Richard Charkin, at Publishing Perspectives, writes about the 125th anniversary of the IPA.

A hop.

Hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobiles) of the hop plant Humulus lupulus. Hops add the bitter to beer.

IPA, a hop-heavy style of beer, gets its name, India Pale Ale because the October beer brewed in the late eighteenth century by George Hodgson’s Bow Brewery, handy for the East India Docks, when shipped to India, seemed miraculously improved by its sea voyage. During the Napoleonic Wars the East India Company commissioned Allsop’s brewery in Burton upon Trent to develop a strongly-hopped pale ale in the style of Hodgson’s for export to India. Burton India Pale Ale was quickly preferred by merchants and their customers in India.

Once upon a time I worked for the company that produced The Complete Idiot’s Guides. This formula series was set up to compete with Wiley’s Dummy’s Guide to this that and the other. The concept grew out of computers and was probably originated to fill the gap left by those gigantic manuals you used to get from your computer company whenever you bought a new program. (Computer companies quickly realized they could increase margins by not bothering to print vast volumes, and put the stuff online, where few non-enthusiasts were able to seek it out.) These Guides were an example of publisher-driven publishing: there was a tightly-structured template of permissible approaches to the topic you had been assigned, and of the tone in which you addressed it. If an author failed to follow the plan they might get another chance before being replaced by a more rule-compliant writer. I’ve lost sight of my Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beer, or I’d have no doubt been able to go on at great length on the topic of IPA.

The mathematically alert will have calculated that India Pale Ale has been around a good deal longer than a century and a quarter. And of course Mr Charkin was talking about the International Publishers Association, the world’s largest federation of national, regional and specialist publishers’ associations. The IPA, of which Mr Charkin is a past president, was founded in 1896 with the aim of ensuring that countries throughout the world showed respect for copyright, and properly implemented the (then) new international copyright treaty, the “Berne Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works”. There are 86 member organizations from 71 countries around the world. This is one of those organizations which I’m sure it’s really valuable to have, but whose operations are invisible to most people in publishing — at least until there’s some crisis. Maybe we’ll be getting some copyright reforms to address the internationalization of information now that it doesn’t have to cross the oceans in a boat like books — and India Pale Ale — used to. Individual nations will no doubt continue to introduce their own reforms piece by piece, but with something as universally relevant as copyright, some sort of international harmonization is essential. IPA to the rescue?

Kent was where the hops would grow, and lots of London families would make their way down for the harvest. Where I lived, in the north, the school holiday we got was for the potato harvest, tattie howking, as it was referred to, but down south hops provided the “holiday”. Oast houses were used to dry the hops though most remaining examples are just sentimental memorials now that the entire process has been mechanized.

Oast houses in Kent

If you don’t see this charmingly nostalgic video here, or the IPA one above, please click on the title of this post in order to view them in your browser.