I brewed my first two attempts at single hop IPAs a couple Summers ago. I was still early in my recipe formulation days and while the beers turned out enjoyable, they did not have anywhere near the hop kick that you expect from an IPA.
That time, I brewed two two and a half gallon batches of extract with specialty grain beers, one with all Cascade hops and one with all Simcoe. I planned the beers to end up with the same number of IBUs but did not understand how integral to the flavor and aroma of IPAs large, late hop additions were. I hope that all of my experience and research since then has put me in a good place to make a much better effort this time.
I am planning four more single hop IPAs this Summer. Saaz, Galaxy, Nugget and Nelson Sauvin are the hops I plan to utilize. I will do a large mash to collect enough wort for two four gallon batches each on two different brew days. Tomorrow, May 20, I’ll make the first two and then some time in the next month or so, I’ll do the last two.
The rest have fairly similar, high alpha acid contents, but Saaz is extremely low in this essential bittering component. So how can you get a comparable beer using these vastly different hops? I’m not sure, but this is my plan: I will use identical hop charges at ten and five minutes from the end of the boil, plus at flame out and once the wort has been chilled to under 120º. I’ll calculate the bitterness achieved from these additions and then use a first wort addition of whatever size is necessary for each hop to achieve the same bitterness level.
That means that there will be a huge first wort hop charge for the Saaz batch, which brings its own set of changes to the character of the beer, but I think this is still the best plan to make a true single hop IPA with this super low acid hop.
I have a recipe worked out for all four beers, but I plan to do the second two around the time I’ll be bottling the first so I can get a good idea of how they turned out and I can still make some recipe or process changes if necessary. I have put a lot of time into researching and just thinking about my recipe and procedure, though so I hope to be able to stick to it on both brew days.
There are a few things that I’m trying with these beers that are new to me. I’ve already mentioned first wort hopping. I have done this before, but didn’t really know much about it. Recently, I did some research to decide if it was something I really wanted to do. If you are not familiar with first wort hopping, it is the practice of adding what would otherwise be your bittering hops to the wort as soon as it has been collected instead of waiting for it to come to a boil. Most of the information I found on this practice came from various interviews and writing by Gordon Strong.
He has said in multiple places, most notably in his book, Brewing Better Beer, that when calculating IBUs, you can basically count your first wort hops as being boiled for five minutes longer than your total boil, normally sixty five minutes. If you are using software to work on your recipes and it doesn’t have a first wort hop setting, this is how you can figure out how bitter you’re making your beer.
Strangely, by steeping the hops in the hot, but not boiling wort in this manner, you get a less harsh bitterness and more of the hop flavor remains than you would otherwise expect from hops boiled for this long. Expect to get flavor from your first wort hops more in line with a twenty minute addition. All this makes first wort hopping an obvious choice for almost any IPA recipe. You get more flavor and more bitterness while avoiding some of the harshness that can come from too many IBUs.
Another new procedure that I’ve been researching is adding hops while chilling the wort. I normally add a big hop charge at flame out, when the boil is over and I’ve just turned off the heat. This gives some great flavor and tons of aroma, but while the wort is still that hot, you are losing some of the oils in the hops. 120º seems to be the closest to an agreed upon temperature at which hops can be added without losing too much character. By steeping the hops at this temperature, you are getting much closer to the character gained by dry hopping your beer. As a result, I will dry hop with only one ounce in each of the beers. Some will tell you that this is way too small of a dry hop for an IPA, but I think with everything else, I will have all the aroma I need. I plan to leave the dry hops in for the last five days of secondary before bottling. This is less than I have done sometimes in the past, but is more in line with the current research.
The next new procedure I’m trying out is batch sparging. I normally conduct a fly sparge, meaning I continually add a small amount of water to the mash tun as I slowly run off after the mash. Using this method, you are counting on the water being added to rinse the converted sugar from the grains as you run off.
By contrast, batch sparging calls for you to run off all of your mash water before adding all of your sparge water. Once the sparge water is added, you stir the mash up again and then let it sit for ten to fifteen minutes before running it all off again. With this method, you’re pulling all of the converted sugar off the grains while stirring the mash and putting them into suspension so you can run off very quickly and hopefully not lose any efficiency.
The main reason I’m planning to try this method now is because it is faster. Since I’m boiling two batches, this is going to be a long brew day and I can, in theory save about forty five minutes by batch sparging. There is a risk of losing some efficiency with this method, but my efficiency has already be bad lately. I’ve been doing a lot of work to figure out what the problem is and the next thing I am planning to try is to simply stir the mash more. I think I’m getting conversion, I’m just not collecting as much of the converted sugar as I should be. While batch sparging is in theory less efficient than a perfect fly sparge, my fly sparges are far from perfect and the extra stirring that this method will force me to do should help.
I still have one variable that I’m not quite sure about in my recipes. I usually add a small amount of sugar to my IPAs to dry them out a bit. This isn’t necessary with regular IPAs but I think it is essential in big Imperial IPAs. I’ve gone back and forth on whether I want to do it this time and it’s basically come down to a “wait and see” plan. I’m shooting for an OG of around 1.06. If I hit it, I won’t add any sugar, if I don’t then I’ll correct the problem with the appropriate amount of corn sugar during primary fermentation. Considering my new sparging method, this seems like a logical idea, although I’ll admit that I don’t like going into brew day with this undecided.
Beyond the corn sugar, I spent an absurd amount of time considering my grain bill, for how simple it is. A bit of Munich and a bit of light Crystal along with a whole lot of Pale Malt is what I landed on. I was originally planning on more Munich and no Crystal as I don’t like a lot of character gained from Crystal Malts in my IPA. At least that’s what I thought. Upon looking into the recipes of some of my favorite commercial IPAs, Tröegs’ Perpetual IPA and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale being the two that jump to mind, they all use some Crystal. I decided to cut back on the Munich and throw in a little Crystal. Then I cut the Munich even further and added some more Pale Malt to keep it extra clean.
I will break down what I’m hoping for from each hop and why I’ve chosen them in the posts for their brew days. Tomorrow I’ll be brewing my unconventional Saaz IPA and one with the hot new Galaxy hop. I will post my basic recipe below and fill it in specifically with those hops in their own post.
Single Hop IPA Batch 3 and 4
Style: 14B. American IPA
Brew Date: 5/20/2014
Serve Date: 6/24/2014
Expected OG: 1.060
Expected FG: 1.012
Approximate ABV: 6.4
Fermentables (Single Mash For Two 4 Gallon Batches):
91% 20 lb Pale Malt
4.5% 1 lb Light Munich Malt
4.5% 1 lb Crystal 10L Malt
FWH to 70 IBU (with other additions)
1 oz @ 10 min
1 oz @ 5 min
2 oz @ Flameout
1 oz Steep When Wort Reaches 120º
1 oz Dry Hop
Nottingham Dry Yeast
Mash at 150º for 75 min
Batch Sparge with water at 170º to collect 10 gallons of wort
Split into two boils to collect two 4 gallon batches
Rack after primary fermentation and hold for one week
Dry hop for five days and bottle