The World Beer Cup of 2010 was recently held in Chicago and something caught my eye when they posted the results. There were 90 categories in the competition, which indicates the number of different beer styles. The word Imperial was used in a great many beers entered, which also caught my eye. Three categories stick out that warrant a comment. Category 53: English style India Pale Ale, Category 83: Imperial India Pale Ale and Category 90: International Pale Ale.
English style India Pale is a historic style as it was the English who created this, unintentionally by the way. The word India was used to some degree to identify a style but also as a shipping label of sorts. The story behind this is rather long and for another forum. But it gets my point across that India Pale Ale is a historic beer style. India Pale was sent to several places around the world but primarily to India for the British clerks and officials. The “troops” that so many others write about would not normally drink IPA due to the cost. The word India in the original sense was used to identify the entity that purchased the beer and NOT the destination. October beer was bought by the East India Company for resale in India, Bengal and other areas under their control.
I do have problems with the word Imperial. It seems that any beer over 7.0952% is called Imperial. Although it originally identified a strong porter it too was somewhat of a shipping label. The word Imperial should never be used be used with reference to Pale Ale. But that’s just my opinion. Imperial is synonymous with the word Russia. London Porter was sent to many Baltic countries but its biggest buyer was the Imperial Court of Catherine the Great. Is it coming together for you?
The oddity of the World Beer Cup was the category of International Pale Ale. What the hops is that and when did we start using it? I can see American Pale Ale as it has more (and different) hop character than the UK versions. But what makes International Pale? Does it have water from the seven seas? Was it brewed in the International Space Station? Is it even sanctioned by the UN? What characteristics make International Pale Ale? In doing a quick Google search I see that the WBC are the only ones using this identification. I don’t know, maybe it’s me (it usually is) but I think we are running rampant with beer names now a days. I may quick drinking when somebody comes out with an Imperial Chocolate Wit.
Now that I have finished with my rant I shall offer a fun fact. No brewer in the UK is permitted to make an ESB except Fullers. The English drink only ordinary bitter and special bitter. Extra Special Bitter is a registered trademark of Fullers. Oddly this beer started as a winter-ale and was re-named as a bitter.