He also calls it “the greatest beer that ever lived” and the “beer that built the British Empire” so it fair to say he is a bit of a fan.

I am too and never tire of telling the story.  Pete provides a slightly longer version of the standard tale in his most recent book “Hops and Glory”:

“In the eighteenth century there were thousands of Britons living in India.  They demanded their creature comforts and one of the most difficult to provide was beer.  Before refrigeration and modern brewing biochemistry, the Indian climate made it virtually impossible to brew locally so beer had to be imported.” [1]

“The trouble was, this involved a sea journey that took anywhere between three and six months, through rough seas and harsh climates, and the beer arrived sour, flat and undrinkable.  Then, someone recognised that high alcoholic content and high levels of hops both helped preserve beer.  They created a strong, hoppy beer, and laded it on to eastbound ships.  When it arrived in Bombay and Calcutta, it had not only survived the journey, it had also gone through an amazing, unexpected conditioning process on board that left it light, bright and sparkling, perfect for the climate.”

Pete then spends just over 400 pages researching the style, brewing a barrel of IPA in Burton-On-Trent [2], loading it onto a ship and then sailing an 18,000 mile journey that no longer exists in modern shipping.  In the end – and despite the disaster of the original barrel exploding [3] and having to be replaced – he successfully retraced the basic journey and proved that time in the barrel really did make a difference to the beer. 

Having read the book, the Handsome Yet Softly Scottish Proprietor Colin Mallon and the Impish Epic Brewer Luke Nicholas decided over a few pints to do their own testing.  Despite the scepticism of a certain beer writer, they placed two twenty-litre oak barrels of Armageddon IPA on the Inter Islander Ferry for six weeks. [4] They achieved the same fundamental results (albeit in around 399 fewer pages of prose) and each year Epic makes a new batch of Barrel Aged Armageddon, tinkering with the barrel woods and beer blends in search of new flavours.

These days, IPAs are rarely barrel-aged and their alcoholic strength is frequently around average, though they are generally still quite hoppy.  Three of my favourite IPAs are currently on tap on Malthouse.

From the Champion Brewery of 2009, Tuatara IPA (5%) is a nicely balanced ale with a distinctively English profile.  It has a floral nose and juicy body with a taste almost like breakfast orange marmalade.  Finally, there is a deceptively bitter finish which is sometimes under-rated. 

Balance is not an accusation often thrown at the Lagunitas Brewing Company of California, USA.  They are a self proclaimed bunch of “old hippies” who run a unique brewery with an irreverent attitude.  Sitting on a bar stool made out of a horse saddle at 10am drinking a double American Pale Ale with one of the founders was an absolute highlight of my last visit to the States. 

Their Lagunitas IPA (6.2%) is making a very rare appearance on tap in this country.  They call it a “homicidally hoppy ale” and ask drinkers to “savour the moment as the raging hop character engages the imperial qualities of the Malt foundation in mortal combat on the battlefield of your palate!”  To put it in context, this IPA is in the middle of their range for hoppiness but at the extreme for most normal people.  It is a very bold New World interpretation of the style.

Somewhere in the middle of those two is the lip-smackingly tasty Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA (7.5%) is a robust 72 IBU Californian tribute to the classic British style.  Despite being dry-hopped three times with Pacific Northwest hops, the brewers insist it is “well-balanced.”  Perhaps being served right next Lagunitas is the only place where that description is truly justified.

Now, finally onto everyone’s favourite East India Pale Ale from Tui… [5]

[1] Even the more morally conservative British leaders in India were keen to wean their troops and families off arak – a ferociously powerful local spirit which tended to do weird

things to mad dogs and Englishmen.
[2] The spiritual home of India Pale Ale.
[3] He has a great line about not truly knowing how much beer is in a barrel until you are

on your hands and knees dabbing it out of the carpet in a rental house.
[4] The Inter Islander people instantly agreed.  Apparently they rarely get asked to do cool

things like this.  And the beer writer was me, of course.
[5] Put you own punch-line here.  I am done making fun of Tui… Yeah Right.


Neil Miller
Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


Pete Brown – http://petebrown.blogspot.com/
Pete Brown “Hops and Glory” –

Tuatara Brewing Company – http://www.tuatarabrewing.co.nz/
Lagunitas Brewing Company – http://www.lagunitas.com/
Firestone Walker Brewery – http://www.firestonebeer.com/
Malthouse on Twitter – http://twitter.com/malthouse
Malthouse Facebook Group – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wellington/Malthouse/7084276173
Real Beer – http://www.realbeer.co.nz 
Beer and Brewer Magazine – http://www.beerandbrewer.com/