|Barry the Barrel of IPA on his way to India. Or so he thinks.|
IPA may be the most beloved beer style of craft brewers. It may be the beer style that has driven the craft beer revolution around the world. But it is also the most mythologised, debated, controversial and misunderstood beer style in the world.
Some people become incensed, possessed by violent rage, at what they perceive as falsehoods or inaccuracies in IPA's history.
Others scream about commercial brands using 'IPA' in their name when they are not 'proper' IPAs.
When I discovered various new facets of the history of IPA while researching my book Hops and Glory, some people simply dismissed my claims out of hand if they didn't fit with their own story, ignoring facts I had discovered from primary research among original nineteenth century documents.
IPA is a cipher for all the various points of view and debates within brewing and beer fandom.
But it's also a spectacular beer style that has at some point inspired pretty much everyone who loves craft beer today.
So when Meantime Brewing asked me to host a beer and food matching dinner as part of a regular series they hold at The Old Brewery in Greenwich, and asked if I would perhaps like to do this with an IPA theme, I leapt at the chance.
IPA has been around for well over 200 years. Over that time, it has evolved, as tastes and brewing techniques have evolved. We can't say exactly what old IPAs taste like but we can infer things from various surviving recipes, contemporary accounts and recreations. What we may not consider to be a 'proper' IPA today may have been universally understood to be the only valid interpretation of IPA sixty or a hundred yeas ago.
|English troops enjoying Bass IPA, Bengal, 19th century|
So what we've attempted to do is compile a list of beers for a tasting and then dinner which reflect how the style has evolved over the years, decades and centuries, and how it has reached a point in the last decade or so where it has developed into an extraordinarily broad range of different tastes and versions. I'll be talking about each beer and more generally about how the style has evolved.
It's not meant to be a point scoring exercise or a workshop in coming up with the definitive truth about IPA. It's meant to be a thoughtful look at arguably the greatest beer style, and an awesome evening of beer and food flavours. Here's the menu: