I don’t think I can start this post without acknowledging the fact that I haven’t posted in a long time. I don’t want to get into making excuses or promising a change because I am probably not going to get back onto any kind of regular schedule anytime soon, but I do apologize for the lack of posts lately. There are a whole lot of half written posts on my laptop and I want to finish them but it became daunting so I think the best thing right now is just move on to new things that are more easily attainable. Which brings us to the topic at hand…
Today is IPA Day. I don’t know the origin of this supposed holiday and as far as I can tell from some very brief research, there is, at least locally, very little going on to celebrate it. If not for Dogfish Head’s Instagram account, I would have forgotten about it all together. Is this a sign of the end of the IPA’s long reign as the king of the craft beer world? I mean, I was at Bube’s Brewery for trivia the last two Tuesdays and was shocked to see that there were absolutely no IPA’s on their fifteen or so taps. Clearly the IPA is dead, right?
Obviously not. Which is good, because we all know that IPA’s are great. They aren’t the only the game in town as they seemed to be for a while, though. This is the Summer of Gose.
Forget that, though. This is supposed to be a homebrew blog (though I do have a gose in a carboy right now) and this is a post about IPAs (though I haven’t brewed an IPA since last summer). It is not for lack of thinking and planning that I haven’t brewed any IPA. I’ve been thinking about my next IPA for months. There are a lot of factors to consider.
For a while, the main variable for a new IPA was, obviously, which hops you would pick. Then came the trend of adding more hops to other existing styles and calling them IPA. That seems to have calmed down and the current trend, as far as I can tell, is to experiment closer to traditional IPA territory with additional ingredients to differentiate from the crowded IPA field.
In a surprising twist, the nexus of this experimentation seems to be the White IPA. Black IPA was, to my knowledge the first major off shoot from more traditional IPA recipes. They seem to be fading a bit and I think it is for good reason. White IPA makes a lot more sense, not just from a grammatical stance (white pale ale is more logical than black pale ale) but from an ingredient standpoint as well.
Belgian IPA is another big off shoot and traditionally it seems to lean more towards Abbey yeast, but there is obviously some wiggle room in Belgian beer and I think most Belgian IPAs could pretty easily be moved over to the White IPA category or vice versa. Most Belgian yeasts add some level of fruit character to the beer and the wide range of fruit flavors and aromas brought on from new hop varieties mean that mixing these elements together is an obvious point for experimentation.
Aside from the yeast, the use of wheat is the next most obvious change between “traditional” American IPA and White IPA. As the trend to eliminate malt flavor and make more room for hops continues, though, the move to include some wheat seems pretty obvious. Substituting wheat for a large portion of the pale malt in an IPA adds some complexity and graininess without any sweetness or really much flavor. Just a layer of, to most drinkers, inexplicable uniqueness. The option to use roasted, crystal and other wheat malts for specialty grains also adds to a brewers bag of tricks.
I recently brewed what I thought of as a “hoppy American wheat ale.” What I thought when I popped the first bottle, though was that I basically made a wheat IPA. (Look for a post about Whoasaic at some indeterminate point in the future.)
The next element of a White IPA that isn’t part of a regular IPA is the spicing. Most spices don’t seem likely to work well in IPA, but the traditional combo of coriander and orange peel used in Witbier are fruity and do work with hops. They may be out of place in super bitter interpretations, but as far as actual flavor and aroma, they fit right in. Extreme bitterness is a trademark of West Coast IPAs. Here on the East Coast, lead by the aforementioned Dogfish Head and their Continuous Hopping technique, we go for more balance.
I’ve been enjoying new head brewer, Brad Moyer’s Speakeasy Pale Ale Version 2.0 at Bube’s Brewery on all those trivia nights. When I got to meet him at one of his regular Sunday afternoon brew sessions, I asked him if there were any special ingredients in the beer because there was some x factor that I couldn’t place. He lit up and immediately identified the “extra juiciness” being the result of steeping orange peels in the whirlpool.
The last ingredient I want to touch on is oats. Obviously an important element in the silky mouthfeel of Witbier, they also work well in IPA. The only conceivable problem is that they will ruin a beer’s clarity. Sparkling, clear IPA has become the norm in America but new breweries like Tired Hands and their phenomenal HopHands have bucked that trend adding oats to a lot of their beers, adding to the rustic, handmade feel and smooth, luscious mouthfeel.
As far as I can tell, this trend is spreading among homebrewers but hasn’t made the leap to a whole lot of commercial breweries… yet. If the past is any indication, it is only a matter of time. If you want to stay ahead of those commercial brewers, add some oats to your grist. I really think that they will become hallmark of the new East Coast IPA as we continue to differentiate regional IPA specialties.
Taking all of this into consideration, the IPA that I’m hoping to brew in the coming months will use my go to Belgian-y yeast, White Labs WLP566 – Saison II. This stuff gets beer super dry, super quick and gives a nice fruity flavor with just a hint of peppery spice. The dryness gives the hops room to shine above the malt and fermentation character gives a new dimension without getting in the way.
I will be skipping the wheat, as I’ve already been doing a lot of brewing with wheat lately (again, I’ll cover that stuff… eventually), but will definitely be using a whole lot of oats. I’ve used oats in their more traditional place in stouts, but never in lighter colored beers other than Wits and even then, not the high percentage of the grist that can be found in beers like HopHands.
Along with all the hops in a nice, long whirlpool addition, I’ll add some orange peel to give that extra juiciness. I’ll let that all sit for a long rest before chilling. This all sounds like a good plan. I think this is going to be a great IPA, it just seems like I’m forgetting something.
Oh yeah. Hops.
I guess I still have some more planning to do.