Tuning a Recipe

Posted on 03.13.11 6:05PM under Brewing, Hops, IPA

In the course of being a homebrewer, I think you go through some stages. At least I did. At first I wanted to make a bunch of different basic stuff. A stout. A brown. An IPA. An APA. And so on.

Then I wanted to try for consistency. That didn’t last long, because I kept wanting to try new things. So began the experiments. Trying new things, like manwich in a beer. Some came out better than others.

Last year I was still somewhat experimental, but I thought that I was getting more towards trying consistency. But my planning was not that great and more often than not it seemed I had more experiments available to drink than actual good beer, and variety was usually less-than-ideal.

This year I’ve planned out things rather well. I admit that I need to make an IPA every month, so that I am never without one. And I’m planning ahead, like I’m going to make the RIS and Barleywine in the summer for winter drinking.

This is the ideal time to hone my IPA recipe, as I make an IPA every month. Which hops to use, and when? How long to dry hop for, and how much? What mash temperature? Beer color? IBU? ABV? Yeast? Ferment temperature? I know about where I want all these things but it’s time to get right down to perfect.

So far, I figure 1.065 OG, shooting for 6.5% ABV. That leaves FG as 1.015 – kinda dry but not too extreme. This translates to a mash temperature around 152. I’m using US-05. I have been fermenting on the low end, like 62-64F, but I’m thinking of upping that to like 68. I want it pale, around 8 SRM. And I’ve found that 1:1 IBU:OG is too low for me for an IPA. So my plan for my next batch is 80-90 IBU. I’m still committed to Columbus for bittering and throughout the boil as well as dry hopping with it, but I’m still looking for its perfect partner. Neither Amarillo nor Centennial has done it for me so far. They’re OK, but I’m thinking of trying Simcoe or Chinook. Or maybe even something a bit mellower.

It’s interesting to see how it changes from batch to batch. It’s easy to compare because I have the old one and new one side-by-side often, or at least separated by just a few days. The problem is that there’s a lag. I make a change, but I don’t know how that’s affected the result until after I’ve brewed the next version. So there’s a bit of flying behind the plane, but it seems to be working well enough. After all, I’m not making a space shuttle here, just making beer.

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