Doctor Duvel

I'm like a sommelier, but for beer.

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Location: Upstate New York, United States

Favorite Beers: Orval, Samuel Smith, Duvel, Hennepin, Oude Gueze, Chimay, Dogfish Head, Anchor Steam, and anything made by Trappist monks.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

How not to brew IPA

So here's that IPA line-up. Due to an ordering snafu with More Beer that resulted in me getting a kit and a half free, I wound up with two mini-mash IPA kits. These are British-style IPA's, bittered neutrally with Magnum but with large late additions of East Kent Goldings. The first (my second beer overall) I made as close to the book as possible, the second I got cute and decided to dry hop (with more Kents). My last extract beer was also a kit, this time the Rogue I2PA kit, hopped with assorted West Coast hops, most notably the Amarillo dry hop. Their original gravities are, respectively,1077, 1075, and 1078. The finishing gravities were too high and ranged from perhaps 1019-1023. I'll refer to them as IPA1, IPA2, and IPAR, respectively.


IPA1: Fabulous head, cloudy, russet-tinged gold.

IPA2: Weak head (not typical of this beer though), deeper, redder, prettier color.

IPAR: OK head. Slightly hazy, somewhat browner, but in the same color family as IPA1.


IPA1: Fairly pretty, with flowery Kents, a little yeasty, sourdough quality, spicy.

IPA2: More different than seems possible, considering it was the same kit and the same yeast. Smells maltier and rounder. Considering it was dry-hopped there's not a lot more hop aroma. Smells a little sweet.

IPAR: Totally different hop profile (obviously). Grapefruity, spicy, lively bit of resininess. Anyone who know anything about hops would recognize Cascade and/or Amarillo. Sterlings were another late addition but I'm not sure what they really taste or smell like. All in all, a pretty inviting aromatic profile.


IPA1: Blech. Under-attenuated. It's hardly undrinkable, but it's too sweet and rich for the style, making the malt profile seem flabby and unfocused.

IPA2: Not any better and maybe a trifle worse. Too rich, unbalanced, poorly attenuated. Finish is a little nauseating.

IPAR: Still on the rich side, but better attenuated. Malt profile is hardly interesting--this was, by the way, the one-and-only extract-only beer I ever made. That's right, not even any steeping grains. So it's somewhat one dimensional.

Finish/Final impression:

IPA1: Inviting aroma, but ultimately a little putrid; finish is coarse.

IPA2: Hope this is the worst beer I ever make. It really sucks.

IPAR: Decent finish. Not really my kind of IPA, but a respectable beer that I could serve without cringing. Much.

What to do with them:

IPA1: Cellar and hope it vaguely improves somehow. There isn't much left, fortunately. Drink only when already intoxicated.

IPA2: Cellar and hope it vaguely improves somehow. I think I've got three six-packs still. Damnit. Drink only when already intoxicated.

IPAR: I may have under-rated this beer the first few times I had it. I've been trying to drink it up. Some should stay in the cellar for another couple months to round out. The rest should be drunk a little more chilled, not right out of the cellar like my better beers. It's O.K.

On the plus side, the Pilsner I was worried about started fermenting merrily sometime in the wee hours this morning. It's now chugging gently away in a 50-degree corner of the basement. This made my day.

As far as rectifying the IPA problem, it shouldn't be too hard. These beers were made very early on and it's amazing how much you learn in your first two or three months of brewing. Now I mostly know what I'm doing. They were all victims of my mistaken assumption that I could just pitch a vial of White Labs yeast into a 1070-plus wort. All my beers, barring perhaps the occasional mild or ultra low-gravity beer, will now get starters--from my very nice Porter forward, they all have, thank God. But I didn't know that somehow. Hell's bells.

I do love the IPA style and I think the way to make one I'll truly love is to design a simple, clean, relatively uncomplicated malt base, shoot for a gravity in the1065-1070 range, and hop it liberally with cool American hops. Fuck the English ones, unless I'm making a historical beer--this is our style now. Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Columbus, and so forth should do the trick. Could also experiment with Santiam and Simcoe, the aroma hops for Smuttynose IPA. Probably it should just start with Pale Ale malt, some Munich, a little Crystal, and either Carapils or Wheat. Not rocket science to design. I'm thinking I'll design a simple malt base along those lines and then experiment, over a couple of years, with single varietal IPA's, looking to hone my hop knowledge en route to building some perfect melange of the ones I love most. Thus ends a mildly irritating trip down memory lane. I'm going to go sit and day-dream about my Belgian strong while it works its way through secondary.


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