How To Brew an IPA in Any Color

IPA recipes for American IPA, Wheat IPA, Black IPA, Rye IPA

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Learn to brew popular "IPA" variations. This discussion includes instructions on recipe design for American IPA, Black IPA, Wheat IPA, and Rye IPA.


by Gabe Jackson

Brewing the beer style known as IPA has, at times, become a game of one-upsmanship where each succeeding brew gets more hops, more alcohol, more malts and adjuncts---more of all the good stuff we love about beer. Here in the west, we keep pushing the limits of this beloved style and are proud of it. Pushing the limits is part of our tradition culturally, but also as a beer producing region. For example, a traveler named William Minturn wrote in 1877 about California beer: "We then had a glass of California beer, which is thoroughly good, and one gets a taste of the hops very strongly". (Thanks to beer author Ken Weaver for sleuthing that quote from Travels West.)

Keeping true to our historic love of hops, west coast IPA brewing has emerged as the clear leader in home brewing popularity, dominating other styles. It has even come to the point that IPA appears to be so large and in-charge that the style is bleeding into other styles, or you could say it is devouring other styles.

In each sub-style you want to focus on different malts and hops to end up with flavors that play well together, either enhancing each other or providing balance. Analyzing the strategies and ingredients used to produce these variants is a good way to get to know some of the most popular specialty malts and modern hops used in brewing. Before we delve into the particulars of these new styles, however, let's begin at the center of the style---American IPA. This brewpub standard evolved from its malty British origins into a hop-centric, thirst quenching delight. Recipes tend to have very simple malt bills that play a background role to the citrusy American hops of choice. The yeast can be either neutral or fruity, but most brewers tend to choose a neutral yeast so that the focus stays on the hops. One particularly useful strategy American brewers have brought to the IPA style is the restrained use of highly fermentable adjuncts (unmalted sugar/ starch sources). If you use 1 lb of rice or corn sugar in a 5 gallon batch of IPA in place of 1 lb of dry malt, it will bring your final gravity down approximately 2 or 3 points. The effect this has on mouthfeel and perceived maltiness in the final beer is significant. Also, the hops are more obvious and enjoyable with less residual sugar to hide it.

 For starters , consider this base IPA recipe and ideas for how to tweak it to your taste.

Base IPA Recipe:

“Oh Calcutta” IPA (5 G EX)

6 lbs. Light Dry Malt Extract
1 lb. Dry Rice Extract
1 lb. Caramel 20L Malt
1 ½ oz. Fuggle Hops (60 min.) 24 IBU
¾ oz. Kent Golding Hops (60 min.) 12 IBU
2 ¼ oz. Cascade Hops (5 min. or dryhopped) 10 IBU
Wyeast #1056 Chico Yeast or Giga Norcal Ale #1 Yeast
SG 1.066 - approx. IBU 46

This recipe will give you a nicely balanced American IPA with about 6.5 – 6.75% abv, good

quaffability, and the citrusy and floral bouquet of, say, a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

If you want to adjust to give the beer a different hop profile, more complex aroma, or more alcohol consider these changes:

Desired Change Commercial Example Ingredients Change Descriptors
More Fruity Bear Republic Racer 5 Switch Yeast to #1272 American Ale II Peach, Apricot, Stone Fruits
More Hoppy

Russian River Blind Pig

Lagunitas IPA

Instead of Cascade for aroma, use Centennial, Chinoook, CTZ, Amarillo, Simcoe, Summit, Citra or a blend Resinous, pine, grapefruit, lemon, pineapple, tangerine, floral.
More Alcohol

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

To increase alcohol by 0.5% abv, add 7 ounces corn or rice sugar, or add 10 ounces light dry malt.

Use of rice/corn sugar can produce off flavors if used in excess. Light dry malt will increase residual sugar.

These are just of a few of the major options available within the classic American IPA style. But what if we are ready to abandon the norm? We introduce the risk of experimentation, but we gain whole new flavor spectrums with great potential for development.


Switch it up and Make A Black IPA!

Black IPA is a new style that highlights my point. To turn an IPA black, we get to consider a new group of malts for use. The black malts are roasty and acidic, but can bring great depth of flavor with hints of coffee, chocolate, and even nuttiness. Some brewers try to avoid these flavors altogether while trying to capture only the color from the malt. Others allow the black malt flavors to come through at restrained levels while trying to adapt the other malt, hops, and yeast flavors to match. Whichever strategy you attempt, consider some of these ingredients to improve your chances of success.

IPA Style Specialty Malts Hops to Choose Commercial Example
Black IPA

Debittered Carafa

Chocolate Malt

Midnight Wheat

Cascade, CTZ, Chinook, Simcoe. Amarillo

Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Ale

Deschutes Hop in the Dark

You will need about ¾ – 1 lb of one of these black malts, or a blend, to achieve the desired dark brown to black beer color in a 5 gallon batch. Be sure to add some chalk to counteract the acidity from the black malts (1 tsp per 5 gal is a good rule of thumb).


Anyone for Wheat IPA?

My favorite evolution in IPA in the last fews years came from Lagunitas Brewing Company. Their Little Sumpin Sumpin Ale defies categorization, but I like to think of it as a Wheat IPA. The high alcohol and hop profile are similar to an Imperial IPA, but the malt base includes a high percentage of wheat. The use of wheat softens the beer significantly, so if you attempt such a beer be sure to avoid astringent bittering hops such as CTZ.

With the soft flavors of wheat in the malt bill and use of “clean bittering hops”, the beer becomes an incredible stage for hop aromas to dance on. I have done several versions of this style and found that residual sugars decrease the quality of the beer. You don't want the beer to taste syrupy. This is a risk, particularly if you want it strong like an Imperial IPA. You want a dry finish and bountiful hops. Avoid high proportions of caramel malts, or even leave them out completely in favor of lightly toasted malts. To lower the final gravity, use highly attenuative yeasts or make use of corn/rice sugar to improve fermentablility. Try some of these ingredients to bring out the best of your wheat malt base:

IPA Style Specialty Malts Hops to Choose Commercial Example

Wheat IPA

CaraHell, Victory Malt, Special Roast Restrained Use Of:
Hellertauer, Magnum, Nugget

Crystal, Cascade

Amarillo, Chinook, Citra, Simcoe
Lagunitas: Lil' Sumpin' Sumpin'

Keep in mind that most wheat beers are approximately 50% wheat and 50% barley. You may want your proportions of barley to be slightly higher than this to retain a bit of backbone. For extract beers you may want to blend our dry wheat malt extract (65% wheat/35% barley) and dry barley malt extract.

Wheat IPA Recipe
“Sumpin Like Little Sumpin Sumpin”
Wheat IPA (EX - 5 gallons)
5 lbs. Wheat Dry Malt Extract
2 lbs. Light Dry Malt Extract
1 lb. 2-Row Malt
1 lb. Flaked Wheat
2 oz. Victory Malt
RO Water (about 6-7 gallons)
2 grams Calcium Chloride
6 grams Gypsum
1 tab Whirlfloc
0.5 oz. Nugget Hops (90 min.) 26 IBU
1 oz. Crystal Hops (15 min.) 4 IBU
1 oz. Cascade Hops (15 min.) 8 IBU
1 oz. Chinook Hops (2 min.) 8 IBU
1 oz. Amarillo Hops (2 min.) 6 IBU
1 oz. CTZ Hops (dryhopped) 11 IBU
2 packages SafAle US 05 Ale Yeast
5 oz. Corn Sugar
SG 1.071 - approx. IBU 63
Mini-mash grains at 155 degrees F for 45
minutes, then rinse. Boil 90 minutes.

How about Rye IPA?

Rye IPA or Rye-P-A takes the style another direction completely. Rye is known to be spicy, and you can echo this character with hop choices. Bear Republic's Hop Rod Rye, for example, brings this spice character to life with their inspiring beer where bready and spicy flavors are married well with aggressive hops and bright American IPA aromas. I have found that the spice character of rye, however, is fairly subdued and the malt contributes a smooth slickness to the mouthfeel of the beer. This particular character of rye has been enhanced and brought to life by Sierra Nevada's new beer Ruthless Rye. The bittering hops are soft, flavor hops are resinous and sweet, and aroma hops citrusy and bountiful in true west-coast style. This gives you two totally different directions to run with a Rye-P-A. I suggest first deciding whether you want to try a “spicy” interpretation, or a “smooth” interpretation.

There are two types of rye that we stock at The Beverage People. Malted Rye and Flaked Rye. Malted rye is the more common choice and the best default choice. Flaked rye will not only add rye flavor and aroma, but it has a higher protein content than malted rye so it will increase your head retention. This may sound trivial, but a creamier, fuller head could be just the dimension you are looking for. If you opt for flaked rye, try 1 to 2 lbs for a 5 gallon batch and be sure to mash it with some 2-Row, 6-Row, or malted rye to ensure sugar conversion. With malted rye, a good start would be to use it as 20% of the grist.

This table includes some ingredient ideas for designing a great Rye-P-A, whether you choose a spicy version, or smooth.

IPA Style Specialty Malts Hops to Choose Commercial Example
Rye IPA (smooth) Rye Malt, Flaked Rye, Munich plus...

See Wheat IPA
Centennial, CTZ
See Wheat IPA
Bear Republic: Hop Rod Rye

Sierra Nevada: Ruthless Rye

Rye IPA Recipe
“Smooth Rye’d” Rye IPA (5 gallons EX)
3 lbs. Light Dry Malt
3 lbs. Wheat Dry Malt
1 lb. Rye Malt
1 lb. Flaked Rye
4 oz. 6-Row Barley Malt
2 oz. Caramel 60L Malt
2 oz. Victory Malt
RO Water –7 gallons
1/2 tsp. Gypsum
1/4 tsp. Calcium Chloride
2 tablets of Whirlfloc
1/2 oz. Nugget Hops (60 Min.) 26 IBU
1 oz. Crystal Hops (15 Min.) 4 IBU
1 oz. Chinook Hops (5 min.) 9 IBU
1 oz. Amarillo Hops (Dry Hop) 6 IBU
1 oz. Summit Hops (Dry Hop) 12 IBU
3/4 cup Corn Sugar for Priming
1 pack SafAle US 05 Ale Yeast
SG 1.065 - approx. IBU 57
Mini-mash the grains together at 150 –155
degrees F. for 45 minutes.

As you can see, we give away ALL of our brewing secrets at The Beverage People. We want your beer to be as good as ours, and as good as, if not better than, the commercial examples that inspire you. We've got the ingredients, you've got the weekend off. Give one of these fun styles a try!