It's a question that's been troubling me recently: what's the difference between IPA and PA? I suspect it may be even less clear than the difference between Porter and Stout. At least a brewery's Porter was always weaker than their Stouts.
Had you asked me two years ago, I would have said if a brewery made both an IPA and a PA that the IPA would always be the stronger of the two. But that was before I looked and Whitbread and Barclay Pekins brewing records. They both brewed IPA that was considerably weaker than their PA. Both IPA's were also exclusively bottled beers.
Burton IPA's were stronger. But were they stronger than Burton PA? Well, that's where it gets complicated. After Bass and Worthington merged in the 1920's the flagship bottled beers of both breweries were retained. Though they we3re in fact the same beer. For, Bass Red Triangle, for Worthington White Shield. Yet White Shield's label called it an IPA and Red Triangle's claimed it was Pale Ale. What was the beer? PA or IPA? Or both?
I'm starting to believe that maybe there isn't really a difference between the two. Why was IPA given its name? To let you know that it was a Pale Ale prepared for the Indian market, which is how it was originally referred to. No doubt to differentiate it from 18th-century style Pale Ale, which was a completely different beast, with few hops and really a Light Mild. As the 19th century progressed and old-style Pale Ale disappeared, there was no longer a need to warn drinkers that this was the heavily-hopped type of Pale Ale. That's the only Pale Ale there was. So the India bit mostly got dropped from names. That's my total guess theory. If I ever get a look at Burton brewing records I might get some facts to back this up.
The longer I study beer styles, the fewer different ones I find. Mild, PA, Porter, Strong Ale, Brown Ale. That's about it, really.
It Would Be So Nice - [image: Illustration from the 1939 Penguin Guide to Somerset: two penguins out walking find a country inn.] We’re off on holiday so it’s going to be quiet ...
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