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Brewer’s Best India Pale Ale : Batch 5

My taste in beer changes through the different seasons.  In the Winter, I love a Brown Ale, Red Ale, or even Stouts and Porters.  In the Summer, though, I like something lighter and crisper.  Sometimes that’s a Wheat or Cerveza style beer.  Lately I’ve had a craving for IPA’s.  I had hated super hoppy beers for a long time, but for some reason I’ve recently learned to not just like them, but crave them!  My next batch of beer to take me in to the Fall needed to be an IPA ( India Pale Ale ).

Over the course of making this beer the question came up as to the difference between a Pale Ale and an India Pale Ale.  I found that Pale Ales come in shades of coppery gold and traditionally have an average-to-low malt influence, along with a higher-than-average bitterness from hops. The aroma and flavor of hops should be front and center, but you should still taste the malt, for balance. In contrast, IPAs register at least a few notches higher for both hops and alcohol content. The pale ale’s characteristic fruitiness becomes a little less prevalent, and the pine and citrus notes of the hops dominate. In general, IPAs also taste more carbonated than pale ales.  (found here)


Ingredients and the Boil

For this batch of homebrew, I used the Brewer’s Best India Pale Ale kit.  The kit contained two 3.3 lb cans LME, one lb. Crystal malt 60L, 1/2 lb. Victory, 2 oz Northern Brewer hops (bittering), 1oz Cascade hops (finish).

First off, we got the water up to about 160 degrees. As the water was heating, we filled the grain bag up with the victory and crystal malt grains. This is the most grains I’ve used for a batch so far. The bag was FULL. We had the water pretty hot before the grains were added, then it was just a matter of waiting about 20 minutes. The water got up to about 180 at one point, but didn’t boil. That’s hotter than it should have been. Apparently boiling the grains can produce some bad flavors…  Also, we probably tied the knot a little too close to the grains, so they couldn’t spread out as much – they just stayed in a big ball.  Not that it should have mattered much…


After the grains, we added in the two 3.3 lb cans of light malt extract.  We returned the water to a boil and then added the Northern Brewer hops.   That boiled for about 55 minutes, and we added the Cascade hops for the last 5 minutes.  Nothing exciting here, just standard operating procedures.

As usual, I used an ice filled sink to cool the wort.  As you can see, I use my sprayer to spray the outside of the pot, and I give the pot a spin as I do this.

I’ve gotten in the habit of putting 3 gallons of pretty cool water into the waiting fermenter.  I find that I don’t have to cool the wort as much if the cooler water can remove a portion of the heat, too.  As the wort is cooling, we get the yeast ready to cool.  Really that’s just a matter of pouring the yeast packet into a glass of warm water.  This is supposed to help the yeast activate, but I dont’ know that you’d really need to do this.


Fermenting & Bottling

This batch was fermenting in my uncooled house during the month of August.  Even in the darkest, coolest area of my basement, the fermenting temp was around 80 degrees.  After a week of fermenting this batch, I purchased a temperature regulator for a spare fridge I usually have in my garage.  The first week was obviously too warm, but the second week sat closer to 68 degrees.  Much better!

After 15 days in the fermenter, it was time to bottle.  Nothing major to report here.  Things went pretty smoothly.  The final gravity fell right where the instructions said it should be (always cool).  The pre-bottled beer actually had great flavor, which isn’t always the case.  Now that I’ve got the temp. regulator on the beer fridge, I had the bonus of being able to bottle condition the beer at a cooler temperature than my warm house.


Final Results

At the time of this writing, the beer has been in the bottles for about two and a half weeks.  I’ve had a few bottles, and the beer is okay, but it’s not quite ready to drink yet.  The beer is still a little too sweet, which overpowers the hops in the beer.  I feel like I’m still about 2 weeks out before it’s fair to judge this batch.

Questions and Ponderings

My brewing assistant is a science teacher, and he always has a lot of questions while we brew.  I’m going to start adding some of our questions to the end of my posts. If we had to look it up, maybe you’ll learn something, too!

What are IBU’s? IBU’s are “International Bittering Units.” This is a measure of the actual bitterness of a beer as contributed by the alpha acid from hops. Because the apparent bitterness of a beer is subjective to the taste of the drinker and the balancing malt sweetness of the beer this is not always an accurate measure of the “hoppiness” of a beer. But, generally speaking, beers with IBUs of less than 20 have little to no apparent hops presence. Beers with IBUs from 20 to 45 are the most common and have mild to pronounced hops presence. Beers with IBUs greater than 45 are heavily hopped and can be quite bitter. (found here)

Why are there two grain bags for the IPA? In the case of this IPA, we used Victory malt and Crystal malt. The Victory malt is said to contribute a warm, toasted, nutty flavor to beer, and it provides a deep golden brown color. The Crystal Malt 60L has a pronounced caramel flavor. The 60L refers to the Lovibond scale, which measures color. In this case it’s measuring the color differences due to the amount of roasting. The crystal 60L is similar to crystal 40L but with a more extensive roasting. (mostly found here)

Why use dry vs. extract malts? Malt syrup is basically liquid malt extract (LME). Dried malt extract (DME) is essentially the same thing…but dry. The methods of production are slightly different. The malt is mashed and lautered (the sugars rinsed from the grain husks). For the liquid extract, the excess water is cooked away, making essentially a reduction. DME is made by spraying the wort against a screen in a high temperature dryer oven which flash dehydrates it. As a result, things made with DME tend to have a little less of a “cooked” taste than LME.  (found here)

People generally seem to prefer the DME.  Dry stores much better, and you can get the extract “Twang” from old LME that is stored in cans.  Most use a combination of both as LME is cheaper.  A side note, DME is more concentrated than LME, so to convert DME to LME, it’s the weight of DME * 1.10.  (found here)

Next up – German Oktoberfest
Previous batch –
Mexican Cerveza


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