The continuing fantastic expansion in the number of old documents scanned, OCR’d and available on the internet is presenting the lucky historical searcher with constant opportunities to push back the boundaries. The latest terrific find is an ante-dating of the first use of the expression “India pale ale” by almost six years, taking it from Liverpool in January 1835 to Sydney, Australia in August 1829.
That advertisement for East India pale ale comes from the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser of Saturday, August 29 1829. Unfortunately it doesn’t mention whose East India pale ale Mr Spark was selling at his stores. However, the “Taylor’s” also mentioned in the ad is almost certainly the London brewer better remembered as Taylor Walker, which was well-known in Australia, having been exporting its stout and porter to the colonies from at least 1822, but which had also been exporting pale ale to New South Wales since early in the decade, an advert in the Sydney Gazette from Thursday 20 November 1823 shows.
The 1829 ad seems to say that Mr Spark had two sorts of pale ale on sale, Taylor’s and East India. If there were two, the other one might have been the unhoppy version of pale ale that London brewers had long been making (see later). On the other hand, an ad just a few months later in the Colonial Times of Hobart in Tasmania on Friday, February 19 1830 lists “Taylor’s Brown Stout, East India Pale Ale (the best summer drink) and XXX Ale for sale”, meaning that whatever interpretation you put on that 1829 ad, Taylor Walker’s still (currently) takes the prize for the earliest named beer to be called an IPA (oh, all right, an EIPA – same difference). The XXX ale, meanwhile, probably WAS pale, lightly hopped ale.
We can be fairly certain that the EIPA in the 1829 ad wasn’t Hodgson’s, the best-known of the hopped pale ales exported to the East before 1830, because the Bow brewery’s beer was highly admired and regularly praised, and would have been specifically named by anybody selling it: another Sydney newspaper, the Monitor, complained in April 1828 that “Colonial beer” was “not so good as” Hodgson’s pale ale, and adverts in Australian newspapers for Hodgson’s pale ale from at least 1823 called it “celebrated” and “highly esteemed”. (Though a “Letter to a Gentleman in London” printed in the Australian newspaper in Sydney on Wednesday 16 July 1828, talking about being served Hodgson’s and Taylor’s beers on board ship on the five-month voyage out to the colonies, complained that these were “names that I had never heard of when in London”.)
East India pale ale, brewer unnamed, continued to be advertised in newspapers in Sydney to 1831 (including one mention of “India fine pale ale in casks”. Then in October 1832 the Sydney Herald carried an ad for “Barclay and Perkins’ East India Ale”, in hogsheads, showing that another big London porter brewer, like Taylor Walker, was now in the India pale ale business. (In November 1833 the Herald printed a notice for “Thirty-five Hogsheads of ‘Taylor’s’ BROWN STOUT fifteen ditto of ditto East India Pale Ale”.)
The next month, on December 20, the Hobart Town Courier included an advert for, among a long list of other items “landed in good order by the barque Forth from London”, “Ind & Smith’s India pale ale, and best brown stout in Hhds [hogsheads, 54-gallon casks] and in bottle.” Ind and Smith were the brewers from Romford in Essex who, in 1845, became Ind Coope, and who went on to open a brewery in Burton upon Trent in 1856, at least in part, it seems, to serve the export trade.
The names missing from exports of something called India pale ale to Australia, you’ll have spotted, are the major Burton upon Trent brewers Bass and Allsopp, who were, from 1823 onwards, pushing Hodgson out of the pale ale trade in India itself. Bass pale ale does not seem to appear in ads in any Australian newspaper until 1830, years after Hodgson and Taylor’s.
It’s perhaps not THAT surprising that Australia should have started using the name India pale ale earlier than Britain. Although “pale ale as prepared for India” was on sale in London in 1822, it did not become a widely available drink in the UK until after the Burton brewers started using their new railway connections to ship their bitter pale ales to London, in 1841. Only at that point was it necessary to differentiate between the hoppy pale ales the Burton brewers made and the mild pale ales that the ale brewers of London, such as Charrington’s, Mann’s and Goding’s, had been producing for many years, and calling the hoppy version “India pale ale” was a good way of doing it.
In Australia they were getting the well-hopped beers made by Hodgson AND the lesser-hopped ales, like Charrington’s XX pale ale, both on sale in Sydney and elsewhere in the Australian colonies in the 1820s, 15 or 20 years or more before Britons began seeing hoppy pale ales in quantity. Hodgson’s was well-known to Australian consumers and known to be bitter, so perhaps didn’t need calling something to flag its bitterness. Taylor’s, Barclay’s and Ind’s pale ale, however, might have been mistakenly thought by Australian consumers to be the sweeter kind of lesser-hopped ale, like Charrington’s, and so perhaps needed to be called an India pale ale to make it clear these were well-hopped, bitter drinks, something British consumers didn’t need flagging up because they weren’t getting the new hoppy pale ales yet. (I confess I don’t find that argument hugely convincing, but it has its points. And remember, when IPA-like brews did finally take off in Britain, a new term had to be invented for them by the consumer: bitter beer.)
Addendum: in the light of comments below, I should add, because it’s not clear from what I said above, that I strongly suspect the “East India pale ale” designation was strictly a retailer’s usage, in Australia, and not one used by the brewers themselves, or even by the shippers. So I wouldn’t expect to see any brewer’s records, or shipping records, talking about IPA this early.
Sydney in 1828, incidentally, had seven operating breweries, though their average output per month was only around 120 barrels each, despite “Colonial beer” selling for six pence a quart and London porter at 20 pence a quart.
(Hat tip to the Foods of England website for pointing me to “India Pale Ale” ads in early Australian newspapers.)