How do you brew a New England IPA?

The new craze in craft beer is the New England IPA. If you haven’t had one yet, you’re in for a treat. It’s usually a hazy, hop aroma bomb with almost no bitterness and tons of hop-forward fruitiness. The word is that the style was started by Heady Topper, from The Alchemist.

Since it’s a relatively new style — if it is a proper style — there’s disagreement over what it really is.

Does it have to be cloudy? Should it be pale, or more amber colored?

Personally I think the cloudiness isn’t as important as the smooth, creamy mouthfeel, and I think these beers should not be too dark. But … I’m not a style Nazi, and besides, it’s your beer, do what you want.

If you’re thinking of brewing one yourself, here’s a reasonable set of guidelines.

  • “First make sure to use high protein grains like oats, wheat, and rye,” says Ryan from Push Brewing.
  • It’s unfiltered, so don’t use any fining agents.
  • There’s not much bitterness. Some brewers don’t use any bittering hops at all.
  • Aroma hops tend to be fruit forward, and you use a whole lot of them. (Think six ounces or more in a five gallon batch.) Some brewers only use hops at flame out, or they dry hop.
  • You should adjust the water for your mash to favor higher chloride levels, which creates a smooth, creamy, softer mouth feel.
  • You should use a lower attenuating yeast, like an east coast ale yeast. Fermentation temperature should be around 70-72 to promote fruity ester production.
  • These are short turn-around beers — not something you expect to age, or brew in July for a Christmas treat.

I get my supplies from Maryland Homebrew, so here are some links that might help.

If you want to give it a try, here are some of the items you might want to consider.

Yeasts

Wyeast 1318 London Ale III

WLP095 Burlington Ale Yeast

Grains

Thomas Fawcett Oat malt

Wheat malt

Rye malt

Water treatment

Calcium Chloride

Hops

Citra hops

Amarillo hops

Mosaic hops

Your equipment list for homebrewing

This is excerpted (with some slight modifications) from Beginner’s Guide to Homebrewing

Assuming you’re going to boil your wort and make a five-gallon batch, here’s what you’ll need to start brewing. It might not all make sense as you read through it, but it will make more sense as you read on in the book.

A BREW KETTLE For beginning brewers, a five-gallon stew pot works very well, although a smaller pot can do. Brewers who hope to move on to more advanced brewing might want to invest in a 10-gallon (or even larger) pot, but that’s getting ahead of things. More on that below.

A PRIMARY FERMENTER. You’ll need a food-grade plastic bucket of about 7 gallon capacity. Most home brew stores sell 6.5 gallon buckets, which work quite well. Home brewers can also ferment their beer in 5-gallon glass carboys (the kind that you used to find upside down at the office water cooler), but there are a few disadvantages to using glass as the primary fermentation vessel — the main one being that if you’re not careful they can shatter and leave beer all over your floor. Also, since you don’t have head space for all the froth created by the fermentation process, you’ll need a blow-off tube to catch that stuff. I’ll explain that shortly.

It is possible to get larger carboys and avoid using a blow-off tube. Check with your home brew supply store.
In any event, the bucket or carboy has to be fitted with an air-tight lid and either a blow-off tube or a “fermentation lock,” which is usually a twisty piece of plastic filled with water that allows carbon dioxide to leave the fermenter without allowing outside air in. This is necessary because the air we breathe contains lots of things — wild yeasts, bacteria and other gunk that you don’t want in your fermenting beer.

A blow-off tube is simply a tube that goes out of the top of the fermenter. The pressure from the CO2 inside the fermenter blows off the foam as it develops on top of your beer. Hop residue and other gunk from your beer often rise to the top, collect in your foam, and then get blown away — which is a good thing, because you don’t want that stuff in your beer. The other end of the blow-off tube goes into a bowl or something to collect all the mess.

A BOTTLING BUCKET. After your beer has finished fermenting you’re going to need to add a little extra sugar to it (for the secondary fermentation that creates the carbonation) and transfer it into bottles. You can bottle straight from your fermentation vessel if you absolutely have to, but it’s much easier if you have a second food-grade plastic bucket with a spigot attached to the bottom.

A SIPHONING TUBE. Once the beer is finished fermenting you’ll need to be able to transfer it from the primary fermenter into the bottling bucket. Air is a friend of beer at the beginning of the fermentation process because the yeast needs the oxygen, but later on you don’t want to expose your beer to air. A siphoning tube is handy for this.

Note: If you’re on a tight budget you can forget the bottling bucket and the siphoning tube and buy a primary fermenter that has a spigot installed near the bottom. I say “near” the bottom because the process of fermentation will leave a pile of crud (called “trub” but pronounced “troob”) at the bottom of your fermenter. Positioning the spigot “near” the bottom allows the beer to run off while leaving most of the trub behind.

A disadvantage of bottling from your fermenter is that you have to add your priming sugar straight to the bottles, and it’s hard to get that exactly right. If you have a bottling bucket you can dissolve the priming sugar in some boiling water, pour that into the bottling bucket, then siphon your beer from the fermenter into your bottling bucket. Presto, it’s all mixed together. But you can’t add the sugar to your fermenter and then stir things up because you’ll rouse the trub, and then the beer in your bottles will have way too much sediment.

The bottom line is just go ahead and get a bottling bucket.

BOTTLES AND CAPS, OR A KEG. Bottles are the cheapest way to store your beer, but they also involve the most work. You need to clean and sanitize them, and then fill and cap each one individually. Bottles are a bit of a nuisance, but they’re not too bad, especially if you do it with a friend and enjoy a beer while you’re at it.

When my kids were young I made bottling a family event and we’d bottle the beer in the laundry room. The kids enjoyed it, and now they brag to their friends that they were bottling beer before they could ride a bike.

Always use brown bottles for your homebrew because sunlight is another enemy of beer, and the brown glass helps keep it out. Don’t use bottles that had twist-off caps, and it’s usually a good idea to stick to the same size and shape of bottle. You’ll also need to get a bottle capper. Check with your local home brew store.

Kegging is much simpler, but it’s expensive and has its own drawbacks. More about that below.

That was a very quick introduction to the absolute basics of home brewing, with a brief review of the equipment. Obviously there’s more to say, but at this point you know enough to read a step-by-step explanation of how to brew your first batch.

Read on in Beginner’s Guide to Homebrewing

How many substyles of IPA are there?

At Homebrewcon in Baltimore I heard an interesting discussion of the differences between west coast, east coast and midwest versions of India Pale Ale. In short, the west coast version is pale (no crystal malt) and is basically a hop delivery device. It’s really all about the hops. The east coast version includes crystal and, while hoppy, also emphasizes maltiness. The midwest version is kinda in the middle of those two.

They also briefly touched on a New England style, that is somewhat cloudy and … almost chewy. If I’m remembering this correctly, Lost Rino’s Face Plant IPA came to mind when they were discussing that style.

While visiting Waredaca brewery in Maryland, I talked with the bartender about this, and between us we came up with 12 substyles of IPA.

  • English
  • American
  • West coast
  • Midwest
  • East coast
  • New England
  • Imperial (or double)
  • Black
  • Indian Brown Ale
  • Session IPA
  • Rye, and
  • Belgian

That’s a big list, but we didn’t list some of the 10 mentioned on this page, which also includes …

  • Fruit
  • Wet hopped
  • Wood-aged
  • Coffee, and
  • Eclectic

Then this page adds …

  • White
  • Brettanomyces/ Wild IPA
  • Red, and
  • Spiced

Where does it end?

I hope it doesn’t end. That’s the fantastic thing about homebrewing. Constant innovation brings new tastes and expands our beer horizons!

Review of Homebrew con — deciding how much technology you want in your brew system

I’m just back from three days of Homebrew con in Baltimore, and it was a heck of a time. The exhibit hall was full of displays from various homebrew vendors, and most of the booths were serving beer. You could say that the beer flowed pretty much non-stop the whole time, and by the evening of the second day a glass of rootbeer was a welcome change. And I don’t usually drink soda.

The talks were very interesting (and yes, they served beer during the talks), and I got to have a brief word with Charlie Papazian.

My main takeaway from the conference was that every homebrewer has to settle on how deeply he’s going to go into the hobby — not only in the old extract vs. all-grain decision, but in how complicated he wants to make his own brewing setup.

Mine is fairly simple. I do all grain, but I don’t use any pumps or filters, and I don’t have my equipment on a stand. I used an immersion chiller, and I basically pour things from here to there. I’m comfortable with it, I make good beer, and I don’t feel any need to make some Ruby Street sort of set up. Maybe I will one day, but for now I like my method.

When I started homebrewing in 1986, the ingredients and the equipment were very primitive. I would go to restaurants to get used food-grade buckets and I’d rob their trash cans for bottles. The yeasts were awful, the selection of grains and extracts was poor, and beers were often disappointing.

Nowadays, if you follow some simple guidelines, it’s hard not to make a good beer.

But the equipment keeps getting better and better, and you can enter the hobby at lots of different points. There are systems like the grainfather that turns making beer into something about as easy as brewing a big pot of coffee. Then there’s Picobrew, which makes it into a kitchen counter thing, and even Vessi, which is a homebrewing appliance that installs in your kitchen like a dishwasher.

These are extraordinarily cool things, but … I like having my hands in it a little more. I want to craft the beer myself, not just pick a recipe and push some buttons. I like the simpler is better attitude.

More than that, I like learning the craft from the bottom up. I want to try growing my own barley and malting it myself. I’ll let you know how that works out.

In any event, homebrewing is a very different thing these days than when I started, but it’s still a lot of fun.

The two-batch mash

I had let myself become perilously low on homebrew, so I had to replenish the stores. I planned a 3-batch day: one extract (a 5-gallon version of my Kambucha sour) and two all-grain beers. To economize on time I tried to do as much as possible at once — working off both the stove and my propane burner. So I mashed while the extract batch was on the stove, and the mash was enough for both of the other beers.

To 16 pounds American 2 row I added 5.3 gallons of strike water at 164F and let it sit for a little over an hour. That yielded 1st runnings of 3.25 Gallons @ 22.4 brix.

The two beers I wanted to make from this mash were my California Common and my American Brown Ale. The Common is a little stronger than the Brown Ale, so I accounted for that by using different portions of the first and second runnings in each batch. Of the 3.25 gallons in the first runnings, 2 gallons went to the Common and 1.25 to the Brown.

As soon as I had the first runnings separated I started soaking my specialty grains: 1 pound of Crystal 80 in the Common and 1/2 pound each of brown and chocolate malt in the Brown Ale.

If you’re wondering how I separated the wort into the two kettles, the runnings went into my bottling bucket first and from there into the two kettles so I could keep track of the volumes. (My kettles aren’t marked for volume.)

After sparging with 5 gallons, the 2nd runnings yielded 4.75 gallons @ 10 brix. At this point I evened up the volume by putting 2.75 gallons in the Brown and 2 in the Common. The third runnings (5 Gallons @ 6 brix) went equally in both batches.

There’s no point in boiling grains, so I removed the specialty grains when the wort got to 170F in each of the kettles. The hop schedules were as follows.

Common: 1 oz. Northern Brewer (60 min), 1 oz. Northern Brewer (30 min.), 1 oz. Cascade (10 min.)

Brown: 1 oz. Willamette (60 min), 1 oz. Willamette (20 min.)

After an hour boil and cooling them down to 75, my initial gravities were 15.8 brix for the Common and 12.8 for the Brown. Both were a little higher than I expected, but that’s okay.