ON A SLOW NIGHT: BEER ANECDOTES
IPAS, Steam beers & Skunk beers
“Hey do you know why IPAs are called INDIA PALE ALES?!?”
Have you ever heard someone call an IPA an “EEE-PAH”? I have. Lets break it down… The “pale ale” part of IPA is in reference to pale malts. The India part is a little hazier.
One of the dominant breweries distributing to the workers and communities along the route of the East India Trading Company was also popularizing and producing pale ales. The Hodgson brewing company began advertising “pale ale” by name in the late 1700s. Batches prepared with extra hops were well received and considered fresher, and it became common knowledge that beer must be brewed with more hops to be preserved for the long hot journey to India. This has since been proven a myth, and porters along with other styles were successfully transported safely long before and after this “discovery” without such high hop content. None-the-less beer recipes demanded it, and such ales were considered “Pale Ales prepared for India”. The term evolved and the style spread for its obviously distinct taste. The first mention of “India Pale Ale” was in a Hodgson ad in the Liverpool Mercury, September 30, 1830.
Little known fact: These are all little known facts. People get this story wrong all the time. I’ve heard “A ship carrying IPA sank off the coast of England and the people liked it so much they started brewing the beer for themselves, not just for India” and “it was too hot to drink porters and other dark beers that were popular in Europe so they made the bitter hoppy ale to better suit the weather”. Lies. It’s all LIES.
Over-all point: IPA as a style distinction is vast and encompassing of a wide variety of ales. To think that the term came about as a matter of happenstance and marketing buzzwords is kind of quaint. Not as cute, perhaps, as a barrel washing up on shore, but still a story worth telling.
“Do you know why beer bottles are usually brown or green?”
Skunky beer is not my favorite kind of beer. Isohumulones, also known as the isomerized alpha acids of hops, are the culprit. When exposed to ultra violate rays, they break down into free radicals, which then interact with sulfur containing proteins. The product of this interaction is remarkably similar to the chemical Molotov cocktail that skunks produce when they spray. Thus, the foul warm Becks you had at last summer’s BBQ… Or every Corona you have ever had.
Brown and green bottles help filter the light, giving the beer a fighting chance to remain as is until consumption. Some breweries have combated the light by developing hops that are less light sensitive, such as Miller’s Tetrahop Gold. But one must wonder: is a man made hop the same as a true hop? I guess it depends if you believe in God’s hops.
Little known fact: Corona’s campaign of “putting a lime in it” could revolve entirely around ridding the bad taste of hops gone bad. Of course there is something festive and tasty about a citrus spiked beer, but I am curious of this particular brand’s association with the method and if it has anything to do with the clear bottle. There is no comment on behalf of the brewery.
Over-all point: Hide your beer!
“Anchor Steam owns the word Steam!”
A steam beer, also known as a California common beer or damfbier (German for “steam beer”) is made with lager yeast without the use of refrigeration. The origin of the word steam is speculative, but if it is indeed from the German version, it is in reference to the beer being brewed at higher temperatures. The beer would cool and release a steady cloud of steam above the brewery, as Anchor claims was visible above its San Francisco facilities when cool Pacific Ocean air blew over the shallow vats of brew spread across the roof.
In 1999 Anchor attempted to sue the Canadian company Sleeman for violating their rights to the term “Steam beer” which they trademarked in 1981. The suit was dismissed on account of the fact that Anchor didn’t distribute in Canada at all, and wasn’t actually in competition or conflict with Sleeman.
Little known fact: Saporro bought Sleeman in 2006 for 400 million dollars. The steam beer has since been discontinued.
Over-all point: Anchor Steam Beer is no longer a steam beer in the traditional sense, so they are kind of dicks about it. Trade marking a term that describes a whole genre of beer is petty.