It is everywhere, on the shelves of supermarkets and on all bar cards. The consumption of this bitter and strong beer has almost quadrupled in the past five years, according to figures from the American brewery association (supermarket sales). What is IPA beer and why is it hot in the United States? This is our silly question of the week.
Acronym for “India Pale Ale”, the IPA is a beer steeped in history whose origins date back to the 18th century in Great Britain. Beers pioneers, the English are at the time of fervent consumers of “Pale Ale”, a blond beer with high fermentation and light color. In the development of their colonial empire, many soldiers are sent to India. Only problem: how to supply troops with alcohol in a country so remote, which requires long months of boat trip? English brewers decided to add a large amount of hops in their “Pale Ale”, a plant known for its antiseptic virtues that can extend the shelf life of beer. Thus is born the “India Pale Ale”.
If this version of the story is not contradicted by Mitch Steel, brewer of Atlanta and author of the book IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the evolution of India Pale Ale, it specifies that the term “India” is incorrect. “It was remembered that India, but the British Empire sent hoppy beer everywhere in its colonies”.
Very appreciated, the IPA will quickly know the success in his country of origin, before reaching the United States thanks to the waves of British immigration in the second half of the XIXth century. But it will be necessary to wait for the prohibition in the 1920s so that the IPA really takes off. “In the face of the ban on alcohol, Americans start producing their own beer at home,” said Mitch Steele. This is how the consumption of craft beers such as IPA is developing “.
This period marks the beginning of a movement that will become famous in the 1990s: the “crafts brewers”. Eager to deal with the now massive industrialization of beer production in the country, many Americans are returning to the production of craft beer. And as explained by Elizabeth Pierre, a French biologist and author of the Hachette Beer Guide, “the characteristic of this movement is to draw inspiration from old traditional European styles, particularly the IPA style”. The number of breweries on American soil is exploding and the consumption of IPA with, until accounting for almost a third of craft beer sales today, according to the association of American brewers.
But why does the IPA style appeal to Americans as much? For Mitch Steele, it is thanks to hops that gives him a taste, “which is not the case for other American beers that are much flatter.” Elizabeth Pierre adds that “the bitterness of the IPA is interesting. It’s not just a bitterness, it’s a tasty bitterness associated with aromas. ”
A true cradle of the brewing revolution, the United States now produces its own IPA beer, the “American IPA”. A beer whose success can be explained by the use of American hops, according to Mitch Steele. “It’s one of the best in the world. It has intense and pronounced fruity flavors, while the European hops are more floral and spicy. The intensity of the aroma of American hops is also much higher than that of a typical European hop, making American hops very suitable for APIs. ”
Never short of ideas, the American brewers launched more recently the “Session IPA”, a lower API aperitif beer than the “American IPA”, but whose taste remains close to it with hoppy flavors and bitter. What will ensure the future of this beer loaded with hops and history.