National IPA Day
the first Thursday in August (since 2011)
National IPA Day is celebrated to increase appreciation for one of the world's most popular types of craft beer: the India Pale Ale—commonly known as the IPA. Made with hops and pale malts, the IPA has a full-bodied taste that is bold and bitter. It has a higher alcohol content than the average beer, and many different hop strains are used to brew it. The day brings together large and small breweries, and beer lovers and connoisseurs, for IPA tastings, festivals, and other events.
Although some evidence suggests IPAs were being made in England before they started being sent to India, they gained their name because British sailors traveling to India as part of the East India Company began drinking them in the late eighteenth century. One reason sailors brought them on their journey was the hot climate of India made it difficult to brew beer there. The pale ales had a higher hop content, which helped them better keep their taste as they traveled from England to India, as hops are a natural preservative. They were not the only beer that could be shipped at the time, though, as porters were also shipped to India and California.
George Hodgson and his Bow Brewery was one of the first to brew IPAs and export them to India. The brewery was located two miles away from the East India Docks, making it accessible for traders. Brewers in the English town of Burton soon began brewing beer to send to India, after losing their Russian markets. Allsopp Brewery made a beer similar to Hodgson's beer, and other breweries followed, such as Bass and Salt. These beers had only a little bit higher alcohol content than other beers of the time, and wouldn't be considered to be strong ales. Although, they were hoppier than other beers.
There was demand for IPAs in England by 1840, and the beer was widely brewed there by 1860. Its popularity also spread throughout the British Empire. Some brewers in England started calling them pale ales instead of India pale ales, although their recipes had not changed. Before 1900, breweries in the United States, Australia, and Canada were brewing similar IPAs to those of England. But, by about the turn of the twentieth century, IPAs began losing their popularity around the world.
The resurgence of IPAs began with their brewing in California microbreweries in the 1970s. The first American version of the modern IPA is Anchor Brewery's Liberty Ale, which began being brewed in San Francisco in 1975. IPAs brewed in the United States use one of many distinctive American hops. East Coast IPAs have more of a malt presence than West Coast IPAs, which balances out the intensity of the hops. Hops are more prominent in West Coast IPAs, likely because the breweries are close to hop fields in the Pacific Northwest. New England IPAs—invented in the early 2010s in Vermont, and also known as Northeastern IPAs or hazy IPAs—are imbued juicy, floral, and citrus flavors, and have a smooth consistency and hazy appearance. Many brewers in England once again brew IPAs today. IPAs generally have an alcohol content of 5% to 8%, and those with above 7.5% alcohol by volume and a higher hop content are often referred to as double IPAs or Imperial IPAs.
How to Observe National IPA Day
Celebrate the day by drinking some IPAs! Perhaps you could stop at a bar and try some of the best IPAs in America, or pick some up at a store to enjoy at home. You could also have a Liberty Ale, the first IPA brewed in America in the modern era. You could brew your own IPA, or have some IPAs at a local brewery. These are also likely good places to check with about tastings, festivals, or other events that are happening around the world today. To learn more about IPAs, pick up a copy of IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale or Hops and Glory One Man's Search for the Beer That Built the British Empire, or visit a beer musuem.