If you are like most homebrewers out there, most likely you have tried an IPA. If you haven’t you’ve been living under a rock for the past 5 years (I only kid). The fact of the mater is, IPA’s are becoming and have been a big sensation in the craftbeer/homebrewing world for some time now. Recently I just put up a post about my general opinion of them and got a lot of feed back. I wanted to have a follow-up post of though.
One of the great things about homebrewing is that you can MAKE tweaks to what ever you want. So I have compiled 6 friendly suggestions to help keep your IPA’s fresh, different, and still something that stands out among IPA’s that are out there. I’ve made plenty of IPA’s in the past, and even now I will still make experimental batches of IPA’s. These are some of the tips and tricks that I use that continue to keep it interesting.
1) Don’t Use Crystal Malt
This is something that I picked up on from a customer that really is pretty religious about his IPA’s. I’ve had some of his, they are very good. For a while in the homebrew world you would see, “Crstyal ___L” in about every recipe. I personally try to stay away from it when I can because I’ve just used it so much. For IPA’s try to keep them dry, stay away from the crystal malt, build up the back bone of malt with a bready like grain. This will also change the color a bit, so you will accomplish what the crystal does – changing color (but you’ll avoid sweetness). My suggestion, use any or all: Victory, Munich, Biscuit, Vienna, CaraMunich (I know CaraMunich is a bit sweet).
What this does, is it will change the color of your beer but also not give too much sweetness. If you use a yeast that is going to dry out your beer then it shoves the hops in front of everything else. Having a bready like flavor acts as a really good counter balance to the bitter hops. It allows the yeast to dry out the beer and you won’t get to much sweetness. This technique leaves a very clean after flavor.
2) Using Black Malts To Make A Black IPA
This came out sometime last year or the year before. The style was called, “The Cascadian Ale”, later got switched over to, “Black IPA’s”. Then I’m sure someone thought it was not P.C so it got switched back to, “Cascadian Ale”, then again I think they switched it back. It’s a vicious cycle and one that I’m not even sure what the name is anymore. But for the sake of describing it, it’s a, “Black IPA”.
As far as Black IPA’s go, I kinda like them. I enjoy a stout in the winter time, and to me is just a hoppy stoutish beer. It’s really the hybrid in my opinion. The key to these is using, “Carafa III”. It’s important that it’s dehusked. For recipes to really make it black use, 12 oz up to 1 lb (per 5 gallons). On the lower side it will be more brown, to the upper end it’s going to turn it jet black. The one thing that you might want to consider is adding some calcium carbonate to the beer. It will help prevent the beer becoming to acidic from the black malts. If you don’t, you might lose some balance. 1tsp per 5 gallons will be enough.
3) Using Wheat In Your IPA
People started coming to me over the summer asking about these. To me it’s just a really hoppy American wheat, but if you go a bit more, then it’s a, “Wheat IPA”. For this one it’s essential that you follow rule #1. It’s already going to be sweet from the wheat, so don’t go over board. If you do all-grain, I would suggest using M.O as the other malt to balance out the wheat and don’t even worry about specialty grains (maybe a bit of Munich but that’s just me). If you go this route, most of the time wheat’s are in a 1:1 ratio with wheat and barley. Wheat malt extracts already have that included already. If you are looking for specialty grains, think about using some acidualted malt maybe or even some Rye.
4) Rye & Honey Malt
This is actually one of my favorites that I make. Rye is one of those malts that for a while was being forced into recipes. Rye-PA’s where also, “The Thing”, for a while.
Rye has this spicy flavor; very distinct and unique. Because of the spiciness of the rye, a lot of people will add crystal malt – not I though. I like to take a twist and add in Honey Malt. Again, something a bit different to give that sweet and spicy flavoring really pairs well with some traditional American hops (staying true to rule #1). When I do this one, I like to FWH which is when you add the hops in before the boil, and then I will go crazy towards the end of the flavoring and for flame out as well as dry hop. I try not to overly hop the flavor section of this style of beer. I really try to make it easy to taste the sweet and spicy in the mix. Doing that technique for this beer style really makes an interesting beer. Amarillo hops are amazing for aroma and maybe something clean in the beginning like Magnum.
5) Use English Hops
One that is underused is using English hops for an IPA. I know it’s not an American IPA but again, something a bit different. Target is at 9%, East Kent Goldings sits around 7%, Fuggles are in the low 4% – I’m sure if you play around with them a bit then you can come up with something very interesting. My personal preference is I like to use the lower alpha stuff towards the beginning of the boil and the higher alpha stuff towards the end of the boil. Just personal preference but I always feel it’s easier to drink that way. Then again, it’s best to play around with it and see what happens.
6) Using Belgium Yeast
Belgium IPA’s are interesting. These really bring out some interesting beers, normally I have found that when I do this, it’s either a big success or a complete failure. Usually there is no middle ground. The best results that I’ve had are with Trappist Ale. The reason for this is because you can have a pretty big malt bill for this and it will be able to do something with it. If you go for another Belgium Ale yeast, usually you risk having too much residual sugars which really make an unbalanced beer. Typically using Trappist Ale yeast will leave a big complex body, use that with conjunction with some aromatic malt or even some acidulated malt and you’re going to have something that is off the wall different. Using Nobel hops would also give it a twist or just German and Czech hops.
All things considered, there are ways to make your IPA something a bit different then the ones that you can get in the store. Making a different style beer is one of my favorite things to do in this hobby. While some people like making clones, I would rather build up a recipe that is going to bring something different to the table and push the limits. Traditional beers are fun to do and there is always a special place in my heart for them, but wacky beers are also kinda fun to play around with and also test your knowledge of brewing, just like moving from automatic to manual. So if you want to test your abilities with your homebrew knowledge, try to change it up a bit and challenge yourself with making a non-typical IPA.
My question for you is, do you do anything thing special to your IPA’s to make sure that they stay a bit different? I would love to know.