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Hop blending in AM. IPA

OK, brewers, I could use your help…I’m writing a section of the book about experimenting with Am. IPA. I’m interested in blends of the newer “tropical fruit” hops with some of the more traditional varieties like Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Amarillo, Simcoe, Columbus. And what kind of grist you use to tie it all together. Please let me hear your thoughts and what you’ve done. The best ideas and recipes will get printed in the book and you’ll get the credit for them. Ideas, please!

Assuming you would include Citra in the “tropical fruit” category…

This is my house IPA. Everyone loves this beer–even people who profess to hate IPAs.

The grainbill was inspired somewhat by witbier. This creates a wonderful canvas for the hops. I consistently get 82-84% attenuation, which provides s fairly dry, crisp finish with just the right body. No crystal or roasted malts to compete with the hops. Simple and balanced is the name of the game.

My initial batch was very good, but I thought the Citra was too dominant. So I backed it down to what you see here. The Citra still stands out in flavor and aroma, but not as dominantly as before. I hate Citra as the star of the show, but it can be fantastic in a supporting role like this. Hard to get more traditional than Cascade and Willamette. Cascade is still my favorite flavor/aroma hop.

Name: Snow Cone IPA (brewed initially in winter and I use whole cone hops)

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 8.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 6.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.07 gal
Estimated OG: 1.062 SG
Estimated Color: 4.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 70.8 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 63.80 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 76.0 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes


Amt Name Type # %/IBU
6.0 oz Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM) Adjunct 1 2.7 %
7 lbs 8.0 oz Rahr 2-Row (2.1 SRM) Grain 2 53.6 %
3 lbs 12.0 oz Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM) Grain 3 26.8 %
2 lbs 6.0 oz White Wheat Malt (Great Western) (3.1 SR Grain 4 17.0 %
1.00 oz Magnum [14.30 %] - Boil 80.0 min Hop 5 42.3 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins) Fining 6 -
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Boil 15.0 mins) Other 7 -
1.50 oz Cascade [4.70 %] - Boil 10.0 min Hop 8 7.2 IBUs
0.50 oz Citra [14.88 %] - Boil 10.0 min Hop 9 7.6 IBUs
0.50 oz Willamette [4.70 %] - Boil 10.0 min Hop 10 2.4 IBUs
1.50 oz Cascade [4.70 %] - Boil 5.0 min Hop 11 3.9 IBUs
0.75 oz Citra [14.88 %] - Boil 5.0 min Hop 12 6.9 IBUs
0.25 oz Willamette [4.70 %] - Boil 5.0 min Hop 13 0.7 IBUs
1.00 oz Cascade [4.70 %] - Boil 0.0 min Hop 14 0.0 IBUs
0.75 oz Citra [14.88 %] - Boil 0.0 min Hop 15 0.0 IBUs
0.25 oz Willamette [4.70 %] - Boil 0.0 min Hop 16 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg California Ale (White Labs #WLP001) [35. Yeast 17 -
1.50 oz Cascade [8.90 %] - Dry Hop 7.0 Days Hop 18 0.0 IBUs
0.75 oz Citra [12.00 %] - Dry Hop 7.0 Days Hop 19 0.0 IBUs
0.75 oz Willamette [4.70 %] - Dry Hop 7.0 Days Hop 20 0.0 IBUs

Mash Schedule: 02 Batch Sparge, Protien Rest (Step Mash)
Total Grain Weight: 11 lbs 10.0 oz

Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash Step Add 12.15 qt of water at 137.0 F 125.0 F 15 min
Mash Step Add 11.09 qt of water at 191.3 F 152.0 F 60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun, , 4.46gal) of 168.0 F water

Thanks, man! That’s exactly the kind of info I was looking for!

Hey Denny,

I am looking forward to reading the book.

I have done a lot of experimenting with IPAs the last few years as that is what I brew most. Many of these were Single Hop and Single Malt (SMaSH) and others were complex blends of hops and malts. I have tried a few yeasts as well.

I don’t have nearly the experience you and others here but I am interested in others observations. Here are some of my observations:

    I love citrus and tropical flavored hops, individually or blended. I find when they are done well most everyone else does too, novice, experienced, male, female, etc.

    Like many others, when I started out I combined many hops and malts. These did turn out good as I carefully selected ingredients that go together well. Over time I wanted to see what flavor individual ingredients are by them self. Every SMaSH has been really nice and drinkable and educational. While complex blends can be very good, simple ones can too.

    I think original American IPAs (and still many today) tend to be more about bittering (early additions) with some citrus finish (e.g. Cascade) and a clean crisp yeast (Chico types). The newer hops with more fruity/tropical flavors are causing a transition to flavor/aroma additions. I, and many others, are favoring FWH, hop bursting, hop stand and dry hopping, often no bittering addition at all. While clean bittering helps accentuate citrus flavors and balance tropical/fruity flavors, too much or too harsh bittering detracts from these. Recently I have gotten good results simplifying to just FWH and dry hopping. This was to test four different hops side by side via split batch, dry hopping in different fermenters.

    Mosaic is my latest and now favorite all round tropical and fruity flavored hop. Very well rounded and great even by it’s self. Side by side dry hop comparison with Simcoe and Summit I found Summit to be very similar flavor but not quite as strong (could be due to age, source etc.) and Simcoe includes the same flavor profile plus the piney/citrus too. Therefore Simcoe is still my favorite all round citrus/tropical hop in one.

    Citra has a very unique flavor of passion fruit, mango, peach and apricot, that is great for blending. As kcbeersnob indicated you don’t need much Citra for it’s presence to be tasted. It’s flavor seems twice as strong (per oz) than the other most flavorful citrus hops (Simcoe, etc.) and maybe four times more than the lighter flavored citrus hops (e.g. Cascade). For example it’s flavor was the most obvious in a few blends I have done with 6-9 citrus/tropical/piney hops in fairly equal proportions.

    Keg hopping with whole flowers, Citra flavors continue to develop over time and becomes more prominent. One keg hopped with ~6 hops, including Citra, was drank slowly over 8+ months. The last few glasses were really amazing and taste like Citra (but the second glass on any evening would be grassy/vegetal unless I gave it a day or two between glasses). Even without keg hopping the flavor tends to become more prominent over time, maybe due to other hop flavors degrading.

While not directly related to blending tropical/citrus hops the following gives some context for these observations.
    To keep things simple, for 5 gallons I use 12.5 lb malt so that 1 lb is 8% of total. With my efficiency I then get around 1.062 OG ("[b]Life begins at 60....1.060, that is.[/b]"). A typical FG is 1.012 (or lower) which gives a ABV of 6.6%. I mash around 150 F which keeps it from being too sweet (many commercial IPAs are too sweet).

    I prefer Crisp Maris Otter as my typical base malt but also use other brands of Maris Otter or Golden Promise. Sometimes I use Best Maltz Vienna or MFB Special Aromatic instead and have never been disappointed. I know these are not traditional for an American IPA but I really like them.

    I find no other adjunct/special/flavor malts are needed at all. However I have used up to 28% mixture of malts with SRM<50 (no one more than 8%), such as Aromatic, Munich, Biscuit/Victory, Carastan, Carared, CaraMunich, rye, oats, honey malt, honey. While the color addition can be noticeable a good dose of finishing hops tend to dominate most of the flavors these provide.

    We have very low minerals in Portland water and have had really good brews with no mineral additions. However I typically add 10 grams gypsum for citrusy brews or 5 grams Calcium Chloride for malty or fruity brews. I expect both could be added (or half as much each) to citrusy/tropical brews but have not tried it.

    I have found the Chico yeast strains (Wyeast 1056, White Labs 001 and US-05) to provide the best crispness of traditional IPAs (although an LHBA experiment Kolsch yeast seemed good too). With the tropical fruit flavors it seems other yeast may be just as good such as Wyeast 1272 American Ale II or 1450 Denny’s Favorite. I have not had much luck with a handful of English yeast strains as the flavor tends to be more muddled.

    I like to ferment around 62-65 F but have found the Chico strains do well as high as 72 F.

    Too much CO2 will cover up the great fruity/tropical as well as citrus flavors. I try to stay below 2.0 volumes of CO2.

I usually make my own recipes (except for Denny’s Wrye Smile IPA and Lake Waldo Amber). There are a lot of great recipes out there. You can’t list them all. So instead of an actual recipe, a starting recipe framework I use is (for 5 gallons):

    12.8 lb Maris Otter (preferably Crisp) (or other British malt like Golden Promise or Thomas Fawcett Optic, Halcyon, and Pearl) or Best Maltz Vienna or MFB Special Aromatic (or even 2-row Pale Ale malt). Optionally replace up to 4 lbs of this with up to a lb each Aromatic, Biscuit, Victory, Carastan, Carared, CaraMunich, Honey Malt, Malted Oats and/or up to 3 lbs Honey, Rye, Wheat or Munich.

    Mash around 150 F for 60 minutes.

    Add 2 oz Simcoe First Wort Hop (FWH) (or Summit, Centennial, Amarillo, Mosaic). I prefer whole flowers for early additions.

    Add Whirlfloc or Irish Moss 15 minutes before Fire Off (FO).

    Optionally add as much as 2-4 oz total of Amarillo, Centennial, Cascade, Simcoe, Summit, Mosaic and/or Citra(less than others unless you want passion fruit bomb) in the last 5 minutes before FO. Or, after FO cool to 150-190 F and add them for 30-45 minutes. I prefer pellets for late additions as the oils extract faster.

    Ferment with Wyeast 1056, 1272 or 1450 around 65 F (62-70).

    Dry hop with 2-4 oz Mosaic, Simcoe or Summit after fermentation has peaked and just started subsiding (typically 2-4 days in). I prefer pellets as the oils extract better and they settle more compact to the bottom.

    Optionally transfer to secondary after two weeks fermentation. Ferment for three weeks total but make sure the Final Gravity (FG) is reached.

    Keg or bottle at 2.0 volumes CO2 or less.

    Enjoy this great brew, slowly over a few months or quickly with friends.

Thanks so much to you, and everybody else, for your insights. It’s valuable information! Now I just have to digest it all and get it into the book!

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