The brewing of an IPA

The India Pale Ale (IPA) has become synonymous with craft beer itself. In a previous article I have introduced how the style emerged in the 18th century, and in this piece I will describe the brewing basics of this hop-forward, intense beer style from a personal point of view.

Adjusting the water as a first step

If you would also like to brew your own hop fever, here is how I do it. I start by adjusting the water, that, historically and technically speaking, plays a major role in IPA’s. From a personal point of view, I like to add enough calcium sulfate to the brewing water to bring the calcium to 200ppm and the sulfate to 400ppm, in order to get a clean bitterness from the hops. If you are making a NEIPA, you may prefer using more calcium chloride than calcium sulfate to bring your calcium up, in a reason of 1/2. In mashing terms, I favour a more fermentable wort but I still look for a dash of sweetness and some creaminess in the final product, so I always aim for temperatures below 65ºC (149ºF).

The grist, fermentation profile and hops

Following with the grist, some brewers use pils as their base malts, but pale ale malt is much more traditional, both in English and American styles. The optional use of toasted or crystal malts may bring some complexity and depth of aroma, but generally make a small portion of the grist. My personal touch is to use a small amount of Golden Promise malt, that is similar to Maris Otter, but a little softer and creamier.

I want my fermentation profile to be neutral to lightly fruity, so I use an highly attenuative ale yeast and let to ferment between 18 and 22ºC (64ºF – 72ºF). The best temperature is however 19.5ºC (67ºF), as we can extract the ideal concentration of apple, peach and pear esters without excessive fermentation derived flavour.

Finally, the hops. Here is where the world of IPA’s gets really exciting – and bitter. Hops bring aroma, bitterness and tons of flavour, but different applications bring different results. If you are brewing a hop forward IPA, American style, you should go for American or New World hops, such as Cascade, Citra or Nelson Sauvin, where you will find an abundance of tropical, citrus or piney aromas. Here, you can play with generous late hop additions, dry hopping or hopinating the pouring beer. If you are brewing an English style IPA, with a floral-spicy-peppery-grassy bouquet, you may want to use classic hops such as Golding, concentrating its use in the beginning of the boil and adding some as dry hops to spice things up.

I do like to add a handful of hops in the whirlpool and then dry hopping the beer, which I believe to be the most interesting way to hop IPA’s. There is a lot to choose from.

Hops have been beer’s best friend for a long time, and IPA’s may well be the pinnacle of that friendship. The world has gotten addicted to them, and there is no turning back from this hoppy journey.

What is your favourite IPA and hop variety? Let us know!

Happy IPA’s!

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BARRACHINA, Albert (2016).

HUXLEY, Steve (2006). Poesía líquida. Trea.

BJCP (2015).


Author: Miquel Piqué Camprubi

Head brewer at Ctretze brewing Co, Catalonia. Awarded brewer at Barcelona Beer Festival. BJCP Judge and Beer Expert by the University of Alicante. Miquel has retail and customer service experience in the beer field and he currently focuses in new recipe development and research.

One Reply to “The brewing of an IPA”

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