An IPA love affair
As a beer drinker I am unashamedly still in love with IPA’s. While I try to drink a good variety of beers and I will often go through phases of really enjoying a certain style (stouts, sours, saisons etc) I always come back to IPA’s.
The fruity hop combinations and the easy drinking nature just makes the IPA a great go to beer. Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with Ray Daniels that the IPA is the craft beer equivalent of lager I do think they make a good introduction to beer with more flavour and I don’t see the popularity waning any time soon.
As is bound to happen, with IPA’s being my favourite style to drink they also tend to dominate my brewing. My three most recent brews (not including a re-brew of my raspberry schwarzbier) have been a double IPA, a Belgian IPA and a British IPA.
At least they are all different types of IPA – variety is the spice of life!
The problem as I see it though is that I’ve gotten quite good at brewing IPA’s. I can make an IPA that tastes exactly how I want it to and I have my method down so brewing IPA’s doesn’t present any challenge to me.
To improve as a brewer I want to be that comfortable brewing a wide variety of styles. The IPA is not the be all and end all. So with that in mind, I’ve decided to document my method and a few recipes and then move on, putting the IPA behind me for a while and exploring some different styles.
How I brew them
My early IPA’s were a 95% Maris Otter to 5% Crystal grist. The idea was that the crystal would provide dextrins which would help with the perception of body in the beer, which the hops could strip out somewhat.
I had good success with this malt bill but the end beer always had a slightly sweet perception to me and was almost always darker than I wanted.
After reading the excellent Mikkeller’s book of beer I started to substitute the crystal in my bill for wheat. The idea was that wheat would still contribute to the body and mouthfeel of the beer but without contributing anything sweet to the beer (maybe this was to do with my water over the malt but more on that later!).
The IPA’s I brewed with Maris Otter and wheat were much closer to what I wanted. The first pale ale I brewed with this grain bill is still to this day one of my best beers;
OG: 1.057 FG: 1.014 ABV: 5.59% IBU: 40.11 SRM: 5.76 Boil Gravity: 1.046
5kg Maris Otter (90.9%)
0.5kg Wheat (9.1%)
8g Galaxy @ 60 minutes
72g Galaxy @0 minutes
75g Ella @ 0 miutes
70g Galaxy @ Dry Hop
70g Ella @ Dry Hop
68 degrees C for 60 minutes
75 degrees C for 10 minutes
Fermented with Mangrove Jack’s US West Coast (M44) and dry hopped at 1.020 for 3 days.
This had a really nice bitterness, dry backbone and huge grapefruit flavour which was exactly what I was looking for.
My most recent IPA’s have swapped 1kg of Maris Otter out for 1kg of Munich malt. I’m not actually sure how much this helps but it makes me feel good to have some complexity in the malt bill.
Obviously hops are a huge part of brewing an IPA. I really lovely New World varieties and for a long time would play around with combinations of Australian and New Zealand hops. In particular I have a soft spot for Galaxy and Motueka.
Recently I read something that brought me back to the classic American C hops, in particular the idea that pairing new world hops with classic C hops helps the character of the new world hops to ‘pop’ more.
You can read that article here but the particularly relevant point is;
‘When I layer nothing but Mosaic, Amarillo, and Galaxy they all bleed together. They each have big fruity profiles so it’s difficult to tease out each hop’s contribution. But once I toss in some Chinook or Centennial they all pop a little more because there’s suddenly a contrasting element – spice, pine, or grapefruit vs all the tropical fruit and soft floral qualities’
So my most recent Belgian IPA used a combination of Motueka, Amarillo, Centennial and Chinook (though I’m waiting to taste the results from this).
OG: 1.067 FG: 1.015 ABV: 6.4%
Maris Otter 5kg
Wheat Malt 0.5kg
54g Centennial @ 60 minutes
54g Centennial @ 0 minutes
54g Chinook @ 0 minutes
54g Motueka @ 0 minutes
80g Motueka @ Dry Hop
80g Amarillo @ Dry Hop
2 x Mangrove Jack’s Belgian Ale yeast
60 minutes at 65 degrees C
10 minutes at 75 degrees C
In relation to how I use my hops, I’m a big fan of the hop stand. I calculate hop additions by grams per litre rather than IBU’s initially, so for a 1.060 OG IPA I might add 6 grams per litre of hops in a hop stand (when I knock the heat off at the end of the boil I throw 6 grams per litre of hops in and let it stand as the wort cools for 20 minutes to half an hour).
I have had good success assuming a utilisation of ~3% from this so once I know the IBU contribution from this addition I can work out what I need from my bittering addition at 60 minutes. This keeps more of the volatile aromas and flavours in my end beer and is a more efficient utilisation of the hops for what I am trying to achieve and is a technique I learnt from JK at Marble.
Similarly, when it comes to dry hopping I always try to dry hop with a little fermentation yet to occur. Yes, I realise that fermentation may drive off some hop volatiles but at 1.020 or below I think there’s not enough activity to do any damage but just enough to properly distribute the hops throughout the beer.
I’ve never experimented with splitting my dry hop additions so this might be something I come back to!
The Mangrove Jacks US West Coast is always a go to for me. I work for the company who makes it so that’s a plus but also I find that the attenuation is really predictable and for hoppy beers it’s a nice, neutral strain that doesn’t get in the way of the hops and malt which I want to shine through.
I’m also really enjoying playing with the Vermont strain for creating New England IPA’s and I’m really keen to see the developments of the theory that yeast flocculation can strip out hop aroma.
My water isn’t too bad to work with, a little low in Calcium but easily fixable – my report looks like this;
So often with a pale, wheat and Munich malt bill I’ll be looking at a mash pH of 5.5 which is okay but I like it to be a little lower and my Calcium could use a boost. I might go for something like 8 grams of Gypsum (Calcium Sulphate) to bring my Calcium up to 90.6, my sulfate up to 173.4 (which gives me a good sulfate/chloride ratio) and my mash pH down to 5.4 which I’m happy enough with.
So, that’s my process and a couple of my more recent recipes. I currently have to get through my Belgian IPA, Double IPA and English IPA (tasting notes to come) so once they are out the way I’m looking forward to broadening my horizons in terms of what I’m brewing. No more IPA’s (for now).