Brewing Diaries: American IPA

So, finally, after weeks of waiting, I am here to present the information and results of my first attempt to make an American IPA.  In this feature, I will chronicle my home brewing so that I can either offer some assistance to other home brewers OR teach people what not to do.  This hobby is really a constant game of trial and error so don’t be surprised if this isn’t perfect.
First, some back ground information.  My mother’s birthday was coming up in June and I have absolutely no idea what to buy any woman for any special occasion (ever).  Being her beer obsessed son, I decided that I would spring for a high quality IPA which is her favorite beer style.  I centered on Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Company, however, my parents decided to go on a summer vacation to Oregon.  Sounds inconsequential, but my mother was in the mecca of hoppy beers and nothing I could purchase would ever stand up to the raw quality of having those great beers on tap.  So, I did the next best thing any child does when they have no idea what to get for their parents…MAKE SOMETHING (it’s always special if I make it).  Instead of macaroni, I chose to forge forward into the world of brewing IPAs.

Ingredients you still have to be over 21 to purchase.

Recipe:  I decided to stick with all American ingredients because American hop varieties have the resiny fruity bold flavors that I love and I knew my mother would enjoy.  I did my research and while the original IPA was created in England, Americans have pushed the style into more intense directions.  Also, the higher alpha acids of American Hop varieties would allow me to use fewer hops to create the desired flavor and aroma.

Malt:

  • 7.5 lbs Pale Liquid Malt Extract
  • .5 lbs crushed Crystal Malt

Hops:

  • 2 ounces Cascade Hop Pellets (floral and grapefruit) 6.2% Alpha Acid
  • 2 ounces Centennial Type Hop Pellets (Resin and strong bitter) 9.7% Alpha Acid.  The Centennial Hop was not in season but this variety mimics the characteristics.

Yeast: Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale Yeast

Seriously, if kids figured out how to make beer, I’d let them keep it. I’d be impressed.

Process:

After sanitizing my equipment, I started steeping the Crystal Malt at 150 Degrees Farenheit for about 20 minutes.  This was my first experience using an electric cook top for brewing.  My reaction was that the electric burners took longer to bring the water up to temperature, but it was also easier to maintain a temperature when I got there.  You are generally not supposed to let grains steep at high temperatures; 150-155 degrees is considered the ideal extraction temperature.  I used an electronic probe thermometer in the water for brewing and this was by far the most temperature control I have had.  After steeping the grains and adding the Liquid Malt, it was time to start the boil to add the hops.

I had decided to run a 60 minute boil adding the stronger alpha acid hops (Centennial type) at 10 minutes for the first ounce and 30 minutes for the second.  The reason for this is because the longer you leave hops in the boil, the more of the oils are extracted which adds to the flavor.  I decided to add half the cascade hops after 50 minutes to give more of the floral fruit notes to the beer, and I reserved the last half of the hops to be added to the beer after fermentation in a process called dry hopping.  Dry Hopping enhances the aroma but is best done after the yeast has converted the sugar in the beer to alcohol.   I gave the yeast about a week before adding the last of the Cascade hops  I finished the secondary fermentation 1 week after the initial fermentation and got to bottling (I will spare you the details of this process because no one wants to hear about a bunch of empty bottles).

The IPA started at an original gravity of 1.050 and finished around 1.011.  To calculate the alcohol you take the difference between the original and final gravity (.039) and multiply it by 131.25.  This gives us an alcohol content of 5.1%.  I used one of the many hop calculators available online and found out my IBUs were about 46.  I will explain this another time, just know it measures how hoppy beers are.

The Finished Product:

The first time you can breathe because you know you didn’t screw it up

Appearance:  Rich cloudy mix of orange and deep rich gold color with a soapy white head on top.

Smell: Very complex with notes of rich grapefruit and apricot as well as hints of pine and resin.

Taste: Very crisp tangy grapefruit flavor with some bitterness.  There are also flavors of pine, peach, apricot and some mango.  The flavors develop over time and add to the drinking experience.

Overall:  Not a bad attempt for my first IPA.  I had been a little gun shy of IPAs because I know overusing hops can ruin a batch of beer.  I might try to raise the alcohol content in the future, but that is rather difficult to do with a 5 gallon pot in a 1 bedroom apartment.  With my next beer I will be looking to carve up pumpkin so that I can have a nice autumn beer on hand.  I will keep you all posted on that.
Stay tuned for my next post where I catalog my beer related art.
Cheers!

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