Single Hop IPA #2: Simcoe

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If you haven’t already read yesterday’s entry about the Cascade batch, I would recommend doing that before continuing on to this post. I discussed how I used my Bitter Old Man recipe for these beers and then gave some history on Cascade hops. Today, I’ll fill in more about why this is not a good recipe for an IPA and how the beer turned out.

As a new homebrewer and really, relative newcomer to craft beer, I totally misunderstood how hops should be used in an IPA. My fundamental issue was confusing flavor and taste and thinking that they were interchangeable. Taste is much more broad. Sweet, salty, sour and bitter are tastes. Flavors incorporate those tastes along with a whole lot of other variables to make an endlessly diverse range of sensations. Aroma, mouthfeel, texture… these are all important factors in beers, particularly IPA, and boiling hops for extended periods will strip them down to just plain, flat bitterness.

That bitterness is great for balancing the sweet malt flavors in beer, but in an IPA, the hops have a lot more work to do. Aroma is probably their most important contribution. It’s also where different varieties of hops show their unique character. A single hop beer without much hop aroma is kind of missing the point.

The best way to get aroma from hops into beer is to steep them well below boiling temperatures. Adding them at flameout and keeping them in the wort while it chills is a good start, but more contact time at lower temperatures will get you even more and fresher aroma. Commercial brewers have tools like a hopback, which can be filled with whole flower hops and then used on double duty as a filter to remove trub from wort being passed through the hops on their way to the fermenter while also imparting the hops’ aroma on the soon to be beer.

There are expensive versions of this for the homebrewer with too much money on his hands, but really all you need to do is get hops in the wort as it chills and dry hop after primary fermentation. Active fermentation will drive off some of the hop aroma so it is important to add more hops afterwards if you want the hops to really punch you in the face.

Dry hopping rates between different homebrewers vary greatly. Personally, I stay on what is probably considered the lower end. For standard IPAs, I usually only use an ounce. For double IPAs I usually jump to three ounces. I honestly think I need to bump that standard up a bit in the future. I have seen recipes that call for up to eight or ten ounces of hops and I think that is probably excessive, I’m also the guy writing about my third attempt at homebrewed IPA that was still incredibly under-hopped.

It is all about personal preference and the real key is to experiment and see what you like. I will admit that I don’t like dry hopping. I love the result, I just find the process to be a pain. I am very nervous to add anything to my beer after fermentation. I want to get it packaged and start drinking it. Dry hopping with whole hops results in a lot of volume loss. Using pellets means you’re going to have to wait a while to get a clear beer.

Ultimately, though, it is definitely worth it.

These first two single hop IPAs were tasty little brothers to Bitter Old Man. They were in no way showcases for the two wonderful hops that they were made with and instead showed complex, bisquity malt character. They tasted great but they weren’t IPAs. My recipe is below, but don’t use it if you’re trying to make an IPA.

BeerLabelSingleHopIPA

Single Hop IPA #2: Simcoe
Style: 14B. American IPA
Brew Date: June, 2012
Serve Date: July, 2012
ABV: 7%
IBUs: 60 IBUs

Fermentables:
.25 lb Biscuit Malt
.25 lb Victory Malt
.25 lb Crystal 10L
1 lb Light DME
3.5 lb Light LME

Hops:
.75 oz Simcoe @ 60 min
.25 oz Simcoe @ 2 min (WAY TOO LOW)

Yeast:
Nottingham Dry Ale Yeast

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