Ale, or IPA, is a strongly hopped beer developed in the late 18th century specifically for the East India Company by Allsop brewery from the existing pale ales. The extra hoppiness made it particularly suitable for the long sea voyage to India and it was quickly followed by many other brewers and found f(l)avor with the expats stationed in the subcontinent. Charrington’s first shipment of their India Ale to Madras (modern day Chennai) in 1827 was so successful that a regular trade was soon established.
The original term pale ale comes from the lighter colored beer that was produced by warm fermentation of pale malts that had been predominantly dried coke. Apparently the world’s first pale ale was produced by Bass, which was the best selling beer in the UK and exported throughout the Empire with its distinctive red triangle branding (and Britain’s first trademark!).
How ironic (or simply coincidental) then that the only British beer available to me in the BA lounge on my trip to Chennai tonight is Bass Pale Ale!
Of course my journey, though starting 3000+ miles further west, will be completed in under 24 hours, something those 18th century British merchant sailors would have thought as impossible as they crossed the treacherous ocean to deliver their happy hoppy cargo.