An Unexpected Connection Between A Town In UK & India

I live in a medium sized town in the Midlands of England called Burton-upon-Trent. It is known worldwide for three things: Marmite, Pirelli Tyres used in F1 and beer. It is this last product that unexpectedly links the town to India. 

At one point in time Burton-upon-Trent was known as the brewery capital of the world, making the best and bigger quantity of beer, due to the special combination of minerals in the local water. The beer was shipped out across to Europe initially then to Russia, where it is said that the Tsar himself enjoyed the Russian stout, a strong, sweet, dark coloured, heavy beer. When Russia stopped trade with the town due to the Tsar banning it in 1822, they looked elsewhere to sell the beer, to India. 

Another brewer, Allsopp had already had success in India in around 1840 with a pale ale and two big Burton breweries, Bass and Salt decided to follow there lead and have even more success. They created India Pale Ale (IPA) which proved to be very popular, even still to this day! It was initially especially popular in Madras and Calcutta. The IPA of those times was not quite the same as it is today, being less alcoholic. Part of the success of these beers was their ability to travel well during the long distances across the sea, without spoiling due to the higher percentage of alcohol and the hops used. Another is that the beers paired well with the spicy food that India is known for.

IPA however, wasn’t the only beer shipped to India from Burton, porters were too, but these weren’t as popular. A lot of other English breweries decided to get in on the action and then started making their own IPAs and shipping them to India. Worthington’s White Shield is an example of a historic type of IPA that is still drunk today. Green King IPA is also popular in the UK but is a lot more modern than Worthington’s. 

The popularity of IPA decreased during the 1900s until it became popular again in the USA with many craft breweries deciding to bring it back in a renaissance. IPA has since branched out into many different types including: Double, Triple, Brut, Black, West Coast and New England and is very popular with craft breweries, especially in the USA. The similarity between them is in their ‘hoppyness’ and high alcohol level.

Traditionally Indian beer is made from rice or millet as opposed to malt and hops that English beer is made from. Although beer is popular in India, whiskey and other strong drinks are more popular. The most popular beer in India is also high in alcohol. One reason for beer’s popularity in years gone by, all over the world, is that it was safer to drink than normal water, as the brewing process killed some of the bacteria in the water. Today, Kingfisher is the largest-selling brand of beer in India, with 36% of the market share, but this is a lager, not an IPA, with the most popular of the brand being Kingfisher Strong at a whopping 8% alcohol! Hopefully you’ve learned something new today, make sure to visit the National Brewery Centre in Burton-upon-Trent if you’re passing by to try some of the town’s famous beer!  

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