Mitch Steele talking to the ANHC audience about the history of IPA


Written by Chris Thomas, Homebrewer editor

Mitch Steele was the first speaker of the fifth Australian National Homebrew Conference (ANHC) in Adelaide and during his opening presentation news came through on Facebook that several people from his former employer, Stone Brewing in the US, had been laid off.

It had an eerie feel about it as he gave no sense of his knowledge that back home many of his ex-colleagues and close friends were told their services were no longer required.

Instead he treated the 300 strong audience to an impeccably researched history on IPA. From its humble beginnings in the UK to its prominence now as the most popular and divisive style in the US – East Coast v West Coast anyone?

Along the way, he debunked the legend that IPA was highly hopped and bittered to survive the ocean voyage between the UK and India. It turns out that what they were exporting was essentially their pale ale and it wasn’t for decades that the term India pale ale came about.

In fact, the earliest known reference to India pale ale was in 1829 in an Australian newspaper. And it wasn’t just pale ale being exported to India, porter was also making (and more importantly surviving) the sea voyage.

Heavily hopped and dry hopped pale ales were not only being brewed in the UK either, both Scotland and Canada were also producing their versions.

From there, Steele looked at the revival of the style starting with Anchor Liberty Ale and Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, and then Grant’s IPA, which were the first breweries to use IPA on their labels in this modern era of craft brewing.

He identified some of his modern classics (Goose Island, Stone, Fat Head’s Head Hunter) and looked at new IPA trends. These IPAs included cocoa, coffee (try Stone’s Mocha IPA), brett, spiced, barrel aged and even marijuana IPA! Steele also pointed to India pale lagers as a style taking the hopping schedule from IPAs with a cleaner finish.

Steele’s knowledge and research on the topic was exceptional. After all, who better to talk about IPA than Mitch Steele, the man who wrote the book on it!

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