A great IPA (India pale ale) should never mince words. It gets right to the point with a fistful of hops delivered straight to your mouth.
But brewing an IPA can be tricky – it’s one of those beer styles that’s fairly easy to get right, but difficult to do really, really well. There are a number of variables you need to keep in mind, and a ton of options to consider when it comes to your hop combinations.
If you’re a seasoned home brewer, then chances are you’ve got your recipe and process figured out. But for all those ‘beerginners’ out there wanting to try out a new IPA recipe, these tips should come in handy.
1. Keep the malt profile simple(ish)
Ideally, an IPA should let the hop profile of the beer shine through. But that’s not to say you can’t have a nice malty finish. About 75% to 80% of your grain bill should consist of simple pale malt, and the rest a combination of malts like Vienna, Munich, Biscuit and the like to add more complexity.
Go easy on the crystal/caramel malts, though – at about 5% of your grain bill, they will add a nice character and help with head retention.
2. Adding the essential ingredient
Ah yes, hops ... surely one of the greatest plants found on this planet. Open a bag of fresh, aromatic hop pellets and you’ll probably agree. The trick is to impart that delicious aroma and taste into your IPA as boldly as possible, figuring out which hops to use as bittering, aroma and flavouring additions.
Popular hops for IPA include: Cascade, Amarillo, Warrior, Magnum, Apollo, Simcoe, Citra, Columbus and Summit, among others. But ultimately, it comes down to what you think works. Add high alpha acid hops early in the boil for bittering, and chuck in plenty of hops late in the boil (during the last 10 minutes or so) for aroma.
Then, be generous with your dry hopping! After you’ve racked to secondary fermentation, work out a daily dry hopping schedule (running for about five to seven days) using more aromatic hops like Cascade, Amarillo and the like. Don’t be afraid to chuck in 15g or more each day.
3. Choosing the yeast
One of the most popular choices for an IPA is California Ale yeast (WLP001), as it helps accentuate the hops while imparting a clean, dry character to the beer. Another good option is English Ale yeast, although you’ll need to take a few things into consideration – mash at a lower temperature to account for the lower attenuation of this yeast strain, and ferment cooler (usually at around 17°C to 18°C) to get a cleaner ester profile.
At the end of the day, practice makes perfect, and experimentation will eventually lead you down a hoppy path of success.
Never settle for a mediocre recipe that just tastes OK. Keep notes during each brew, allowing you to keep track of everything you did when that perfect batch finally happens. Consider investing in the hugely popular BeerSmith software to help with brewing accuracy and consistency.
Then make sure you stick to the tenets of good brewing practice (sanitation!) and you’ll be on your way in no time.
Good luck hopheads, and in the words of brewing legend John Palmer – brew strong!