The Hop-Ness Monster: What makes an IPA?

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Being one of our early beers, this began as a recipe found online, and evolved into so much more.

In the beginning, we set out to find a recipe for IPA that could be created without racking and dry-hopping. Our goal was simply to have a big-bodied, hoppy beer that we didn’t have to wait five weeks to try. Most traditional IPAs have distinct hoppy flavors to them – flavors that we tend to love – which are usually achieved through the aforementioned process. After arguing with Jared about what makes a real IPA, I finally looked it up. It turns out that and IPA simply needs to be full-bodied and have a distinct hoppy profile, which is usually (but not always) achieved by dry-hopping.

HISTORY LESSON BREAK!!!!!

When the British took over India, they did so with soldiers (obviously). Soldiers, it turns out, get pretty thirsty, and want a little taste of home sent down to them. Problem was, during the time it took for ships to get ‘round the Horn and pull into India, and with refrigeration being what it was, many of the giant barrels of beer would go bad. Now, I enjoy a Sour beer every now and again, but entire barrels of the stuff are not necessarily an appealing prospect. Anyway, someone figured out that if they threw a bunch of extra hops into the barrels and let them soak as they were shipped, not only would the beer not go bad, but the final product was the frothy, hoppy goodness that we now refer to as India Pale Ale. Of course, the use of additional ingredients made this new brew an expensive endeavor, therefore breweries lessened production when the demand was removed for shipping entire holds of it from Britain to India. The myth is that returning soldiers and sailors who had grown to love this hoppy concoction went so far in their demands for the stuff as to riot and protest their pubs until production was resumed. I tend to think that the last part is false, but the dedication to good beer is admirable.

So, in homebrewing, that process of letting the hops soak in the beer is referred to a dry-hopping. At the time, all we knew is that dry-hopping took a long time, and we didn’t want to wait that long to try our beer. After some digging, I found the following partial-mash recipe (http://beerrecipes.org/showrecipe.php?recipeid=1286) which we decided to try.

Upon entering Larry’s, we were foiled immediately, as they were out of both UK hops, and Crystal 90. We decided to go dark – really dark – with our rendition. Our ingredients are as follows:

6 lbs. Amber DME

½ lb. Crystal 120

3 oz. Chinook Hops

3 oz. US Goldings Hops

English Ale Yeast

Fresh Honey

Directions:

Clean and sanitize everything. Steep the Crystal 120 in 3 gallons of water at 150 degrees for 35 minutes. Bring to a boil. Dissolve 6 lbs of Amber DME. Return to Boil. Add 3 oz of Chinook at the break. Add 2 oz. of Goldings with 15 minutes remaining. Add final oz. of Goldings with 5 minutes remaining. Chill the wort, and add water in primary fermenter to bring the volume to 5 gallons. Ferment for 2 weeks. Bottle using honey rather than corn sugar.

Our final result was a hoppy (though less-so than most “normal” IPA’s) and dark brew with a smooth, malty feel and a lightly-floral nose. In the end, our impatience was slightly less than vindicated, as the fermentation process took about 15 days, and the bottled product didn’t develop its full flavor for another three weeks after that.

So what can we learn here? Well, we can learn about the history of IPA. And, like soldiers stationed in India, waiting (what I’m sure was) less than patiently for their ale to take the multi-month voyage from England to India, we can learn that waiting for good beer can certainly be worth it.

A note on the name:

We gave this beer it’s name prior to sampling it. Since there were certainly a lot of hops involved in the brewing process, we simply assumed that the final result would still taste like a dry-hopped IPA. We were wrong. The HNM has none of the bitter flavors or aftertastes of traditional IPAs. So, while the name might not be the most appropriate, especially given the hoppy-concoctions that we’ve created since then, it’s still awesome. Booyah.

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