It didn't fit with the specs of the style at all. Way too low in gravity. Looking more closely at the supposed characteristics of the style, I realised that virtually no IPA brewed in the UK in the 20th century matched the numbers. The gravity range given is 1050-1075º. While I'm pretty sure that almost no British IPA brewed between 1820 and 1980 was over 1070º.
I realised that the definition of English IPA wasn't based on anything as silly as IPA's brewed in the UK. But what American home brewers think and English IPA should be like. So similar to an American IPA, but not as hoppy. Or with English rather than US hops. I love the utter cheek of this statement in the 2008 BJCP style guidelines:
"The term “IPA” is loosely applied in commercial English beers today, and has been (incorrectly) used in beers below 4% ABV."Right. So American home brewers get to decide what a British brewery can and cannot call IPA. The idea that there's some universal definition of IPA that means it can't be applied to a beer of under 4% ABV. While low gravity IPA has a long history. A much longer one than the modern American style. Yet for some reason that doesn't count.
The idea of IPA having wildly different strengths doesn't seem to have phased British drinkers. As I realised when I searched the newspaper archive for "Whitbread IPA". And came across this gem of an advert:
Why is it so revealing? Because it lists two very different kinds of IPA. You just need to look at the prices.
First you've got Whitbread IPA, selling for 2s 6d for a dozen pints, or 2.5d per pint. Further down the list are Worthington and Bass IPA, selling for the same price for half pints. Meaning they were double the price of Whitbread IPA.
If you look at the beers themsleves, the reason for the price difference is obvious: Bass and Worthington were much stronger.
|Bass, Whitbread and Guinness 1898 - 1912|
|1901||Guinness||Foreign Extra Stout||Stout||1075.7||1013.3||8.18||82.42%|
|1901||Guinness||Extra Foreign Stout||Stout||1075.0||1013.2||7.86||81.34%|
|Brockhaus' konversations-lexikon, Band 2 by F.A. Brockhaus, 1898|
|Wahl & Henius, pages 823-830|
|Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/077 and LMA/4453/D/09/106.|
Clearly drinkers weren't confused by being offered IPAs of very different strengths. Whitbread IPA is about as weak as beer got before WW I, when average gravity was 1055º. Today a beer in the same strength class would have an OG of around 1035º.
Note also the price premium for Pale Ale: despite being the same price as the Stout, the gravity was lower. Though the Jacob's Pilsener was even more overpriced, costing the same as a Burton Pale Ale, when its gravity would have been much lower.
If early 20th-century drinkers could get their heads around low-gravity IPA, what's the problem today?