India Pale Ale NOT Named to Survive the Trip to India?

07 March 2009

We've always heard that the India Pale Ale was derived form the fact that these beers were brewed strong to survive the trip to India on board ships.....BUT now comes this from an Appellation blog reader:


Thanks to reader Gary Gillman for helping me stumble across this one. I'm back to the "IPA was brewed strong so it could survive the journey to India" myth. It pisses me off so much every time I hear it repeated. I'm going to keep shouting the opposite until people start paying attention.
The following passage gives a very different reason for IPA being the strength it was:

"ALE, PALE OR BITTER; brewed chiefly for the Indian market and for othertropical countries.—It is a light beverage, with much aroma, and, in consequence of the regulations regarding the malt duty, is commonly brewed from a wort of specific gravity 1055 or upwards; for no drawback is allowed by the Excise on the exportation of beer brewed from worts of a lower gravity than 1054. This impolitic interference with the operations of trade compels the manufacturer of bitter beer to employ wort of a much greater density than he otherwise would do; for beer made from wort of the specific gravity 1042 is not only better calculated to resist secondary fermentation and the other effects of a hot climate, but is also more pleasant and salubrious to the consumer. Under present circumstances the law expects the brewer of bitter beer to obtain four barrels of marketable beer from every quarter of malt he uses, which is just barely possible when the best malt of a good barley year is employed. . With every quarter of such malt 16lbs. of the best hops are used ; so that, if we assume the cost of malt at 60s. per quarter, and the best hops at 2s. per lb., we shall have, for the prime cost of each barrel of bitter beer—in malt, 15s.; in hops, 8s. ; together, 23s ; from which, on exportation, we must deduct the drawback of 5s. per barrel allowed by the Excise, which brings the prime cost down to 18s. per barrel, exclusive of the expense of manufacture, wear and tear of apparatus, capital invested in barrels, cooperage, &c., which constitute altogether a very formidable outlay. As, however, (his ale is sold as high as from 50s. to 65s. per barrel, there can be no doubt that the bitter ale trade has long been, and still continues, an exceedingly profitable speculation, though somewhat hazardous, from the liability of the article to undergo decomposition ere it finds a market.""Ures' Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures and Mines" by Andrew Ure & Robert Hunt, 1867, Page 306

A word of explanation. "Drawback" was the money refunded to a brewer when beer was exported. The idea being that excise duty was only payable on beer consumed in the UK. It was a bit complicated in the period 1830-1880 because there was no tax as such on beer. It was the raw materials, malt and hops, which were taxed. Hence working out how much tax had been paid on a particular barrel of beer wasn't easy. So instead there was a simple flat-rate refund.

Anyway, what Ure is saying is that it made no financial sense for a brewer to export an IPA with a gravity lower than 1055, as he wouldn't get his 5 shillings a barrel back from the taxman. He implies that without this rule, the gravity of export IPA would have been lower.I'm intrigued by his assertions that a Pale Ale with an OG of 1042 would survive the journey better and be more suited to the tropics.

Let's recap:
IPA, at around 1060, was an ordinary strength beer
it would have been weaker, but for the tax regime
its gravity didn't help it survive the voyageAs I'm having trouble getting some people to listen, I'm going to continue shouting at you about the strength of IPA for some time yet.

2 comments (click to read or post):

tazio 23 March, 2009 13:29  

wow. It does seem counter-intuitive though that lower gravity would survive better...Alcohol has worked as a preservative for me. So far.

mybeerbuzz,  23 March, 2009 14:00  

I think we're confusing preserving and pickling :)

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