The Hoppy History of the India Pale Ale

When my journey into the world of craft beers began, I didn’t really know too much about the intricacies of the beer industry. Yes, I knew I liked beer, and that I preferred “good” beer, as opposed to the swill my dad’s generation somehow pushes down its gullet (and I pushed down my gullet in college), but I didn’t really know how to differentiate between beers.

As I expanded my palate, and learned about new styles of brew, I came to find a real appreciation for one kind of beer in particular: the India Pale Ale, or IPA.

So what’s an IPA, and how is it made?

The IPA’s rich history goes back to a time when the British empire essentially owned the world. From North America to Asia to Africa and everywhere in between, there wasn’t a land that wasn’t touched by those greedy, land-hungry old white dudes. Because of their insistence on oppressing as many people as possible, the empire soon turned its attention to India, which meant a lot of boat traffic to and from the giant Asian nation.

When a friend is kind enough to invite me to their house for a party, I always try to make sure I bring some beers for their window sills. It’s common courtesy. The British were the same way, except you have to replace “invite me to their house” with “try desperately to stop me from stealing their land and enslaving their families.” Also, replace “their window sills” with “British window sills in the buildings appropriated by the empire.” The point is, the British weren’t going anywhere without their beer.

A big problem arose. You see, food preservation methods in the 1700s weren’t exactly top notch. Keeping beer fresh during the six-month journey from Britain to India proved very difficult.

Rather than doing something irrational, like not bringing their precious beer to India with them, the Brits instead began brewing the beer slated for travel to India with Humulus lupulus, the female flower of the hop plant. The hops preservative properties kept the beer fresher over the long trip, but also added a distinctive flavor to them that everyone quickly grew to love. The India Pale Ale was born.

One great thing about beer is that different varieties of hops exist all over the world, leading to the creation of many different styles of beer, even within a particular beer genre like the IPA. The American IPA, for example, is brewed with varieties of hops that give it a much more citrusy or fruity flavor. The Belgian IPA, a newer variety of IPA, uses a Belgian yeast as the last strain in the process, which gives it a much more bitter and dry feel than its American and British counterparts.

The beauty of beer is that there is no right or wrong answer. I’ve seen British IPAs, American, Belgian, barrel-aged IPAs, session IPAs, double IPAs… even triple IPAs are starting to appear on the market. The list goes on and on, and it’s all delicious.

Thanks, imperialism!

Now, I’d like you all to turn your attention back to the beer on today’s window sill– the Sip of Sunshine IPA from Lawson’s Finest Liquids. In my opinion, it’s one of the best American IPAs on the market today.

It’s also a double IPA, which, according to Beer Advocate, is basically an IPA on steroids. Recipes vary, but double IPAs essentially use double the hops and double the malt (or at least a much higher amount of each), which creates a more robust beer with much more flavor and a much higher alcohol content. Where as most regular IPAs top off at 7% alcohol or so, a double IPA can get into the teens. In other words, do not operate heavy machinery while sipping this bit of sunshine, or it might soon be goodnight for you.

Lawson’s Finest Liquids, a small artisanal microbrewery located in Warren, Vermont, has been brewing high quality, unique beers commercially since 2008. One interesting thing to note about the Sip of Sunshine is that it’s not brewed in Lawson’s home facility. It’s actually brewed at Two Roads Brewing Co., in Stratford, CT… practically in my back yard!

While I haven’t had the pleasure of sampling any of Lawson’s other concoctions, if they’re half as good as Sip of Sunshine, you can count me in.

Go out and find this beer now.

As always, don’t forget to check this baby out on our Instagram, and visit Lawson’s Finest Liquids and Two Roads Brewing Co.!