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Monday, March 23, 2009

This Seems Excessive

A Scottish brewery sends beer to India to make an "authentic" IPA:
The pair prepared eight oak barrels which spent seven-and-a-half weeks aboard the Ocean Quest, a mackerel trawler captained by Watt, who is also a fisherman. During the journey the casks were lashed by towering waves and covered in snow. One barrel had to be salvaged from the sea after it was washed overboard.

Dickie said that the traditional India pale ale contained higher than normal levels of hops and alcohol, which acted as preservatives. He added that the beer was given its distinctive taste by the way it aged in the barrels, which were tossed around and subjected to large fluctuations in temperature during the journey.

“With all the motion of the sea, the oxidation in the barrel would have been brought on quicker than if they were sitting in a warehouse. Some interesting flavours were also introduced, like the wood of the barrel, but also the fruity flavours brought on by the oxidation.”
Of course, the IPA origin story has been debunked, so this is sort of a strange experiment. No doubt it will produce an interesing beer (though I shudder to think of the price of a bottle.)


  1. It's a cool idea. Reminiscent of Linea Aquavit from Norway, which is sent on an ocean voyage through the Panama Canal and back before it is bottled. Probably a better price performer than Brew Dog beers.

  2. Excessive, that's what beer is about these days, get with the program. I mean, they are feeding coffee beans to weasels to shat out to add layers of flavor. Simple flavors are for the weak. Give me a double imperial iced light beer or you are just getting in the way of progress.

    Reinheitsgebot is to long and complicated of a word anyway. When I found out that it didn't mean a beer infused with steak I stopped caring.

  3. Derek: Where can I get me some of that steak-infused beer?

  4. If you want excessive, try the Gose! That's how I get with the program, baby.

  5. The origin of the beer itself may have been debunked, but the origin of the name story is perfectly intact. Just because a strong ale existed before it started going to India doesn't mean that the essence of the story is not correct: strong ales lasted longer in casks and thus were good for ocean journeys and this type of beer over time became known as India Pale Ale through its common exportation to the sub-continent.

    Thus even though the beer was not created precisely because of the journey to India, it still went there and acquired a particular taste.

    But what is pretty silly about this endeavor is that these were clearly sub-optimal conditions and so you are trying hard to create a lesser beer. It is kind of like saying in the 18th century germs were a mystery and so sterilization was not practiced, thus let's create an authentic funky beer full of distasteful off flavors. Oh joy!

  6. Patrick, part of the debunking of the IPA myth is that it wasn't a particularly strong beer at the time. In fact brewer's logs from the period show that the real defining characterisitcs of IPAs were higher hopping rates and high attenuation. In many breweries, the IPA's were lower alcohol than the pales ales and porters.

    I agree that it is a silly idea. But I guess a certain amount of gimmickry is helpful in creating demand for beers like this. Maybe the next beer in the series could be bottled and kept in the trunk of a 64 Impala as it's driven across the Southwest in the summer to commemorate the time my Uncle Waldo forgot he had a case of beer in the trunk.