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Taking a Walk on the Hop Side - My First IPA

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/08/2014 at 10:57:01 PM


As you may have gleaned from my post history, I'm a big fan of malty beers.  By and large, I just don't seem to really enjoy beers that venture far into to the bitter side of the balance. 

I know, I know.  I must be one of a very few homebrewers who doesn't worship at the alter of the IPA.  I've tried numerous commercial IPAs, but almost every single time, I have found them to be too bitter for me to really enjoy.  As far as that goes, even most pale ales are more bitter than I like.

Go ahead, insert your girlie-man jokes here.  At a time when the craft beer industry is seemingly in a race to see which brewery can roll out a hopwater product that can melt your teeth enamel through sheer bitterness the quickest, my beer tastes seem fairly quaint.  I have continued to sample various IPAs, and while they don't always gross me out as quickly as they once did, I just have not managed to develop a taste for them.

That is, until April of this year, when I ended up meeting Greg Ellis, a brewing buddy from reddit.  We exchanged several bottles each; one of Greg's beers was a Citra DIPA.  I'll admit that it worried me, but I gave it an honest shot... and lo and behold, it was delicious!

This beer balanced to the bitter side, yes, but only mildly so.  It had plenty of hop flavor, however, and the citrusy aroma was divine.  It got me to thinking... what if I brewed a hop forward beer heavy on the late additions, but light on bitterness?

And so, a recipe was born.  I kicked around a few ideas, got feedback from brewing buddies and /r/homebrewing, sifted though the BJCP guidelines, and settled on the idea of using the English IPA style to make a beer that still had a nice malt backbone, but that really showcased spicy hop character.  To further accent the spiciness, I ended up adding nearly a pound of rye to my grist.  I would use Maris Otter as the base, an English yeast (WLP022 Essex Ale got the nod), plus Challenger, Fuggles, and East Kent Goldings hops.  I did decide to do a massive dry hop in hopes of huge aroma... style guidelines be darned.

On Father's Day, I brewed the beer.  The process overall went very well, though I slightly undershot my gravity thanks to a subpar crush from Austin Homebrew.  The water chemistry also got fun for a bit, as for the second time, I ended up having to add extra lactic acid to the mash to get the pH down.  However, I did end up nailing my target pH (shot for 5.3, had a 5.31) and mash temps, so things looked promising.

Sparging was fun thanks to the biggest swarm of flies I have ever seen while brewing.  For the first time since I started brewing outside, a lid was not optional. 

As an side, I had gotten all the way to brewday being unsure of a name for this beer.  I typically like to go with fantasy-themed names, but could not come up with anything for a spicy IPA.  Well, I recruited the help of my three little boys (now ages six, four, and three), as they love to hop my beers.  This one featured first wort hopping, then all late/flameout additions.  They tossed the hops in, and while my hands were full, I saw my three year old grab a stick and take a step.

"Don't you throw that in there!" I cried, helpless.

Too late.

An instant and a perfect toss later, a six inch piece of lichen covered wood was floating in my precious wort.

Ah, well.  At least it was pre-boil, right?  I fished it out, finished the sparge, and proceeded to boil. 

The event, though, fired my imagination - "Oakenbranch IPA" seemed too good to pass up.  My artist friend nearly flipped out when I mentioned it to her later, as the subtle nod to Tolkien's Thorin Oakenshield was just too good to not use.  So, at the price of a little dirt and fungus exposure, my beer was named.

The boil went well, though as mentioned, I slightly undershot my gravity (1.071, target was 1.075).  No big deal, though I usually hit 74%-76%, and this was closer to 70%.  Chilling did take for freaking ever with the lid on.  Next time, it might be better to lug the thing inside and do my best with the chiller hooked to the kitchen sink; it usually takes my 15-20 minutes to chill with the hose at full blast, but an hour of it still didn't have me down to pitch temps with the lid on.  I ended up sticking the thing in my mini fridge for a bit.

Fermentation itself likewise went well, though WLP022 was a strange beast for me.  Big starter or no, it was very quiet for close to three days (slow bubbling was it)... THEN it blew off the airlock.  Krausen had already retreated, so I cleaned the airlock and put it back on... and ended up having to clean it twice more.  Apparently, this yeast makes krausen that can fly.  Or something.

Dry hopped with an ounce of each variety of hops at five days until bottling.  Used up what I had left at three days out - totaling out at almost five ounces of hops.  This was my first dry hop, but I did scale my recipe up another half gallon to account for loss to hops.

Cold crashed and bottled... which was the worst such experience in over a year.  Managed to jam the auto siphon into the hop sludge and stir crap up, got several bubbles in the line, got distracted and let the siphon run dry (putting more bubbles into the beer).  Ah, well... IPAs are best when drank young, anyway.  Right?

The good news is that I got great attenuation - I actually overshot slightly on the FG.  Was expecting 1.017, ended up with 1.015, for a whopping 79% attenuation on a strain that's supposed to cap at 76%.  ar better, though, was the taste of the beer in the bucket.

I know that it will change, but I got a nice light body, some pleasant matiness, some *really* nice spiciness, and tons of both hop flavor and aroma.  Bitterness was very mild.  If this holds true, I will have absolutely nailed what I was hoping for.

Will it be the typical West Coast face-punching bitterbrew?  Nope, and man... am I excited!

 Share this recipe on reddit

Batch Size (gallons)6
Recipe typeAll Grain
Style14A. English IPA
Original Gravity1.075
Final Gravity1.017
ABV7.61% (basic)   /   7.65% (advanced)       [what's this?]
Color13.3 SRM
Boil Time60 min

YeastWhite Labs WLP022 (Essex Ale Yeast)

Pale Malt, Maris Otter13 lbs78.8%3
Munich Malt1 lb6.1%9
Rye Malt 12 oz4.5%4.7
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L 12 oz4.5%60
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 90L 12 oz4.5%90
Barley, Flaked 4 oz1.5%1.7

Challenger (First Wort)1.5 oz607.5%21.3
Challenger (Boil).6 oz157.5%3.8
Fuggles (Boil).54 oz154.5%3.4
Goldings, East Kent (Boil).54 oz155%3.6
Goldings, East Kent (Steep/whirlpool).54 oz205%2.2
Fuggles (Steep/whirlpool).54 oz204.5%2.1
Challenger (Steep/whirlpool).54 oz207.5%2.1
Goldings, East Kent (Dry Hop)1 oz55%0
Fuggles (Dry Hop)1 oz54.5%0
Challenger (Dry Hop)1 oz57.5%0
Challenger (Dry Hop).3 oz37.5%0
Fuggles (Dry Hop).8 oz34.5%0
Goldings, East Kent (Dry Hop).8 oz35%0

for complete recipe (with details like mash and fermentation temps), click here

Tags for this post: IPA, hop, hops, bitter, English, English IPA, homebrew, brewing

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This is how I've done my IPAs as well. Although I certainly enjoy a nice bitter IPA, the ones I enjoy the most (and make myself) are far less bitter. My recipe for a 5 gallon batch has two small bittering charges, one at 60min, one at 30 min, 4oz at flame-out, and 6oz for dry hop. Huge, in-your-face hop flavor, but very little bitterness contributed.

posted by bfinn on 7/09/2014 at 09:09:51 AM

Almost every IPA write up I've seen has given the advice of avoiding large amounts of Crystal and you have two of them in there. How did this effect the sweetness of the resulting product? I'd be wary personally of doing that much crystal.

posted by pockyisgod on 7/09/2014 at 01:35:55 PM

Well, do note that I just bottled this Sunday night. The bottling bucket sample was a little sweet, but they always are. I don't yet know for sure how the final product will be.

Do note that this was patterned after the basic outline for an English IPA. In the BJCP flavor section for 14A (English IPA), you'll find: "malt flavor should be medium-low to medium-high, but should be noticeable. The malt should show an English character and be somewhat bready, biscuit-like, toasty, toffee-like, or caramelly." It goes on to talk about maltiness providing the best balance for this style.

American IPAs, on the other hand, mention that caramel "notes" are acceptable, but the malt is supposed to take a definite backseat to the hops.

I would not blink at a brown ale of 5% ABV with a pound and a half of crystal in it. Therefore, I'm not really worried about a pound and a half of crystal being too much in this ~7.5% beer.

If I do end up with a malty beer that also happens to have lots of hop flavor and huge aroma, I'm going to count it as a win.


posted by homebrewadad on 1/10/2015 at 10:11:18 PM