Monday, 30 August 2010

The strength of export beer in the 1860s

People might not like paying taxes, but where would historical research be without the obnoxiously detailed records kept by tax collectors, eh?

Over on TickBeer Barm’s Law has taken effect on a random thread and once again people argue that IPA was “traditionally” a strong beer (and in consequence that the likes of Greene King IPA and Deuchars IPA aren’t real IPAs at all).

Here is a table from the Eleventh Report to Parliament of the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Inland Revenue on the Inland Revenue (1867). It details over five thousand samples of beer examined by the authorities in order to determine whether the exported beer was eligible for a duty refund.

We can see quite clearly that in two consecutive years by far the greater part of beer sampled was declared — and confirmed — to be between 1.055 and 1.070. Not strong compared to other 19th century beers.


  1. our understanding is that IPA was brewed strong to survive the journey in a clipper ship and then thinned down for sale at its destination.

  2. I think that 1970s beer writers assumed that because they couldn't believe anyone would want to drink 6% beer in a hot country. Is there a contemporary 19th century source that says IPA was watered down on arrival?

  3. Blue Bell Inn, your understanding is, with the greatest respect, utter sh!te. Absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever, not a scrap, tittle or jot. Whoever told you this was making it up.