Thursday, October 15, 2015

There actually was an IPA shipwreck, after all.

From Cornell's article. If click bait interested me, I'd have flashed a photo of a hard-to-find hoarder's IPA, but then you'd just be disappointed at having to read. 

Martyn Cornell surely has done more to de-mythologize Indian Pale Ale (IPA) than any other writer, although I concede to knowingly deploying selected bits of these myths periodically while storytelling at tastings.

However, I always try to return to the point, because at the risk of oversimplification, Cornell's longstanding mission is to illustrate the advent of more aggressively hopped ales in the UK as an evolutionary process over decades, rather than the result of one or the other light bulbs suddenly flaring.

Even he seems mildly surprised that the "IPA shipwreck" is true, strictly speaking, though the details remain highly contextualized. In short, it now can be proved that there was such an event, but it cannot be proved that certain trends started as a result. These already were developing, over a long period of time, and a lone shipwreck did not serve as flash point, although the stormy origins of casks salvaged from the ship probably made for wonderful, albeit temporary, marketing at a handful of pubs.

It's a great story. At the end, there are links to other pieces written by Cornell on the topic of IPA.

The IPA shipwreck and the Night of the Big Wind, by Martyn Cornell (Zythophile)

The “IPA shipwreck” is one of many long-lasting myths in the history of India Pale Ale. The story says that IPA became popular in Britain after a ship on its way to India in the 1820s was wrecked in the Irish Sea, and some hogsheads of beer it was carrying out east were salvaged and sold to publicans in Liverpool, after which the city’s drinkers demanded lots more of the same. Colin Owen, author of a history of Bass’s brewery, called the tale “unsubstantiated” more than 20 years ago, and others, including me, being unable to find any reports of any such wreck, nor of any indication that IPA was a big seller in the UK until the 1840s, have dismissed it as completely untrue. Except that it turns out casks of IPA did go on sale in Liverpool after a wreck off the Lancashire coast involving a ship carrying hogsheads of beer to India that, literally, became a landmark – though not in the 1820s – and the true story is a cracker, involving one of the worst storms to hit the British Isles in centuries, which brought huge destruction and hundreds of deaths from one side of the UK to the other.

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