Merican IPA

I love IPAs, but I don’t love all IPAs. It is a style that seems totally ubiquitous — Just about everybody’s got an IPA. How do you make yours stand out? What separates it from the herd?

Do you go big? Do a DIPA, or (these days) a TIPA? But where does this trend stop? And really, why not brew a Barley Wine?  I would take the delicate nuances of a well-brewed 1.060 IPA over these beers anyday.

Do you tinker with the mash bill? Adding Rye seems particularly popular these days, and for good reason.

Do you meddle with style guidelines? Try a CDA (which I personally love), or a White IPA (which I personally loathe)?

The advice for competition brewing is, If you want to win a medal, don’t bother with the IPA category. Just about everybody’s got an IPA.

For being one of my favorite styles, I haven’t brewed much of it this year. But I feel a bout of IPA-fever coming on, with a recent shipment of new hops from Nikobrew and a wonderful interview of Mitch Steele on Basic Brewing Radio. So here’s the first of several IPAs to be rolled out in the coming months:

6.5# US 2-Row
4.5# Maris Otter
8 oz Crystal 40L

0.5 oz Centennial (9.7%AA) – 60
0.75 oz Citra (14.6%AA) – 20
0.5 oz Centennial – 15
0.25 oz Citra – 15
0.5 oz Centennial – 5
0.5 oz Citra – 5
0.5 oz Centenial – 1
0.5 oz Citra – 1
1 oz Cascade – Dry hop

Good ol’ WLP001 Cal-Ale

OG: 1.067
FG: 1.019
ABV: 6.3%

Appearance: A bit of chill haze; a deep golden color, contributed by a 90 minute boil; about a half-inch of foam that dissipates pretty quickly after the first swig, but leaves a beautiful lacing hanging on the glass.

Aroma: Most of the aroma comes from the late hops — a lot of citrus character from the Citra, but not the blast of Cascade that I was hoping for. One thing I did differently this time was to simply dump the ounce of whole-leaf Cascade into the primary after fermentation had slowed, instead of racking on top of the hops in secondary. My suspicion is that they did not get the exposure they otherwise would have. Note to self: Don’t be lazy.

Taste: A lot of citrus up front, followed by a bit of a pine character and a firm, but pleasant bitterness.  There is a bit of what I can only describe as a “musty” character to the mid-palate hop flavor, which I believe comes from the Citra.  I would like it to be a bit cleaner.  Despite the high FG, the beer is not cloying — you can definitely put a few of these away.  The yeast did a beautiful job of providing a clean beer to showcase the hops — I understand why this is a “go to” for a lot of folks, especially for a hop-forward beer in which you don’t necessarily want a lot of yeast character.

Notes: So much of perfecting an IPA is finding the right blend of hops. The next time I brew this recipe I would add a third hop to accentuate a dank, pine character and add another dimension — maybe a bit of Chinook or Nelson Sauvin.  I would also favor the Centennial over the Citra. I am still figuring out how to best utilize the latter. In this case, it dominates a bit more than I would like. That being said, the citrus and the pine characters do work very well together. I would also plan to mash a bit lower next time to dry out the finish a bit.