It is a truth universally acknowledged that beer styles evolve over time*. But that doesn't stop people having views on when they were at their best, particularly in the case of India Pale Ale.
"[Extra pale malt] is the only malt to be used in brewing an authentic 'original' IPA. Any use of crystal or other coloured malts denies the description 'IPA', although the resultant brew may be quite good."
As it happens it's not unknown for me to use extra pale malt at work, which may well be equivalent to that used in early IPAs (though if you ask me it's lager malt made with posh barley).
The hopping regime is pretty straight forward too:
"Durden Park recommends 2 1/2 oz per gallon of East Kent Goldings."
And as I also happen to have East Kent Goldings at work I felt a bit of practical research was in order.
I made up a brew at 1.070 from all extra pale malt with the required amount of goldings and an attenuative yeast. I dry hopped it too for good measure.
It should have a long maturation, as James McCrorie says IPAs were often 12 months old before shipment. I have managed to leave it for a couple of months but the urge to try a bottle has proved too strong. I can resist everything except temptation.
It is unsurprisingly a very pale beer with an intense bitterness reminiscent of that modern American invention the Double IPA. It doesn't have the huge flavour of citrus or pine from American hops though, with the more restrained East Kent Goldings making the beer taste more like a bitterer version of Meantime IPA. After a few sips the bitterness becomes more bearable and it gets surprisingly drinkable.
I really mustn't though as I want to see how it changes as it ages so I'll try and keep my mitts off for a few more months before I retest.
* Except by those that don't acknowledge it of course.