Dialing in an IPA


With Mother’s Day and some shitty weather on Sunday, I had to push a scheduled brew day to Monday afternoon. It seems that whenever I’m not brewing a beer for a club barrel project or for some competition, I’m constantly brewing IPAs. This isn’t exactly the case but it certainly feels that way. Since I started brewing (and subsequently started blogging about my brewing), I’ve been on a quest for a “house” IPA recipe. If you visit my Brewtoad page, you’ll see dozens of IPA recipe variations that I’ve constantly tried to tweak.

And you know what, I’m getting pretty damn close.

As I’m writing this, I’m drinking a just-finished-carbonating IPA #1 aka Eighty-SixedI’ve started numbering my IPAs this year so that I can pick out what I like/dislike from each one of them and incorporate that into subsequent recipes. I also thought this would be a good opportunity to go over my brewing process and talk about how I got to IPA #2 aka Hustle Harder.

IMG_1076

IPA #1 aka Eighty-Sixed. Citrus and delicious.

The Grain Bill

11.0 lb
Pilsner (DE)
2.5 lb Maris Otter Pale (UK)
2.0 lb
Munich – Light 10L (US)
0.5 lb
 Munich – Dark 20L (US)
0.5 lb
 Turbinado

I’ve started drifting towards using Pilsner malt as a base for IPAs because I feel it gives the malt a little more character; it adds a cracker character that I think compliments the type of IPA I like without outshining the hops. I prefer it to 2-row, because – honestly – 2-row is bland. Maris Otter is my favorite malt, and I have it included here to compliment Pilsner’s cracker with a bit of MO’s biscuit. The Munich Malts add a little bit of color and sweetness again without being too powerful in their own right, and the Turbinado is meant to give the IPA a dry finish.

The Mash

I mashed these grains at 152*F for 60 minutes, with a little bit of up-and-down to the temperature due to the windy conditions. Over the course of the 60 minutes the mash probably rested anywhere in the range of 148*F to 154*F. I added 3g of Calcium Chloride to the mash water before stirring in the grains. The CaCl is intended to lower the mash pH, but the reason I’m adding it is because it was recommended to me by Russ Heissner of Barrel House Z, after he sampled my amber ale. Knowing the water profile for the area (I live just south of Boston, and most of Massachusetts derives its water from the Quabbin Reservoir, which is noted for high quality, soft water), he recommended dosing with CaCl in the mash and in the boil. His recommendation was 150ppm or roughly 1.5g; this became closer to 2g because I don’t have a very accurate scale and somehow became 3g because I’m still an amateur and don’t often take good notes.

The vorlaufed and pulled just shy of 5 gallons on the first runnings (7.5 gallons mashed), and an additional 3 gallons from the second runnings (3.5+ gallons sparged) at a combined gravity of 1.050, which was right on target.

The Boil and the Hops

I reduced my usual boil time down to 60 minutes for this recipe, which was largely a function of me not wanting to wait the extra 30 minutes. I haven’t had many problems with off-flavors in my beer from the boil, so I decided to keep it short. Starting with just under 8 gallons of wort, I dropped in 1.5oz of Nugget for first wort hopping. Now first wort hopping might just be a total waste of time, but it’s a lot easier for me to drop the first hop charge right in there and if there’s any actual benefits from it, great. If not, *shrug*. I prefer Nugget as a bittering hop for two reasons, 1. I’ve experienced – and heard from others – it as imparting a smooth, even bitterness and 2. I bought a pound of Nugget, because it was on sale.

Chinook and Centennial. 15 min and 0 min additions.

Chinook and Centennial. 15 min and 0 min additions. (Empty space was where the Nugget was)

Because it was quite windy, the boil didn’t start until about 216*F. Here at sea level, it’s supposed to start at 212*F, so when it finally kicked off it was raging. After more finagling with the propane (and a lot of cursing), I got a nice rolling boil going and proceeded to walk the dog. When we got home, the wort was at 214*F but with no noticeable boiling. So I spent the last 30 or so minutes trying to keep it from going dead or boiling over. Despite the wind-shield on my burner, the strong gusts yesterday really fucked with my system. I curse you, Zephyr, to the very depths of Hades!

At 15 minutes remaining, I added 1.5oz of Chinook, 1.5oz of Centennial and the half-pound of Turbinado, along with my wort chiller. In news that will surprise no one, I forgot to add my whirlfloc tablet. The forgotten whirlfloc tablets keep me up at night. At flameout (0 minutes remaining), I added an additional ounce each of Chinook and Centennial after killing the flame, and began recirculating my wort. I placed the flameout hops in the center of my immersion chiller so the recirculated wort would run right through them.

A couple of spare notes on my process. First, I’m a skimmer.

Skimmin' like a villain.

Skimmin’ like a villain.

I try to skim the hot break protein off the top of my wort as it reaches a boil. My reasoning is simple: less hot break in the wort means less hot break in the fermenter.

Secondly, I use tea and spice infusion balls to hold my hops additions. Usually they work great, but for some reason either the heat or the boil or a combination of the two absolutely dissolved the Nugget hops. My other additions were fine, expanding and staying inside their metal prisons, but the Nugget, man…

Where'd you go?

Where’d you go?

IMG_1055

IMG_1069

After allowing the flameout hops to steep for 15 minutes – a relatively arbitrary time limit – I kicked on the immersion chiller, brought the temperature down to 59*F (!) and transferred it to a bucket, where I’d pitch my yeast.

Yeast and Fermentation

WLP075 aka Hansen Ale Blend

WLP075 aka Hansen Ale Blend

The yeast strain I used for this brew is White Labs’ WLP075 Hansen Ale Blend. This is one of their “Yeast Vault” strains that apparently has only been used in-house.

This is a blend of many IPA strain favorites. If you’re tired of only using WLP001, this strain is for you. It has the attenuation of WLP090 and the character of WLP007…
In the Tasting Room, the strain produced dry attenuation, was hop-forward, with minor ester production, and was a great flocculator, according to White Labs Brewer Joe Kurowski.

After checking the notes White Labs provided from their tasting room, I assumed an attenuation of around 78% and asked them to provide a good fermentation temperature for the strain. They suggested 65*F – 71*F. I started my chamber at 65*F and allowed to rise towards 68*F-69*F which is where I plan to let it sit for about 5-7 days before finishing out around 71*F.

I made a starter for this strain and then stepped it up so I could harvest out some additional yeast for my next brew. I may retry IPA #1 with this yeast strain to see how it comes out.

Wrapping Up

I concluded my brew day by force-carbonating IPA #1 and celebrating with Castle Island’s Keeper IPA. As of last night there was some noticeable activity from the fermentation chamber, before I bumped the temp up 2-3 degrees. I expect IPA #2 to have a much more West Coast flavor than #1, as I try to figure out my “perfect” IPA.

I know this was a (much) longer than usual post, and I’d love to here from you all if this is the kind of content you’d be more interested in going forward, as I’m trying to dial in my blog as much as my beer.

Cheers!

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3 Comments

  1. I like using low alpha hops for first wort hopping. I’ve not yet used Nugget hops, but they’re on my list. How did the beer turn out?

    Reply

    1. It came out pretty good, though probably not as bitter as I’d have liked. I prefer the hop character of #1, because I like citrusy, fruity IPAs, but #2 was pretty solid. I’ll probably still bitter with Nugget, just up the amount a bit (which is insane because this beer was 102 IBUS!).

      Reply

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