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Fact or Fiction? Making an IPA

I wanted to pose this question to everyone. Do you feel that a solid IPA is easy to make, Fact or Fiction? My take is that I used to think it was easy; however, my last few IPAs have missed their mark and I am suddenly thinking that a solid IPA is not as easy as I once thought. This could be because my expectations for an IPA have grown significantly though.

This is my best guess. I know it’s true for me. Two years ago I couldn’t stand the taste of IPAs. Now I really appreciate them, as I’m starting to identify the different hops and how they blend. Still not thrilled with overly bitter versions though…

[quote=“mppatriots”] Do you feel that a solid IPA is easy to make, Fact or Fiction?

Fact.

Easy Peasy Slap your Nieces.

Put 45% for bittering, 55% under 10 and a huge flameout.

Dryhop is mandatory.

I agree with you. Since my tastes for IPA’s has grown, I can be easily disappointed in some brews.
Even some popular commercial brews seem to fall short in my opinion. I recently brewed a Sweetwater IPA Clone that when tasted I thought “Where are the hops”.

This is definitely a style where the water has a huge effect on the outcome. The dryness and cleanness of the beer is dependent on having the right alkalinity and mineral content. For some tap water, there is no way to get there from here. Knowing what is in your water and adjusting to the degree needed, is very helpful in creating the flavor you want in an IPA.

I’m not personally a big IPA fan, but speaking in general, anything that you characterize in one word seems easy, but usually isn’t. So just being “hoppy” seems easy. Once you get a taste for it though and start to notice more going on, that’s when the devils in the details get you. The best IPAs, IMO, highlight the hops, and while definitely “hoppy”, add additional character and subtlety than you could get from just sucking on a cone.

I used to be a fan of Chili, any idiot can make chili “Spicy” but there has to be more to it than just “Spicy”

Just made a great SMaSH ipa, also my first. 2 row and citra, it tastes like lychee and grapefruit

edit: its great

It’s as easy as making any other kind of beer…but having said that, I’ll also say that the most critical part of making any beer is finding the right balance. And what that right balance is ultimately is decided by personal taste.

I think IPAs are hard. I would say that at least 25% of the beers I have brewed the last couple of years are IPAs, and I am still searching for the holy grail of IPA recipes.

Yeah, water made a big difference that is for sure.

But while I always strive for “balance”, I also want that really hop-forward character that just teeters on the boundary of good balance. I want the hops to smack me in the face, but to do it nicely.

Plus you have to have that malt backbone that is restrained but substantial.

Plus you have to deal with a decreased shelf life, at least for peak hop freshness, compared to other styles.

And then you have to find the right blend of hops, and use them correctly. With some other styles, so long as you are in the ballpark and use appropriate hops you are ok. But you really have to pay attention when you put together an IPA.

Maybe I am making it too hard, or maybe there are just a lot of homebrewers out there who are better then me… well I’m sure both are true. But nevertheless, I think that it may be easy to make a mediocre IPA but a really good one is a challenge.

A solid IPA? Yes. An outstanding IPA is a lot harder.

I agree with LA. I’ve made several IPA’s now, and all have been very good. I’d say they qualify to sit on the shelf with the other general American west coast examples, but only two of them were above and beyond like a few highly esteemed examples.

I think modern media has made it a common thought that IPAs are insanely easy, which is why breweries overhop everything. :blah: I agree it’s easy to make a good one and much more challenging to make a great one.

If I could make a clone of O’Dell’s IPA, I’d probably never leave the house.

[quote=“JMcK”]I’m not personally a big IPA fan, but speaking in general, anything that you characterize in one word seems easy, but usually isn’t. So just being “hoppy” seems easy. Once you get a taste for it though and start to notice more going on, that’s when the devils in the details get you. The best IPAs, IMO, highlight the hops, and while definitely “hoppy”, add additional character and subtlety than you could get from just sucking on a cone.

I used to be a fan of Chili, any idiot can make chili “Spicy” but there has to be more to it than just “Spicy”[/quote]
Well said; the more you learn about anything, the more complicated it is. I’m also not a big fan of IPAs, probably because many IPAs seem to be designed simply to be the hoppiest beer possible, and as a result just seem to be unbalanced and hard to drink.

I think IPA is one of the easier styles to get good results from on a consistent basis. Water is important, but not necessarily as finicky as some other styles.

My basic rules for a solid IPA:

  1. Start with a lot of hops.
  2. Take it easy on the Crystal malt (I often don’t use any). Sweet beer with a lot of hops is just plain gross.
  3. Add more hops
  4. Shoot for 2-300PPM of sulfate
  5. More hops
  6. The later you add your hops the better.
  7. Hop stands are a magical thing
    8 ) Don’t skimp on the dry hops, either (I use 1-2 oz per gallon)

I’m in the “balance” camp when it comes to hop character versus malt. I also find that one can find balance in certain hop combinations, typically those that are bright and citrusy versus dank and piney.

I’ve generally enjoyed and made my overly hoppy IPA’s. I’m curious about this more balanced IPA approach. Would anyone care to share a recipe or two for their great more balanced IPA? Or even a common commercial IPA that I can find?

I really like my house IPA, which uses MullerBrau’s Red Chair IPA grain bill. I use all homegrown hops, and the schedule kind of varies. My most recent batch had a 2 oz Zeus FWH and was pretty intense, mostly because it was batch #100. I’d probably scale it back to 1.5 oz, because 1 oz was not quite enough. I’m really pleased with this grain bill though. This recipe uses an unknown variety of hops, which I call “Montana.” They’re kind of citrusy/earthy, and I think you could use just about any hops you want for a stand-in.

Batch size: 5.75 gallons
Expected OG: 1.061 Expected FG: 1.015

Ingredients:
•8.5 lb 2-row
•2.5 lb Munich 10
•0.5 lb Carapils
•0.75 lb C40
•0.75 lb CaraVienne
• Hops (all homegrown):
o 1 oz Zeus, FWH
o 1 oz each Chinook and Montana, 15
o 1 oz each Chinook and Montana, 10
o 2 oz Cascade, 5
o 2 oz Cascade, 0
o 2-4 oz dry hop

Mash @ 153. Pitch a 2L stirred starter of 1450, ferment @ 65 degrees.

Mineral Additions (grams) --------------To Mash (5 gal): --------------To Sparge (3.5 gal):
Gypsum (CaSO4): -------------------------------2.6 ------------------------------- 2.1
Epsom Salt (MgSO4): ---------------------------2.0 ------------------------------- 1.6
Baking Soda (NaHCO3): ------------------------1.5 ------------------------------- 0
Calcium Chloride (CaCl2): ---------------------1.5 ------------------------------- 1.2

This is definitely a matter of preference. After you figure out what you like and what components to use, it’s pretty easy. I prefer an unassertive malt bill with loads of citrus/fruit/floral with a touch of spice. Unlike most IPA junkie’s I’m not a huge fan of pine/resin. So I’ve formulated a house IPA that I flat-out love by creating an unassertive grain bill (55% Rahr 2-row and 45% wheat) with loads of Cascade, Citra and Willamette.

I’m not sure that the term ‘unassertive’ is quite the right one for the malt bill. I suggest that ‘less complex’ or ‘simple’ is more the focus when dealing with a malt bill for a hop-focused beer. I toyed with complex malt bills in hoppy beers and they end up clashing. The simplistic base malt grist that KC mentions is appropriate.

Agreed, simpler is better in almost any case, for me. Two-row and a little crystal is what I usually do. But I’m finding that making a great IPA is a bit more of a challenge than just throwing hops at the kettle.

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