I love Indian Food, and the more authentic, the better. Cooking peppery-hot vegetarian dishes at home, I use recipes from Rajasthan and spices from Madras while listening to a CD of George Harrison playing the sitar. And the beer I choose is an India Pale Ale, shipped all the way from England.
Yes, England. Unlike Belgian waffles, Turkish coffee, and Irish stew, India Pale Ales owe their moniker not to their land of origin but rather the country to which they were historically shipped. Created by London’s Bow Brewery in 1790, this style was – and still is – generally characterized by a tawny orange color and high levels of both hopping and alcohol. The reason for this double-barreled approach had less to do with currying favor among the thirsty troops stationed in India than to ensuring that the product arrived there in quaffable condition.
Most of the standard ales of that time arrived at the subcontinent in pretty sari shape. Bow’s deployment, though, of more alcohol and hops proved to be just the right Taj – er, touch – in contributing to the beer’s stability and shelf life. Hoppily enough, this new type of brew grew so popular that other brewers soon followed Bow’s lead. Over time recipes change, though, and during the latter half of this century IPAs have gradually become as watered down as skim milk, with most sporting less snap than a day-old papadum.