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
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:
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.
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?
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
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.
Rye IPA Recipe
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!
Aromas of grass & earth, herbs and flowers.
Aromas of citrus and flowers.