How to Homebrew Your Best New England IPA
Hazy IPA’s are a big deal, and not only right now, but in general. This whole new type of IPA has taken America’s favorite beer style, a beer style that while popular, has always been very polarizing, and made it easier to drink, more balanced and just plain JUICY. The coolest part about the cloudy ipa style is that it appeals to even more people, no matter how they feel about west coast bitter-bombs, because the entire profile is more balanced and showcases the juicy, fruity flavor capabilities of hops and makes a hophead out of almost everybody. But what does it take to really make the best New England Style IPA? This week we’ll explore what malts to use, the most effective hopping techniques, and how to choose the right yeast so you can make your best cloudy beer yet!
All About the Malt
As John Mallett puts it in his book, Malt, grain is the soul of beer. Every beer you homebrew is backed by this distinct yet ethereal profile of barley, wheat and rye in all of their creative and varied forms. The open world of the available malts is such that you can make your beer just about anything. It’s a good thing, too, because these hazy IPAs are distinctly more malt balanced in their profile, and you want to combine your grist in a way that showcases the grain profile almost as much as the hop profile.
When this whole New England thing started, every hop head brewer was proud of the dry and crisp malt balance of the standard, West Coast IPA, and with good reason! But the fact of the matter is that while brilliant and delicious, these are distinctly unbalanced beers. I feel like this is why it’s always been such a polarizing beer style. Little to no malt balance with a giant bitter profile seems to be an acquired taste, and I can remember when I couldn’t stand the bitter punch of a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, much less a double ipa or any other craft beer that was heavily bittered. Give me some credit, this was pre beer enlightenment!
So what part does malt play in these more balanced, East Coast IPAs? It, of course, provides the normal parameters that are integral to any beer, like sugar content, head retention and flavor, but in a way that’s way different from the dry IPA styles. My favorite way to look at the malt profile for a hazy is old school, English IPA. Elevated residual sugars with sweet and distinct specialty grains and a solid body.
The other important part they play is the actual hazy part, and your malt will account for about 25% of your potential haze, next to your water profile and your chosen yeast strain. Many commercial breweries swear by flaked wheat and flaked adjuncts to create the clouds, as well as malted and unmalted wheat, hoping that the elevated proteins inherent to these kinds of grains will help keep the finished beer from clearing up.
John Kimmich, owner and head brewer at one of our favorite pioneers of the New England IPA style, confided to John Moorhead of the American Homebrewers Association that he doesn’t use any wheat when he brews Heady Topper, Focal Banger, or any of his beers for that matter, while other craft brewers, like Weldwerks, use flaked adjuncts or wheat up to 20% of the grist to help build the haze. Other commercial brewers putting out insanely delicious New England beers, like Odell Brewing New Dawn Hazy IPA out of Fort Collins, use more moderate levels for their grain bills. This tells us that while it plays a definite part in cloudiness, the malt profile in these beers is more about building the right base to stack up all those hops on than blatantly feeding the haze craze.
Add All Of The Hops!
One of the most distinct characters in all of these juicy IPAs is the hops. Even though the whole beer is a balance of grain, hops and yeast profile (just like any beer), it’s all geared toward making the hops stand out in a way that showcases their most delicious flavors and utilize the terpenes to their fullest extent. This is how it’s done!
First and foremost, low low bitter profile, almost as if you were trying to bitter-balance your favorite blonde (there’s a joke there somewhere). Many commercial greats aren’t even adding a 60 or 30 minute hop addition, but relying on what little bitterness that they achieve from the whirlpool addition to bitter the whole thing! Whether or not you add hops in the boil for bittering will depend on your grain profile, mash temp, and yeast choice, and we’ll cover balance in a few paragraphs.
The second tenant is don’t be afraid to get hop stupid with your flameout/whirlpool and dry hop additions. We’re talking a pound of late and dry hops in 5 finished gallons isn’t too much! That actually ends up being about 6 pounds per barrel, which is a common amount for many craft NE IPA’s, and is how we developed our Andromeda IPA, which is one of the most delicious beers I’ve ever tasted! If you have the right hops that compliment each other, it’s rare that you’ll add so many that it will ruin your beer, although much more than a pound per 5 gallons will give you a tingly tongue when you drink it!
Finding hops that compliment each other is really the key to making these beers pop. If you want a total juice bomb, then you have to combine the right hops in a way that they will play off of each other and accentuate the brighter terpenes. If you want a dank NE IPA, you’ll have to do the same thing in the opposite direction. This balance is why Citra and Mosaic play so well together. The dank and piney side of Mosaic is enough to show the off the tropical and grapefruit sides of both the hops, providing a subtle yet necessary opposition that makes the brighter flavors stand out.
What Yeast Strain Is The Best?
There is no single, shining example of what the best strain is, although the London III like strains, such as Vermont, Barbarian and Juice definitely lead the fight. When choosing your yeast, you will need to decide what approach to take. Will you mash high and use something that is going to attenuate further, or will you mash low and use a less attenuative yeast? Whichever way you choose, decide on something that is not going to be very flocculant, as that’s going to be a big part if you want your hazy hazy. If you’re ok with a clear juice bomb, well, that’s just fine as well! Just because these hazy beers are mostly unfiltered and full of particulate, that doesn’t mean that yours has to be!!
For us, when we design a beer like this, we aim towards the less attenuative strains. This gives us a little more control over the balance because we know that unless we’re pushing these strains really hard with yeast nutrients and high pitching rates, we can count on them finishing in the 1.014 - 1.020 range, and balance our bitterness and hops towards that, which is how you’ll find our recommendations on our kits.
All of that being said, if you have a house strain that you prefer to use, and you have good and consistent results with that strain, adjust your mash profile accordingly and use what you know! There is as much to be said for consistency and intimate knowledge of how your favorite strains works as there is about trying new and experimental strains!
Another benefit of using English style strains in these beers is that they tend to create more fruity, ester production vs your typical Cal Ale or American strains. These esters add to your already fruity hop profiles, and help push those flavors out in the finished product.
Watery Haze Adjustments
Your water profile may be one of the most key components making a New England style IPA. Super high chloride to sulfate ratios play a huge part in both the haze part and the equation and the flavor side of things.
The trick is to have just enough sulfate to accentuate hop character without pushing out the bitterness of the hops, and higher chloride levels to accentuate the malt profile and help with the overall balance and mouthfeel. It is not uncommon to see profiles totally opposite of West Coast IPAs, which generally have higher sulfate levels to make the hop bitterness pop.
A 1:1 chloride to sulfate ratio is a good start, and we’ve had beers that go as far as 3:1 with great success. If you’re not geeking out on water quite yet, don’t even worry about it! Start with distilled or Reverse Osmosis water, which is most of the water you can buy in bulk at the grocery store, and simply build it up with BrewWater. This gives you all of the control without having to become a chemist, and often provides a sweet boost to your overall efficiency on brew day! Although we have a BrewWater geared towards a hoppy finish, use the ones geared towards balance, such as the Light and Balanced pack. This will give you a little extra bump in the chloride department, and help you achieve the overall balance that you’re looking for, especially since the hop regime is so intense!
The other side of your water profile if you want hazy beer is keeping it nice and soft, as harder water is going to clear more efficiently and enhance flocculation from your chosen yeast. This can be the deciding factor for your haze, which is actually pretty easy if you’re using a high chloride to sulfate ratio!
Finding All of the Balance
At the end of the day, when you’re formulating your recipe for your favorite new Hazy, just balance your ridiculous load of hops with a nice, solid malt backbone, a solid English yeast strain that will accentuate hops and malt character, and a water profile that will keep bitterness on a leash and still push out malts, hops and mouthfeel.
I know it all sounds like a lot, but it’s really pretty easy. As we’ve said before, start with yeast and build back. Choose hops that will compliment each other by utilizing the dank hop characters at lower rates to help push out the fruity hop characters, or vice versa if you are trying to make a more dank, piney New England style. Create a grain bill that is reminiscent of an old school English IPA with malty, high end base malts like Golden Promise and compliment it with 5 - 10% light crystals, and up to 20% unmalted wheat or flaked wheat, with some of that 20% flaked oats to help round out the body and create a creamy mouthfeel.
You will want to experiment, but start with a good, tried and true base recipe, like our Odell New Dawn recipe (coming May 1st, 2019!), Trifect IPA, or Andromeda Double IPA, then build off of those with different hop combinations and water profiles!
Thank you all for reading, and hopefully this will help you build your next and favorite Hazy style IPA or crystal clear Juice Bomb IPA! Leave your comments below and let us know about your favorite yeast, water profile and hop and grain combinations!
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