India pale ale has always been and will always be one of the most popular craft beer within the United States.
How to make IPA? With its diverse range of hops and lots of inspiration from different brewers within the country no wonder majority of home brewers continue to flock for the legendary American IPA.
Due to IPA’s popularity if you ever enter into a competition as a home brewer and find yourself in the IPA category you will require to do more so as to set yourself apart or even maybe win yourself an award along the way.
Understanding the Style Guide
Making a great IPA beer is simple and similar to brewing a drink that you enjoy. However making an award winning beer is means creating a beer that the judge will fall in love with and also meets the style parameters Tasting is of course very subjective however, trained judges make sure the whole process is as objective and repeatable as possible.
A large percentage of homebrew competitions will always adhere to the beer style guide of 2018 that was published by the (BJCP) Beer Judge Certification Program. So you should always double check the competition guidelines before entering or choosing to participate.
Choose Your Ingredients with Care
You should always choose your hops with care as IPA is all about hops, plus it’s also good to note that timing and quantities can either make or break your beer.
When it comes to bitterness always choose a clean variety such as Nugget, Magnum, or Galena which will deliver the desired alpha acids. Syringes of hops extracts always offer a very intense dose of bittering even without introducing any vegetal matter in to the kettle.
These highly concentrated alpha acids are like delivery vehicles that are responsible for big double IPAs since bittering with actual hops would require a huge amount of hops materials
When it comes to flavor hops, dry hops, and aroma hops the sky is the limit, however getting the perfect blend will require more experimentation and knowledge in this field. Single malt and single hop (SMaSH) beers are one way through which you can discover and identify various characteristics that different hops have by blending several SMaSH beers into one glass where you can have a preview of how they might play when combined in your IPA.
Hop bursting is a practice of adding a large amount of hops into the last fifteen minutes of a boil. This has become a really productive way to introduce hops of different aroma and flavors without risking harsh bitterness. You can also choose high alpha acid hops to add into your boil and skip the bittering charge. Some of the best candidates for hop bursting include Calypso, Apollo, Citra, El Dorado, Bravo, Mosaic, and Simcoe. As you design your hops regimen you should aim for low bitterness. For several decades brewers have made IPAs more and bitterer but now the trend has started to reverse and bitter IPAs no longer stand out.
Once you over think the malt for sure your IPA will not score as well. By any means you should include crystal malt which is light and with a lighter hand. For example you could try out some flavorful malt base or include a smaller portion of Munich without sacrificing the crispness.
One hallmark of any type of IPA is its drinkability. High-octane IPAs that finish with a sticky sweetness will distract the drinkers or any judge for their intense hops character. Any standard strength IPAs or double IPAs will benefit if you choose to substitute a simple sugar such as dextrose which is common in some of the highly rated commercial double IPAs that achieved the desired level of alcohol without and excess malt.
The Chico strain is a classic yeast that is mainly used in the American IPA, which is well known for its clean, seen but not heard character. You can never go wrong with White Labs WLP001, Wyeast 1056, or Safale US-05.
With that in mind it’s also good to note that beer judges are people too and objectivity is always their goal, however the reality is always easy to one’s citrusy. What’s gives you a leg up is offering the judges a unique experience that stands out. And with that you should consider creating a characterful American-ale yeast similar to the popular New England strain. Canon is one of the most popular New England strain that is available as GY054 Vermont IPA from GigaYeast, as Vermont Ale from The Yeast Bay, or as WLP095 Burlington Ale from White Labs.
Water is also a key ingredients that can put your IPA ahead of that of your competitors. If you are the kind of brewer that depends on extract for fermented malt sugars you do not have to worry about it as all-grain brewers will. Extract-based IPA benefit from any water addition a way to help the hops pop. But don’t fly blind though if you have no idea what’s in your water don’t try to mess with it. In case you are using soft water consider using a water chemistry tool such as the Mash chemistry or Bru’n water or even use a Brewing water calculator found at Brewer’s friend. In certain occasion all you need might be a bit of gypsum to take your IPA to the next level.
Dial in Your Process
When creating the American IPA the only mash you need is the trusty single temperature infusion mash, that’s perfectly suited for any well modified malt that can be used to brew any of the trending hoppy styles. In order to improve your attenuation you should try mashing at a lower end starting at 150°F (66°C).
Boiling process for a great American IPA need to be a more complex affair, but as you increase the number of hops the higher the risk of you adding the wrong thing at a wrong time. The best way is to weigh your hops in small cups or bowls each with a sticky note telling you at what time each dose needs to be added in. IPA is best served fresh and with that you will not have the advantage of aging with time that is known to clear out minor injuries that might have been incurred during the fermentation process, and with that in mind you should make sure that you get the fermenting process right.
Nail the Submission Requirement
When brewing for the perfect IPA you will have to put in tremendous effort and time and a technicality should never disqualify your entry. You should read and re-read the entire submission guidelines and ensure to follow everyone to the letter. Also keep in mind that most competitors require you to use a standard longneck bottle without any identifying marks, plus drop off any samples or ship them in advance so that they may arrive for judging early before the deadline.
In case you win a medal, congratulations, but also don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t win, instead go through your judges comment sheet to see their suggestions on what went wrong and how you could do better next time. Also go back through your recipe and try again, there may be few minor tweaks that stand between you and the position one in that competition make sure to clear them amount before trying out next time.