Does this headline make me look ironic? In search of a good session IPA

I have become interested, nay, some would say obsessed, in that oxymoron of beers, the “session” IPA(1).

Our ribbon-winning House Pale Ale.

I like drinking a lower alcohol beer that isn’t like sex in a canoe, you know, “f**king close to water.” And you know the beers. The ones that taste slightly…umm…yellow. Besides being low in alcohol they are low in flavor and aroma. They are just a small step up from sparkling water, only with less taste.

The trend in microbreweries had been to brew bigger. Why make an IPA, when you can make a Double IPA? According to the American Homebrewers Association, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder is the best beer in America. I have had Pliny at Russian River Brewing. It tastes terrific but at 8.0% ABV, one pint is all I can drink. Driving is out of the question. Walking to Peet’s Coffee across the street and staring at my hands is all I can manage after a pint of Pliny.

So if you want to drink more than a thimble’s worth of tasty brew and be able to operate machinery, such as a lawnmower, you need something with less alcohol. To meet that need, some breweries have started making hoppy beers with lower alcohol. Examples include Squatters’ Full Suspension Pale Ale (4.0% ABV), Stone’s Go To IPA (4.5% ABV), and New Belgium’s Slow Ride Session IPA (4.5% ABV).

The best session IPA (perhaps the best session beer) around, in my opinion, is Ballast Point’s Even Keel. It packs a whole lot of flavor into a beer with 3.8% ABV (1). Ballast Point says Even Keel is “A full-flavored beer with a silky malt backbone and a bright hop profile of herbs and citrus, it packs all the taste of an IPA in a sessionable alcohol content.” It is just a damn good beer. RateBeer gives it a 92. Beer Advocate gives it an 86. Those are  respectable scores for a beer with less alcohol than Bud Light.

Once I knew that a great session IPA could be made, I had to try my hand at making one.

Session IPAs are not regular IPAs with water added. The goal is to make a beer with all the taste, mouthfeel, and aroma as a big beer but with less alcohol.

Change the base. To keep that flavor and mouthfeel, cut down on the base malt but not the specialty grains, and consider using more flavorful malt such as Maris Otter or Vienna instead of pale malt. The goal is to reduce the fermentable sugars the malted grain produces during the mash process.

Cut back on the hops. Every beer has a BU:GU ratio, that is, bitterness units to gravity units. If you lower the gravity, you will need to lower the bitterness to keep the same perception of bitterness. As a professor of mine used to say, “It’s all relative.” For example, if your favorite IPA has a BU:GU ratio of one and it’s OG (original gravity) is 1.070 with 80 IBUs and you decide to lower your OG to 1.040 then your new IBU target should be 45 IBUs (40/70 x 80). The 45 IBUs will keep the same bitterness to maltiness as the bigger beer. Also consider hop bursting and and hop stands to give the flavor and aroma punch without the added bitterness that comes from boiling.

Consider poorer attenuating yeast (that is one that finishes at a higher specific gravity). Also, consider under-pitching the beer. You want to leave sweetness and maltiness in the background so the beer doesn’t taste watery. Instead of California Ale yeast try Ringwood or an English Ale yeast. You want the fruity ester compounds.

Smooth Sailing Session IPA

Recipe

Batch Size: 5.50 gal
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
Boil Time: 60 min
End of Boil Vol: 6 gal
Final Bottling Vol: 5.00 gal
Est Original Gravity: 1.044
Est Final Gravity: 1.014
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.0 %
Bitterness: 36.4 IBUs
Est Color: 6.9 SRM
Efficiency: 70%

Grain Bill

2.174 kg    Vienna Malt (Great Western) (3.5 SRM)      50.6 %
1.087 kg    Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)     25.3 %
0.353 kg    Caramel/Crystal Malt – 20L (20.0 SRM)    8.2 %
0.353 kg    Caravienne Malt (22.0 SRM)      8.2 %
0.163 kg    White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)      3.8 %
0.163 kg    White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)       3.8 %

Hop Schedule

9.00 g    Galaxy [14.80 %] – First Wort 60.0 min
7.00 g    Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 20.0 min
7.00 g    Chinook [13.00 %] – Boil 20.0 min
7.07 g    Chinook [13.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min
7.00 g    Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 5.0 min
16.00 g   Amarillo [9.20 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 min
8.00 g    Chinook [13.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 min
16.00 g  Simcoe [13.00 %] – Dry Hop
16.00 g Cascade [5.50 %] – Dry Hop
32.00 g Grapefruit peel – Dry Hop

Yeast

2.0 pkg    American West Coast Ale Dry Yeast (Danstar #BRY-97)

Mash Steps

Name    Description    Step Temperature    Step Time
Mash In    Add 11.20 l of water at 168.2 F    156.0 F    15 min
Mash Out    Add 4.48 l of water at 202.4 F    168.0 F    10 min

Boil for 60 minutes.

I will let you know how it turned out in a few weeks. In the meantime, have you brewed a session beer? How did it turn out?

For more information see: “Five Tips for Session Beer Brewers” and “Session Beers: Techniques

Footnotes

  1. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, an American IPA is:
    “A decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale, showcasing modern American or New World hop varieties. The balance is hop-forward, with a clean fermentation profile, dryish finish, and clean, supporting malt allowing a creative range of hop character to shine through.” pg 37, 2015 BJCP Guidelines (PDF)
  2. For comparison, Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light each have 4.2% ABV.

This Week in BrewZasters: Brewing the House Pale

Here's Big Red at 1 week old

I’m brewing the house pale ale today. The minor changes made to the 10 gallon recipe below are 20g of gypsum in the mash and 1oz of Sinamar coloring. The Sinamar addition should bring the color to near a 6 SRM.

Batch Size: 10.00 gal Style: American Pale Ale
Boil Size: 13 gal Style Guide: BJCP 2008
Color: 6 SRM Equipment: – My Keggle (15 gal capacity)
Bitterness: 41.4 IBUs Boil Time: 75 min
Est OG: 1.052 (12.8° P) Mash Profile: Single Infusion, 154F (Medium-Full Body)
Est FG: 1.014 SG (3.5° P) Fermentation: ~66F
ABV: 5.0% Taste Rating: 5 stars
17.19 gal The brewer’s water Water 1
18 lbs 5.6 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (1.8 SRM) Grain 2
1 lbs 4.0 oz Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 3
13.0 oz White Wheat Malt (3.1 SRM) Grain 4
1.1 oz Galaxy [14.8%] – First Wort Hops 5
1.0 oz Cascade [5.5%] – Boil 10 min Hops 6
1.0 oz Centennial [10.0%] – Boil 10 min Hops 7
1.0 oz Cascade [5.5%] – Boil 0 min Hops 8
1.0 oz Centennial [10.0%] – Boil 0 min Hops 9
1.0 oz Sinamar color 10
4 pkgs Fermentis Safale 05 Yeast 11
2.0 oz Galaxy [14.8%] – Dry Hop 4 days Hops 12
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This Week in BrewZasters: American, erm, India Pale Ale (Take 2)

Cover of "Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winn...

I know I used this picture last time. But, really, you need this book. (Cover via Amazon)

Yesterday, we here at Flog This Dead brewing, tried our hand again at an American pale ale (definition here). And, again, we made a 10 gallon batch of beer.

The recipe was the same as before and came from the book, “Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew” by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer. (Really, if you don’t have this book in your library, you should.)

American Pale Ale
Anticipated alcohol by volume: 5.82%
Anticipated Original gravity: 1.056
Anticipated Final gravity: 1.012
Anticipated IBUs: 39
Anticipated Color: 4.5 SRM
Anticipated Efficiency: 65% (Actual Efficiency 76%!)

Grain Bill (for 10 gallons)
23.0 lbs of 2-Row Malt
1.6 lbs of Vienna Malt (substituted for Munich)
1.0 White Wheat Malt

Mashed for 60 minutes into 10 gallons at 154F (recipe calls for 152F)

Fly-Sparged at 168F

Boil time was 90 minutes

Hop Schedule
1.25 oz Horizon Galaxy (14% alpha acids) 60 minutes from end of boil
1 oz Cascade (10% alpha acids) 10 minutes from end of boil
1 oz Centennial (5.5% alpha acids) 10 minutes from end of boil
1 oz Cascade (5.5% alpha acids) 0 minutes from end of boil
1 oz Centennial (10% alpha acids) 0 minutes from end of boil
And, since the OG landed higher than a pale, it was dry-hopped:
1 oz Citra (12.0% alpha acids) dry-hopped
1 oz Cascade (5.5% alpha acids) dry-hopped
1 oz Galaxy (14.0% alpha acids) dry-hopped

The wort was divided into three carboys (4 gal, 3 gal, and 3 gal).

Two carboys were pitched with Fermentis’s Safale 05 yeast (I toyed with pitching one with Safale 04 but decided not to), and one carboy had Wyeast 3787 Trappist Ale yeast pitched into it. My son and my friend Paul are excited about the Belgian brew.

Actual alcohol by volume: 8.1%
Actual Original gravity: 1.071
Actual Final gravity: 1.010
Calculated IBUs: 39
Calculated Color: 4.5 SRM
Actual Efficiency: 76%

For the second time in a row, our American pale ale jumped into the India pale ale category (for two of the carboys–the Trappist will be Belgian-y), at least as far as alcoholic content is concerned.

This Week in BrewZasters: American Pale Ale

Cover of "Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winn...

Cover via Amazon

Yesterday at flog this dead brewing we made an American pale ale (definition here). And, for the first time ever in our brewing history, we made a 10 gallon batch of beer. The recipe came from the book, “Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew” by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer. If you don’t have this book in your library, you should. The recipes are designed for extract brewers, and also have the recipe for all grain brewers.

American Pale Ale
Anticipated alcohol by volume: 5.82%
Anticipated Original gravity: 1.056
Anticipated Final gravity: 1.012
Anticipated IBUs: 39
Anticipated Color: 4.5 SRM
Anticipated Efficiency: 65%

Recipe (keep in mind this is for a 10 gallon batch of American pale ale):

We needed to slightly modify the grain bill for Jamil’s American pale ale by replacing the Munich malt with 1.75 pounds of Vienna malt. The rest was 23 pounds of 2 row barley malt and 1.25 pounds of white wheat malt.

The hop schedule for this one was 1.25 ounces of Galaxy hops at 60 min. (we had no Horizon hops in stock), 1 ounce of Cascade hops at 10 min., 1 ounce of Centennial hops at 10 min., 1 ounce of Cascade hops at 0 min., and 1 ounce of Centennial hops at 0 min. in addition, we will dry hop with 2 ounces of Falconer’s Flight hops.

4 packages of Fermentis’s Safale 05 yeast

In addition to this being flog this dead brewing’s 1st 10 gallon batch, it was also the 1st time we have ever fly sparged (our 15 gallon keggles could not handle that much grain and water at the same time). Perhaps it was the fly sparging for our better than 65% efficiency, but our efficiency was 73%. As a result, what should have been an original gravity of 1.056 turned onto be 1.068. Our American pale ale is in the India pale ale category at least as far as alcoholic content.

The beer is now in Better Bottle fermenters (and covered with wet T-shirts to keep the beer as cool as possible under trying conditions) and merrily percolating away. The initial taste of the raw wort is of a sweet pleasantly hopped ale. We should know in a week to 10 days if this batch will be a success.

This week on BrewZasters: Session IPA

I got a call from my friend Ron, the owner and head brewer, at Kelsey Creek Brewing Company the week before last. He had some American ale yeast, would I like it? Hell yes, I would like it. Getting “some yeast” from Ron is the equivalent of maybe 10 starter batches; it’s probably a pint (~0.5L) of active yeast.

I recently found a recipe for a “small” IPA (India Pale Ale) that I wanted to try. The recipe falls pretty well into the hoppy pale ale category. The idea is to give the “mouthfeel” and hoppiness of an IPA without the alcohol kick. Or, what I call a session IPA. Here’s the recipe:

(Anticipated) Original gravity = 1.045

(Anticipated) Finished gravity = 1.012

(Anticipated) SRM (Color) = 18

(Anticipated) Alcohol By Volume = 4.3%

Grain Bill (Mash at 152F/67C for 60 minutes)

2.9 lb (1.3 kg) 2-row pale malt (2 SRM)

2.5 lb (1.13 kg) Munich malt (9 SRM)

2.0 lb (0.9 kg) Vienna malt (3.5 SRM)

Hop Schedule

0.78 Oz (22g) Simcoe hops (12% Alpha acids) at 90 minutes

1.0 (28g) U.S. Golding hops at flameout

2.0 Oz (56g) Amarillo hops “dry hopped” in secondary

Yeast

Wyeast 1968 (London ESB) yeast

The author appears to be going for an English/American fusion IPA taste by calling for a London Extra Special Bitters yeast and the aroma/dry hop additions of Golding and Amarillo hops. These aroma/dry hop additions should give the beer a floral and citrus aroma but the London ESB yeast should dampen some of the taste in ways a cleaner American ale yeast wouldn’t. The use of Munich and Vienna malts should give a fullness (I’m no expert here, I’m checking BeerSmith and BeerAlchemy for descriptions) that wouldn’t be there with straight 2-Row barley because they will yield less fermentable sugars than straight 2-Row barley would. (Experts, please leave a comment to let me know if I’m totally off base)

I wanted to make this. I really like the session beer idea where you get a lot of taste but don’t need to take a nap after two beers.

Of course, I had only two ingredients of the recipe: 2-row malted barley and Munich malt.

I needed to get creative. I had ten to twenty batch-worths of yeast that wouldn’t last indefinitely. So as somebody (Hunter S. Thompson?) once said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

My version of Laurel IPA. Slightly cloudy with a SRM color around 6.

This is a picture of my Laurel IPA, but the Session IPA looks similar.. Slightly cloudy with a SRM color around 6.

Here’s the recipe I came up with:

Estimated Original Gravity: 1.045

Estimated Final Gravity: 1.010

Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.5 %

Estimated Bitterness: 39.0 IBUs

Estimated Color: 6.1 SRM

5 gallon batch

Grain Bill (Mash at 152F/67C for 60 minutes)

5 lbs 12.7 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)

1 lbs 12.1 oz Munich Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 2 20.5 %

12.8 oz Corn, Flaked (1.3 SRM) Grain 3 9.3 %

3.8 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 4 2.8 %

Hop addition schedule

19.84 g Galaxy [14.00 % AAU] – First Wort Hop

1 Oz (28 g) Centennial [10.00 % AAU] – Boil 0.0 min

1 Oz (28 g) Falconer’s Flight [10.50 % AAU] – Dry Hop

Yeast

3 pkg Wyeast Labs #1272 American Ale II (a bit fruitier than my go to yeast Safale 05)

I brewed it on July 8 and hit the estimated numbers right on. The wort cooled and I added the yeast. Visible fermentation happened in 30-40 minutes. It started so quickly I worried that it had an infection. I covered the Better Bottle carboy with a wet t-shirt to keep it cool and closer to the optimum fermentation temperature. The coolest part of my house, the basement, was hovering around 80F during the day—too warm for something that is not supposed to be a Belgian-style beer.

The specific gravity after two days in the fermenter was 1.010. It was transferred to another carboy (i.e. the secondary) and left for several more days.

My beer wench (i.e. my wife) and I bottled the beer today using four ounces of corn sugar mixed with the beer to carbonate (bottle conditioning).

I’m pleased with how it turned out. I give the beer 4 out of 5 stars. It tastes delightful with a citrusy hoppiness that dances on your tongue. It has a pleasant aftertaste. The mouthfeel is on the light/watery side of the scale. I would like to have a bit more fullness and maybe a little biscuit. I’ll add Victory and Vienna malts to the next batch in lieu of the corn and Crystal 60.

Brew Day Notes: Laurel IPA

Today we brewed the ‘House’ India Pale Ale. The wort’s color looks much more like the picture on the right. It looked like an SRM 10 or 11 rather than the 6 that was forecast.

Julian Shrago’s Laurel IPA is the base recipe for our ‘House’ IPA. Of course we here at Flog This Dead Brewing tweaked the original recipe (which is at the bottom of this post). We wouldn’t be homebrewers if we didn’t change something about the recipe, would we? For one thing, Julian “Burtonizes” the water, and that will make the beer seem bitterer than the already mindbogglingly high 96 IBUs. To my taste, the Burtonizing the water for Beachwood BBQ Brewery’s offering gave it a tinge of diesel. And, diesel is a taste I don’t lust after.

Brewday Notes

  • My mash temperature was 8-10F too hot (temp did not drop after adding grain). The rule of thumb for heating water for mashing the milled grain is to heat it 10-12F above the desired mash temperature (e.g. 161-163F for a desired mash temp of 151F). I expected the temperature to when I added the nearly 15 pounds of grain to the heated water. It didn’t. Do you have a similar experience? Is this because of the keggle’s mass holding the heat and the weldless thermometer?
  • The pre-boil gravity calculated by BeerAlchemy is too low (perhaps by 7 points), which means my assumed evaporation is too high.
  • Total time for brew day: 7 hours. That includes set-up and clean-up.
  • Mash at 151F (needed to cool down wort to 151)
  • Measured pre-boil gravity: 1.053
  • Measured Original Gravity: 1.065
  • Target Final Gravity: 1.015
  • Target IBUs: 95
  • Expected ABV: 6.5%
  • Expected Color: 5.8 SRM (looks more in the 10-11 SRM neighborhood)

Today’s House IPA recipe

– 5 gallon batch at 70% efficiency

Grain Bill
13 lbs 15 oz Pale Malt (94.7%)
7.20 oz Carapils (Dextrin) Malt (3.1%)
5.40 oz Crystal 40L Malt (2.3%)

Hops
0.77 oz German Hallertauer Magnum – first wort hop (FWH)
1.85 oz Cascade – 60 minutes from end
0.75 oz Centennial – 30 Min From End
0.30 oz Simcoe – 10 Min From End
0.30 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) – 10 Min From End
0.20 oz Cascade – flame off
0.45 Centennial – flame off
12.12 oz Cascade – Dry-Hopped
1.30 oz Summit – Dry-Hopped
1.30 oz Centennial – Dry-Hopped

Yeast
White labs WLP001- California Ale

Mash at 151F
Target pre-boil gravity: 1.045
Target Original Gravity: 1.064
Target Final Gravity: 1.015
Expected IBUs: 95
Expected ABV: 6.7%
Expected Color: 5.8 SRM

For Extract Brewing

For an extract, try 6.9 lbs of dry light malt extract and steeping 0.4 lbs carapils and 0.3 lbs of caramel 40 at 160F for 30 minutes or so.

Mike “Tasty” McDole’s  Laurel IPA recipe  (12.5 gallon batch)

Last November while on the Brewing Network, Rodger Davis and Julian Shrago announced a Pro/Am collaboration on Julian’s Laurel India Pale Ale. Rodger (then at Triple Rock) and Julian (at Beachwood Brewing ) invited homebrewers to brew the same recipe that they would be brewing at their respective breweries.Then in December came the tasting.  The two brewers made radically different beers. Julian loves first wort hopping and Burtonizing the water. Then Triple Rock brewer, Rodger Davis does not believe in first wort hopping or Burtonizing. There were other differences. The brand of grains was different and the water was different (Berkeley vs. Long Beach).

Julian Shrago’s Laurel IPA recipe:

THE LAUREL IPA
– 5 gallon batch at 75% efficiency –

* 11.5 lbs. American 2-row malt
* 0.4 lbs. Carapils malt
* 0.3 lbs. Crystal 40 malt

Mash @ 151 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.

90 minute boil

* 0.8 oz. Amarillo pellets (9.6% AA) for first wort hop (FWH)
* 0.55 oz. Summit pellets (18% AA) for 60 minutes
* 0.75 oz. Centennial pellets (9.2% AA) for 30 minutes
* 0.3 oz. each Simcoe (12.2) and Columbus pellets (14.0) for 10 minutes
* 0.5 oz. Amarillo pellets (9.6% AA) at flameout/whirlpool
* Dry hops: 1.3oz each Amarillo, Centennial, and Summit pellets for two weeks

Ferment with White Labs California Ale Yeast WLP001 or Wyeast 1056

OG/FG: 1.064/1.010
SRM: 5.2
IBUs: 108

Thinking the next batch ought to be a Laurel IPA

Laurel India Pale Ale moments before being devoured by a beer-thirsty horde

Last November while on the Brewing Network, Rodger Davis and Julian Shrago announced a Pro/Am collaboration on Julian’s Laurel India Pale Ale. Rodger (then at Triple Rock) and Julian (at Beachwood BBQ Brewery) invited homebrewers to brew the same recipe that they would be brewing at their respective breweries.

I brewed it and was able to compare it to the Triple Rock and Beachwood versions (Beachwood “Burtonized” their water and that changed the taste completely).  The Triple Rock and Beachwood versions were radically different. To my taste, the Burtonizing of the water for Beachwood’s gave it a tinge of diesel.

Without Burtonizing, Laurel is now my go-to IPA and we here at Flog This Dead Brewery are now running dangerously low.

Here’s my recipe (65% efficiency):

Grain Bill
14 lbs 2-Row Malt (94.3%)
7.75 oz Carapils (Dextrin) Malt (3.3%)
5.75 oz Crystal 40L Malt (2.4%)

Hops
0.8 oz Amarillo – First wort hopped
0.55 oz Summit – 60 minutes from end
0.75 oz Centennial – 30 Min From End
0.3 oz Simcoe – 10 Min From End
0.3 oz Columbus(Tomahawk) – 10 Min From End
0.5 oz Amarillo – At turn off
1.30 oz Cascade – Dry-Hopped
1.30 oz Summit – Dry-Hopped
1.30 oz Amarillo – Dry-Hopped

Yeast
White labs WLP001- California Ale

Mash at 151F with mash out
Target pre-boil gravity: 1.045
Target Original Gravity: 1.064
Target Final Gravity: 1.015
Expected IBUs: 95
Expected ABV: 6.7%
Expected Color: 5.8 SRM

For an extract, try 6.9 lbs of dry light malt extract and steeping 0.4 lbs carapils and 0.3 lbs of caramel 40 at 160F or so.

Here is Julian Shrago’s recipe:

THE LAUREL IPA
– 5 gallon batch at 75% efficiency –

* 11.5 lbs. American 2-row malt
* 0.4 lbs. Carapils malt
* 0.3 lbs. Crystal 40 malt

Mash @ 151 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.

90 minute boil

* 0.8 oz. Amarillo pellets (9.6% AA) for first wort hop (FWH)
* 0.55 oz. Summit pellets (18% AA) for 60 minutes
* 0.75 oz. Centennial pellets (9.2% AA) for 30 minutes
* 0.3 oz. each Simcoe (12.2) and Columbus pellets (14.0) for 10 minutes
* 0.5 oz. Amarillo pellets (9.6% AA) at flameout/whirlpool
* Dry hops: 1.3oz each Amarillo, Centennial, and Summit pellets for two weeks

Ferment with White Labs California Ale Yeast WLP001 or Wyeast 1056

OG/FG: 1.064/1.010
SRM: 5.2
IBUs: 108