October 23, 2018

Beer Nerd Book Club - "IPA" by Mitch Steele

Today's Beer Nerd Book Club meeting is hereby called to order! We're here to discuss the new, hotly anticipated book, "IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes, and the Evolution of India Pale Ale," written by Mitch Steele. Mitch Steele is a household name in IPA-brewing circles, as he's the brewmaster at Stone Brewing Company. Pile on top of that instant cred the foreword by Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker, and this book is a power-tome of West Coast IPA knowledge.


Steele begins by discussing the history of IPA, starting with English restoration-era "October" beers and ales, London's influence on the India trade, and the launching point upon which it all sprung: Burton ale. In a nutshell, October beers led to Hodgson's London pale ale, which led to Burton pale ale, which led to Burton IPA, which got watered down around the World Wars, which got a rebirth with American craft brewers.

However, such a summary is a gross oversimplification of the brilliantly interesting steps along the way. For example, Scottish brewers had a huge influence on advances in brewing technology, such as inventing the practice of sparging, that then influenced Burton brewers. Advances in malting technology, understandings about the influence of yeast and bacteria, and the aging of beers to promote clarity, all had a considerable effect on IPA as we know it today. Perhaps most memorably, though modern brewers are in an arms race to cram the most IBUs into a batch of IPA, they're barely approaching Burton ale levels, which at times was hopped as high as 3.2 ounces of hops per gallon!

The latter half of the book covers recipes, both historical and modern, as well as modern brewing techniques to make a great IPA. All the old touchstones are there: use a clean yeast strain, use fresh ingredients, treat your yeast well. Steele also brings us 48 recipes, for everything from Burton ale and modern English IPA, to White IPA and Black IPA. This book is an excellent addition to the library of any brewer interested in making hoppy beers. I highly recommend this well-written, thoroughly researched and entirely engrossing book.

- Vaughn Stewart, Northern Brewer Merchandising Manager