Among my homebrewing friends I have found essentially two types. Those that focus one style and perfect it, and those that brew different beer styles to continuously push their boundaries. I am definitely of the latter group, but it doesn’t reflect my favorite go-to choice when I’m at a craft bar – the American IPA. There are some great commercial breweries that have amazing hop-focused beers (Hill Farmstead for example), and I know a handful of homebrewers that have perfected the IPA. In particular, Fritz Frenow of NYC, is masterful at creating beautifully hoppy beers.
I have very high standards for brewing an American IPA. Partly because this style is so ubiquitous in the American craft beer scene, the huge sample size allows me to determine what I specifically crave:
- High attenuation. For me the beer needs to be dry with little residual dextrins. Malty, thick IPAs and double IPAs are not for me. Forget the crystal malts.
- Clean bitterness. Some hop varietals are grating to me and reflects their high cohumulone content, such as Chinook.
- Clean yeast character. This is an obvious characteristic, but some commercial IPAs brewed with American yeast strains produce fruity esters at higher fermentation temperatures.
- Fresh dry-hopping. This provides the best flavor and aroma in my opinion.
For all of these requirements and the fact that it is my favorite style, I have trouble brewing this beer. My first attempt at an American IPA came out too harsh. There was an astringent character arising from phenolics or high alcohol. My second attempt was probably my best so far, but the beer lacked in bitterness and resembled more of a pale ale. My third attempt was an IPA that focused on hop-bursting where all hop additions are added towards the end of the boil. I was really disappointed in the lack of hop flavor from this beer. For my fourth IPA, I brewed solely with Simcoe. The beer was good but still needed something extra (perhaps it was one-dimensional?).
I’m often very critical of my work (whether it is brewing or work related) and perhaps my IPAs suffer from this. However, given the high bar that I set for this style, I think I have room for improvement. This next IPA (my fifth) uses a blend of American type hops, with Warrior setting the tone for bitterness. I have heard this hop has a very clean and smooth bitterness. As this is my second batch of beer in Pennsylvania, I will be brewing with local water, which is very hard and high in bicarbonate. Lastly, my unfinished basement stays at a constant 63°F which will keep my fermentation clean.
Recipe (6.5 gallons):
- 8 pounds of Pale malt (2-row)
- 6.5 pounds of Munich malt (9.0 SRM)
- 1 pound of White Wheat malt
Mashed in with 1.4 qts per pound of grain targeting 144°F for 30 minutes. Raised temperature to 156°F for another 30 minutes. Mashout temp reached in 3 minutes (goodbye kitchen stove!!). Vorlaufed as usual and collected about 4 gallons of 1.083 wort. 2nd runnings: 1.045. Collected a total of 6.75 gallons of 1.071 wort, which is still short of my target 7.5 preboil volume. Added 1.2 gallons of water to dilute wort and began boil.
- 1 oz of Warrior at 60 minutes (16.7% AA)
- 1 oz of Falconers Flight at 15 minutes (11.4% AA)
- 1 oz of Cascade at 10 minutes (6.2% AA)
- 1 oz of Cascade at 5 minutes (6.2% AA)
- 1 oz of Simcoe at 5 minutes (13% AA)
- 1 oz of Chinook at flame-out
- 2 oz of Citra at flame-out
- Nutrient and whirlfloc at 15 minutes.
Dry hopping (continuous in the keg):
- 1 oz of Simcoe (whole leaf)
- 1 oz of Amarillo (whole leaf)
Cooled wort to 65°F and aerated with pure O2 for one minute. Pitched 2 liter stepped-starter of San Diego super yeast (WLP090). Other notes:
11/29/12: In morning, the beer was already throwing off blow off. By the time I got home, rubber stopped came clear off carboy and yeast was spewing out. Temp unknown, but assumed to be in mid to low 60°F (Oatmeal cookie ale ambient was 61°F).
12/5/12: Gravity: 1.016. Still going so I decided to bring upstairs on heat vent to raise temps.
12/6/12: Activity increased slightly. Tasted young and very hoppy. Looking forward to trying this.
12/7/12: Hardly any activity so I brought it downstairs into basement.
12/12/12: Went down to 1.014. Final gravity. 6.7% ABV
12/17/12: Racked to keg at 30 psi.
IBUs: ~78 (Tinseth)