A pint and a half glass of ale on a brass table in a pub in London, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In PIctures via Getty Images)
Early IPAs Weren't As Strong As You'd Think
By Haldan Kirsch
Indian Pale Ales (IPAs) are found on most craft brewery draft menus these days and are loved by brewers and drinkers alike. However, many people also hate these brews because of their strong flavors, leading people to believe that IPAs always are and always have been potent beers with high alcohol content.
As the British empire tightened its controlling grip on its Indian colonies, the British soldiers and traders living there sought some of the comforts of home, including beer. Strong, dark beers were popular in Britain at the time, but as their quality didn't hold up to the long journey, George Hodgson created a unique barleywine or "October Beer."
This brew was cask-aged and would be labeled decades later as the unique brew it's become today. According to Beer Connoisseur, British colonists likely would have been cooling off with IPAs with slightly lower ABV content than modern brews, as these beers would have lingered around the 6.5% mark.
IPAs are beloved by brewers as it gives them a wide range of flavors to express their creativity and have fun with the brewing process. Where most American IPAs range from 6% to 7% ABV, some offer ABVs around 10%, 12%, and even 20%, so while you can easily find a light, fruity, and low-ABV version of this beer, you can just as easily find a strong, complex, and bitter brew.