Sunday, 18 January 2009

The difference between PA and IPA

It's a question that's been troubling me recently: what's the difference between IPA and PA? I suspect it may be even less clear than the difference between Porter and Stout. At least a brewery's Porter was always weaker than their Stouts.

Had you asked me two years ago, I would have said if a brewery made both an IPA and a PA that the IPA would always be the stronger of the two. But that was before I looked and Whitbread and Barclay Pekins brewing records. They both brewed IPA that was considerably weaker than their PA. Both IPA's were also exclusively bottled beers.

Burton IPA's were stronger. But were they stronger than Burton PA? Well, that's where it gets complicated. After Bass and Worthington merged in the 1920's the flagship bottled beers of both breweries were retained. Though they we3re in fact the same beer. For, Bass Red Triangle, for Worthington White Shield. Yet White Shield's label called it an IPA and Red Triangle's claimed it was Pale Ale. What was the beer? PA or IPA? Or both?

I'm starting to believe that maybe there isn't really a difference between the two. Why was IPA given its name? To let you know that it was a Pale Ale prepared for the Indian market, which is how it was originally referred to. No doubt to differentiate it from 18th-century style Pale Ale, which was a completely different beast, with few hops and really a Light Mild. As the 19th century progressed and old-style Pale Ale disappeared, there was no longer a need to warn drinkers that this was the heavily-hopped type of Pale Ale. That's the only Pale Ale there was. So the India bit mostly got dropped from names. That's my total guess theory. If I ever get a look at Burton brewing records I might get some facts to back this up.

The longer I study beer styles, the fewer different ones I find. Mild, PA, Porter, Strong Ale, Brown Ale. That's about it, really.


Lars Marius Garshol said...

> Mild, PA, Porter, Strong Ale, Brown
> Ale. That's about it, really.

Imperial stout? Golden/blonde ale?

Ron Pattinson said...

Imperial Stout is a Porter variation, Golden Ale a variation on Pale Ale.

Anonymous said...

Ron, this makes a lot of sense to me.

I think you have pointed out earlier that where a brewery issued both pale and India pale beers, the latter generally had more hops. I think this may have been a kind of vestigal difference between the two styles, at least for a time.

Also, I think those old Combrune-type pale ales (twopenny) were mostly draft beers. Once bottling got going in the 1800's, I think there would have been an impetus for the new type of pale ale to gain hegemony. Even domestic-market bottled beer needs preservation - until pasteurisation came in at any rate. Because, why assume a domestic bottled beer will be drunk right away or very soon? If Burton sent bottled pale ale to a London chophouse maybe it would be consumed a year later for whatever reason, maybe sooner than the "India" pale sent direct to Asia...


Barm said...

Double Imperial Strong Flemish Coffee Raspberry Pilsner? ;)

Lars Marius Garshol said...

Guess that makes you a lumper, Ron.

As opposed to a splitter, I mean. :-)

Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, I sort of agree about the hopping. Barclay Perkins and Whitbread's IPA's were more heavily-hopped than standard PA. But it seems as if Bass used PA and IPA fairly indiscriminately.

Anonymous said...

Style smile.

Brewers will call a beer anything that helps to sell it and they're especially good at blurring boundaries (Thornbridge Imperial Russian Stout at 7.7% springs to mind).

I do like Gary's insight though..

Zak Avery said...

Ron, can you elaborate on "Pale Ale prepared for the Indian market" for me? Having read Martyn Cornell's Amber Gold and Black, I came away with the impression that there wasn't really "preparation" as such, but that IPA was the result of what had made the journey, and then people started to reverse-engineer the final product so it could be enjoyed at home.

Of course, I could have got the worong end of the stick completely.

Ron Pattinson said...

Zak, I was writing from memory there (my house is upside down due to building work). I thought I remembered reading in Amber Gold and Black "Pale Ale prepared for the Indian market". . . . Found the book. Yes, that's what a quote from 1843 says.

Who was it who said that they started selling IPA in Britain due to demand from returning expats? Was that Roberts?

Zak Avery said...

Unsure - will have to dig out a few books and give myself a talking to.

jonbrazie said...

Ron, at any rate, I think the difference may be more distinct today than it was years ago. From my own understanding, hops are 95% of what determines whether an ale is just "pale" or "india pale". Specifically, I should say IBU's, and of course gravities and malts used play a very important role in the perception of the hops, both when brewing and when finished.

What's interesting is how some breweries used the terms loosely, like Bass. Could it have been due to comparative recipes? If recipes changed drastically, but in step, with each other, that might bear some weight. Or, as mentioned already, it could just be pure marketing, or marketing/cost cutting. If it's "different enough" to call it something else, why not do that, and try to increase public interest?