Recently I came across a great article (5 Tips for Better IPAs) from the American Homebrewers Association where they interviewed Vinnie Cilurzo (Owner and Brewer at Russian River Brewing) and he gave 5 recommendations on how fellow brewers can improve their IPA’s. I thought that I would take some of Vinnie’s fantastic advice and expand on it a bit with a few of my own suggestions!
Here are 7 easy ways on how you can improve your Home Brewed IPA!
1) Every Beer Starts with Water!
Never under estimate the importance of beers primary ingredient, water. The water that you are using to make your beer is critical, especially when it comes to all grain brewing. Water plays an important part in everything from the taste and the mouth feel of a beer to the sugar conversion and acidity in a finished beer.
If you are using city water that has been treated with chlorine, always make sure that you are removing the chlorine with a carbon filter or alternative method. It is also a good idea to check your city’s water report to see if you are lacking or have an over abundance of minerals in your water that may be impacting your beer. Vinnie suggests treating your water with gypsum in both your mash and your boil to heighten the hop flavor of your beer. You can also use low level sodium additions to have a similar effect. Before making these additions you should first examine your existing levels to make sure that it will not detract from the quality of your finished beer.
2) Dry Hop Until You Just Can’t Dry Hop Anymore!
Unlike adding hops early in the boil, dry hopping adds little to no bitterness to the finished beer but what it does add is a strong and fresh hop aroma! When dry hopping beer, I always recommend adding the hops after the airlock has stopped bubbling in fermentation. That ways the escaping CO2 will not carry the hop aroma out of the fermentor along with it. Vinnie suggests adding multiple dry hop additions at different times which may deliver additional hop aroma to your finished IPA!
3) Do Not Rush Your Fermentation!
We all want to try out our latest beer as quickly as possible, but there is allot to be said for patience in home brewing! If you have the ability to temperature control your fermentation, set the temp between 65F to 67F. Yeast loves a low stable temperature and produces far less off flavors than at higher temps. It will take longer to ferment at a lower temperature but your beer will come out cleaner tasting so that your robust hop profile can really shine in the finished beer! Also, cold crash your beer once your fermentation has completed. Try to crash at around 36F for 2 weeks if possible. This will help force any residual yeast out of suspension and leave you with a cleaner tasting and clearer beer!
4) Don’t Skimp On the Yeast!
Now a days home brewers have a huge variety of options when it comes to yeast. If you want your beer to be as good as possible, then you are going to have to use the best and most suitable yeast for the style of beer that you are brewing. A great West Coast IPA yeast strain is the White Labs WLP001 Ale Yeast, available here.
Make sure that you create a yeast starter, insuring viability and that you pitch a sufficient quantity of yeast for the strength of beer that you are brewing.
5) Do Not Overload Your Beer With Crystal or Malty Grains!
Vinnie suggests that you add crystal malts sparingly to your grain bill. He remarks that the sweet flavors and aromatics derived from those grains can compete with the flavors and aromas of your hops. An IPA is a showcase for the hops and the other ingredients should complement them not detract from them.
6) Consider Adding Hop Resin Extract to Your Boil!
Pure hop resign extracts can be a great way of boosting the bitterness of your wort with out having to add an extreme amount of hop additions to your boil. Just like with actual hops, in order for the bitterness to be captured by the wort, the hop resign still needs to be boiled in the wort for a sufficient amount of time.
7) Opt For a Dryer Beer!
A dryer beer can really help the hops in your IPA stand out! Vinnie suggests supplementing approximately 5% of your grain bills sugars with dextrose. Dextrose is a very simple sugar that yeast can easily ferment. Another option would be dropping your mash temp down by a degree or two in order to create less complex sugars during the mashing process.
If you are looking to try your hand at one of Russian River’s IPAs, you can find a couple of excellent kits available here:
Russian River Blind Pig IPA Kit
Russian River Pliny the Elder Home Brewing Recipe Kit
Good luck and happy brewing!