Monday, 2 March 2009

Let's Brew 1923 Whitbread IPA!

I've got a good one for you today. An old IPA recipe. Whitbread IPA from 1923, to be precise.

[Shouting warning] Remember me mentioning weaker IPA. And how ridiculous it is to state, as the BJCP does, that it is incorrect to call any beer under 4% ABV an IPA. What justification do they have for that statement? History? How long do you have to brew a beer a certain way for that to become traditional for the style? Think about that while you're looking at this recipe.

IPA was Whitbread's biggest seller in 1923, accounting for 23% of sales. It was exclusively a bottled beer. To put IPA's gravity of 1036 into context, Whitbread's standard draught Mild, X, had an OG of 1042, and its standard draught Bitter, PA, 1046.

2009 minus 1923. I make that 86 years. The weak British style of IPA has been around at least that long. Yet it's tantamount to fraud if you listen to some. Now tell me, how long has DIPA been going?

Why is to so difficult to accept this type of IPA as legitimate? They've been with us a lot longer than the American variety.


Whorst said...

Why does it matter that they've been around longer than the American varieties? We took your beers and put a different spin on them. If we completely copied your beers, you'd bitch about that too, saying there nowhere near as good as yours. What's the average gravity of the IPA style from it's inception? Something tells me it's not 1.035.
As far as the BJCP goes, I paint them with the same brush as I do CAMRA.

Ron Pattinson said...

Wurst, you've totally missed my point. I'm just pointing out that weak IPA's have a long history and to pretend that they can't exist becasue "IPA is a strong beer" is ridiculous. I wasn't having a go at American IPA. Why are people so touchy?

Over the last 100 years the average OG of British IPA is probably about 1040.

Matt said...

I think Ron has shown pretty clearly over the last couple of years by reference to adverts, brewing logs etc. that India Pale Ale, pale ale and bitter are synonyms for the same style of beer with the last used by drinkers in the pub rather than the brewers themselves. Therefore any top fermented hoppy beer brewed with a pale malt could be called PA, IPA or bitter.

Anonymous said...

Ron, a question about the hop quantities. Are these already adjusted down (the 25% reduction you spoke of in past posts) or are these just scaled down from the original to the 5 gallons recipe (well six gallon since I do US gallons)?

Wurst, the point is that in the US there's a misconception that IPA is and was always a strong pale ale, but the reality seems to be that most IPA's were not amongst the stronger beers produced by most breweries. As gravities of beers increased/decreased in the last 150 years, most IPAs are consistently below average in alcoholic strength. That's a big difference to how IPA is understood by the modern craft beer drinker. You'd be hard pressed to find any US brewery whose IPA is weaker than their pale ale, but historically this was the norm. That's a style definition change that happened in the US in the last 25 years.

The current definition of IPA in the US is a historical shift in the definition of the style, and as Ron's pointed out, styles do change with time. Because the modern interpretation of the style in the US is as a strong pale ale, it doesn't make the lower alcohol English versions inauthentic, but there is a vocal group of US beer geeks who would claim that you can't have an IPA at 1.040. They judge modern English IPAs as "not to style" because they don't realize that IPA as it's defined currently in the US is very different than it was defined throughout most of its history.

Yes, we put a different spin on English styles, but that doesn't invalidate the original styles. It's ironic that we judge English IPA as "not to style" when in fact you could argue that the US interpretations are the ones that "aren't to style." Yes, we revamped the style but now we expect every beer called IPA by every brewer to use the new definition that we created in the last 25 years. You can't recreate the definition of a style and expect all of the commercial examples with long histories to change their beer to fit the new definition, but that's what a lot of people in the US have done with IPA.

Whorst said...

I am very touchy and very sensitive. This is largely due to my tender nature. Sometimes I like to read Shelley and Keats alone with strong ale as my accompaniment. But, in saying that, I am not an extreme beer geek.

As a brewer, I always keep my starting gravities down, because I don't want my guests to drink a few pints of rocket fuel and kill themselves on the way home from the party. I love beer, and if I wanted to get bombed, I'd drink something else.

Mark (the Brush Valley Brewer) said...

I'm trying to appreciate both sides of the "is it or isn't it and IPA" argument and I'm left with two options:

1) All these terms are simply marketing and only reflect what the brewer decided to call them, or

2) The style guidelines are missing something when they say an IPA has to have a certain gravity and bitterness.

I'm going to go with 2).

When I look at this recipe, I see a fairly serious BU:GU ratio. Meaning that this will be a very hop-forward beer. Served at an appropriately warm temperature with an appropriately low carbonation level, I can imagine this would be quite the IPA, and I would imagine being able to drink them quite readily, which would make them quite popular with the troops and the officers in India. No?

Matt said...

Mark, you also need to know the background of this debate in British beer writing. Most of the leading exponents over the last forty years - Michael Jackson, Roger Protz - have contended that there are three historically separate styles called Bitter, IPA and Pale Ale. They argue that IPA was a hoppier, stronger PA and that Bitter was a later development of PA with the addition of crystal malt. The evidence from primary sources contradicts this view. PA and IPA are what different brewers call the same thing and bitter is what you ask for in the pub. A quick look at some of the products still available confirms this, e.g. bottled Worthington White Shield IPA dates from the 1820's but is not stronger, hoppier or a different colour to some of the cask bitters you get in the pub.

Ron Pattinson said...

A perfect example of the arbitrary nature of the designation IPA and Pale Ale is the case of Worthington White Shield and Bass Red Triangle. After Bass and Worthington merged these were exactly the same beer. Yet Red Triangle said Pale Ale on the label and White Shield IPA.

Jim Johanssen said...

Ron - Are the Hop Rates you list adjusted or are they just scaled for 5 Gal batch.
My numbers are goofy on this and the PA.


Ron Pattinson said...

Jim, the hops are just scaled for a 5 gallon batch.

Whorst said...

Isn't pale ale the bottled version of bitter?

Ron Pattinson said...

Wurst, no. Pale Ale is the brewery name, Bitter is the pub name. Quite simple. Take a look at some old good Beer Guides and see how many of the older breweries called their Bitter PA.

Rob Sterowski said...

It gets even more bizarre if you look at the labelling of some Scottish beers. As we all know, Scottish beers are completely different from English beers and have no hops at all, because Scottish brewers are too mean to buy hops. They are brewed from porridge and have a smoky taste because the kettle is heated by a peat fire.

Up until about five years ago you could still buy green cans of a thin, metallic-tasting dark beer called McEwan's Pale Ale. How it came to bear this name I do not know as it was essentially canned 60/–. More interestingly, if you look at the likes of you can quite easily trace the evolution of McEwan's India Pale Ale into today's McEwan's Export, just by looking at the historical labels (I believe it is even now still called India Pale Ale in some markets).

So what were these Pale Ale and India Pale Ale labels doing in Edinburgh, when Scottish beer is supposed to comprise Light, Heavy and Export?

Jim Johanssen said...

Ron - Whitbread IPA 1923 Jan 9th Guestimate.

Hops @ 2%
Beer @ 26.6 IBUs
SRM @ 7.1 = 14 EBC

The IBUs are nowhere near what I thought it should be.