6 Friendly Suggestions To Make Your IPA Different

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.



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What You Really Need To Know About Barley Wine

Barley Wines are a beer that are often looked over and usually are rarely conquered by homebrewers.  It’s a shame though because they are a great style of beer and one of those that you can make for gifts or a special occasion if you know ahead of time.

So really what is a barley wine?  A barley wine (b.w)  is a style of beer that is very big.  It was originally made by the English because they needed to substitute a brew for French wine.  That’s because England was at war with France.  From there the beer kinda turned into the cognac of the beer world.

There are two types of b.w: 1) American 2) English.  The American style is more hoppy then it’s counter part.  Regardless of the style most b.w are going to be around the range of 10%-15% and 15-30 SRM.   The bitterness of these beers range usually from low 40s all the way up to 100 IBU’s.

When making these beers one thing to keep in mind is that the higher the original gravity is, the less hop utilization there is.   So when you are building these recipes, you may feel that you are using a lot of hops – over time the beer mellows out.

Now this is the part why lot’s of homebrewers pass on the whole b.w experience – the aging process.  How long do you age? We’re talking years.  Normally you will do a primary (few weeks) secondary (about 2 months) then bottle for years.  There is a lot of discussion in the homebrew world about how many years.  Ton’s of people say 6 years is the max.  I’ve heard of homebrewers  having b.w that are over 20 years old.  There was one story I read not to long ago that someone had a b.w that was 100 years old.  True or not, they are meant to age.

Regardless of the stories, you will hear of people having a barley wine that is 10, 15 even 20 years old.  Normally though I wouldn’t even think about drinking one that is less than a year if you can wait 2 that’s better.  In my opinion they get better with age and change in flavor profile.

One of the cooler stories  was I had a customer whose wife was pregnant, he was going to make a barley wine and wait to open it for his child’s 21st birthday.   Pretty awesome and something to consider.  Most people will say that it will oxidize if you age it that long, but I would beg the differ.  They do have oxygen absorbing caps these days.

Getting back to it, I wanted to share 2 different barley wine recipes; 1 English 1 American.  I can tell you that I’m planning on doing the English one because I’m always jonesing for English style hops, but I do feel inclined to share an American one.  These two recipes kinda show the extreme’s with differences between them.

English Barley Wine 

OG: 1.120

FG: 1.029

IBU: 34

SRM: 10

ABV: 11.5%

Don’t drink until 2 years.


12 oz 60L

13.5 lbs light DME

2 oz Kent Goldings (60 min)

1 oz Kent Goldings (45 min)

1 oz Kent Goldings (12 min)

1 oz Kent Goldings (3 min)

WLP 004 or WLP 005


Heat 3 gallons up to 150 and steep the grains for 30min.  Take out add the malt extract and bring to boil. At the beginning of the boil follow the hop infusion chart above.

About this recipe:

This recipe is kinda cool, it has a lower IBU then most B.W.  You can tell from the yeast as well as the choice of hops that this is clearly as English style.  The hops have that classic low alpha acid making it a nice pick of b.w for those that aren’t hop heads.  Ages out well and will become extremely mellow.

*If you are doing all-grain use 22.5 lb British 2 row. 

American Barley Wine


FG: 1.029

IBU: 110

SRM: 35

ABV: 11.5%

Don’t drink for 2 years


1 lb 60L crystal malt

10 oz munich malt

13.5 lbs Light DME

3 oz Chinook (60min)

1 oz Centennial (45min)

1 oz Centennial (5min)



Heat 3 gallons up to 150 and steep the grains for 30min.  Take out add the malt extract and bring to boil. At the beginning of the boil follow the hop infusion chart above.

About this recipe:

This recipe has all American hops in it as well as American yeast which will bring out citrus tones as well as smells.

*If doing all-grain use 20.5 lbs 2 row and 1 lb munich with the specialty grains. 


With barley wines, the hops really do mellow out a lot over time.  I hope this helps anyone who is thinking of making a barley wine in the near future.  Good luck with your brewing.


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