The History and Legend of IPA Beer
Although everyone is now familiar with the widespread American types, not everyone knows that its true origin is English, specifically from the town of Burton upon Trent. This very area, just a few kilometres from Nottingham, was the world capital of beer production for several centuries, with 46 breweries at the beginning of the 17th century. This was mainly due to the very pure water, rich in calcium sulphate, which was particularly suitable for the production of dry and bitter drinks. The creation of a canal at the end of the 18th century to connect it with the rest of the country enabled it to spread throughout Europe via the main ports and English shipping routes. It took a few years before trade reached India via the ships of the East India Company. In order to survive the long voyage in the ships' holds, avoid bacterial contamination, sustain the long maturation period and preserve its characteristics, the exported product was brewed with a large quantity of hops, a herbaceous plant with strong bitter notes, and had a decidedly high alcohol content. It was in those years that the first Indian Pale Ale was born, destined for ever growing success and linked to the undisputed capital of the category, Burton.
Today this type of Ale is brewed all over the world. The American style is very famous, having contributed to the "rebirth" of this style, after the success of the Lagers and Pils. However, the Italian IPA is also gaining increasing fame, thanks to the establishment of craft breweries such as Birrificio Elav, Civale and many others.
Characteristics and Different Versions
Traditionally, IPAs are high fermentation beers of English origin that belong to the broad Pale Ale family. They are usually characterised by a good alcohol content and above all, by an intense hop character, which provides those unmistakable bitter notes.
To the eye, they are intensely golden or amber in colour, sometimes cloudy (especially the unfiltered ones) with a small, compact and not excessively persistent foam.
To the nose they reveal the typical note of hops, characterised by intense herbaceous and citrus scents (lemons, grapefruit and orange peel), light spiced nuances (pepper), floral fragrances and possible hints of caramel and honey (especially for English beers made from caramelised malts).
The body is of medium structure, where the bitter and sharp notes of the hops reappear, offsetting the dominant flavour in favour of the bitter, pungent and persistent side. The malted notes are light, the flavour can be more or less distinct and the aftertaste is decidedly dry.
A large number of sub-categories have developed from this style, such as:
- American Pale Ale, the American style
- Imperial, with a good alcohol content
- Black, from dark malts
- Session, easier to drink and more fragrant
Indian Pale Ale beers are best paired with ethnic and oriental dishes, which feature an abundant use of aromatic and pungent spices. With their herbaceous flavours they are perfect with hearty dishes, but they also go well with aromatic and fatty dishes such as freshwater fish or game. Try them with desserts that are bold and not overly sweet.
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