Thursday, April 25, 2013
About a year ago, I was looking at some older (pre-2005) homebrew and craft beer IPA recipes because I remembered hating IPA so much when I was in college, and I wondered if I would like those same beers today (sure, many of them are still brewed, but the breweries were taken over by big beverage comglomerates, so the beers are of a lower quality than they once were). So I went to brew something along the lines of a 2002 American IPA, or an American IPA from the time when IPA was the next big thing and not the dominant best-selling style of craft beer (remember, this was even before "Imperial" meant anything to the average beer drinker...how far we have come in ~10 years).
I noticed that many (most?) of those older recipes had 1 lb of wheat malt per 5 gal batch. Often the notes were odd, saying something like, "a little bit of wheat to make the beer clear better" or "some wheat to ensure proper carbonation," but nonetheless, the wheat was there pretty consistently. In fact, it seemed like every recipe from that time was 1.060-1.065 and had ~1 lb of wheat, ≥1 lb of carapils, and ~1 lb of other crystal malt (usually 40L or 60L). While I find that much crystal malt excessive in a standard IPA, and the hopping rates in most recipes were not what I would want, either - mostly 60-15-0 and 60-30-15-0, with dry hopping seemingly optional - I decided to take what I learned and synthesize an "Old School IPA" recipe. I actually lost that recipe when my last laptop was stolen, but I remember the basic premise well enough.
I ended up going with a malt bill of (I think) 80% 2-row, 5% wheat malt, 5% crystal 60, 5% carapils, and 5% Munich 10L. I shot for a 1.063 OG and I believe I hit 1.062. I mashed at 150-152F (I don't recall exactly), and I employed a 90-minute boil. I used a hop schedule of 60-30-15-0-dry and I bittered with Columbus, used Centennial at 30, Cascade and Centennial at 15, and Cascade and Columbus at 0, and dry hopped with Cascade (and maybe columbus). I don't recall amounts used, but I do remember the flameout was 3 oz of hops (more than used at the time), and that the 15 min addition was just 2 oz of hops. Most of the IBU's came from the 60 min addition, and at least half of the remaining IBUs came from the 30 min addition. I bittered it to a mere 60 IBUs. The volume of dry hops was just 1 oz per 5 gal. I used WLP001 slurry.
The recipe went against a lot of my typical thinking when it comes to brewing IPA, and it came out great. It was the kind beer where I would drink 4 pints without realizing it. And despite that high volume of crystal malt, it was extremely refreshing. It wasn't the kind of "sit and think about it" IPA like Ballast Point's Sculpin or Alpine's Duet, but it also wasn't noticeably less hoppy-tasting than Racer 5 or Lagunitas IPA, and the maltiness was definitely less in-your-face than Lagunitas. The bitterness was tamer than West Coast IPA or Racer 5, but not by as much as I expected. It was a great beer for drinking, and sessionable despite its ~6.4% ABV. What I took from this brew were two things: Cascade and Columbus are incredible aroma hops (I have since used them a lot more than I did at the time), and a little wheat now goes into every hoppy beer I brew. I have since brewed similar beers with more contemporary hop profiles and less crystal malt, and I always notice the increased sessionability that I get from the the smooth texture a little wheat malt provides. And all that crystal malt made less of a difference than I expected. I think a lot of the problems people have with crystal malt in an IPA is actually a problem they have with high mash temperatures, mello bittering hops (like Magnum), poor yeast management (1 smack pack into a 1.070 IPA spells trouble) and DARK crystal malt.
So now I add crystal malt freely if I want a caramel flavor (of late I am rather fond of Carahell for hoppy beers). I use a 2-1 ratio of easy-to-buy cascade and columbus as aroma/dry hops in anything where I am shooting for a "C Hop" aroma, and I freely bitter with Columbus in any American style of ale. Do I still love Simcoe, Amarillo and Citra in an IPA? Sure. But I am happy to spend $18 on a keg of great IPA with a "C hop" aroma and flavor than $40 on a similar IPA with a great fruity "new school" hop aroma.