Hodgson, George, was a London brewer who is often inaccurately credited with “inventing” India pale ale.
Hodgson began brewing on the banks of the river Lea in east London in 1751. His brewery, simply called Hodgson’s Brewery, stood close to the East India Dock, from which ships departed for British-ruled India, and Hodgson certainly built up a profitable Indian trade when few other London brewers bothered with it. The quantities were small, the trip perilous, success uncertain. But Hodgson’s position by the docks, and his good relations with the captains of the India-bound ships, allowed him to build a profitable trade.
Little evidence survives of Hodgson’s brewing exploits, but by 1809 the brewery—now run by George’s son Mark—had earned a famous reputation. It dominated the Indian market and was immortalized in verse and prose by writers such as Thackeray. In 1833 Hodgson’s became the first brewery to refer to “East India pale ale” in newspaper advertisements.
But Hodgson didn’t invent IPA. Imported pale ale was being quaffed in Madras as early as 1717, and other brewers are mentioned by name in Calcutta press ads well before Hodgson. Hodgson exported a version of “October ale,” the strong, hoppy ales that were brewed for country houses and aged for years in their cellars. What’s most likely is that he adapted his recipe over time, listening to feedback from his customers, and his ale evolved until it suited the market better than any other.
Hodgson’s pale ale was eventually supplanted in India by superior Burton-on-Trent pale ales from brewers such as Bass and Allsopp.