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Good Beer Hunting

Sep 15, 2021

What is an IPA? Most drinkers around the world would probably identify IPA as the flagship style of the modern craft beer movement. As its popularity has grown, it has become known for a bunch of different—and often contradictory—characteristics. A modern IPA is either bitter or not bitter; pale, white, or black; very strong, sessionable, or nonalcoholic. But while IPA in all its forms is loved around the world, relatively few drinkers would be likely to name the drink’s intimate connection with the history of colonial exploitation.

In this episode, I talk to David Jesudason, the author of a recent article, “Empire State of Mind — Interrogating IPA’s Colonial Identity,” that ran in our Critical Drinking series. In this conversation, we discuss David’s article and his take on the history of IPA, or India Pale Ale, to use its full name. We talk about mercantilism, extractive capitalism, and the East India Company, a massive corporation which maintained its own private army to protect its lucrative businesses during the British occupation of India. We talk about beer advertising and beer labels, and we discuss the prevalence of colonial-themed décor in modern British culture, including plantation shutters, and what seems like a widespread nostalgia for colonies and empire there.