Working with Hops & Alcohol: How to Build Twenty IPA Sub-Styles

Working with Hops & Alcohol: How to Build Twenty IPA Sub-Styles

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

This is our third, but apparently not our last, dive into the sub-styles of the India Pale Ale. Our first swing at the pitch concerned the very popular IPAs right now, milkshake, New England, and brut. Last week we took our second hack at it, talking about geographic IPAs (Midwest, West Coast, etc.) and color IPAs (brown, black, white, etc.). The remaining nine IPA sub-styles are harder to lump together, but it could be said that these are the altered IPAs, augmented in some way, but not enough to move them into another style. Let’s first move from low to high, where ABV is concerned. Our first example today is #12 overall – it looks like will get to the last three or four next time.

12) Session IPA – I published a piece not too long ago about the emergence and popularity of the session beer. Certainly, session beers don’t have to be IPAs, but a lot of them are. Just what constitutes a session IPA was included in the previous article, but the short version is that they are an attempt at building a flavorful beer that has slightly less alcohol. These aren’t “light” beers by any means, but most of them do have less alcohol than traditional mega-beers. They simply allow you to drink more of them in a “session.”

The limit of alcohol for a session beer floats around a bit, depending on who you talk to, but in our first article, we decided that the 4.5% ABV was a good cut off point. The session IPA can move around a bit, but most are fairly balanced when it comes to malt and hop, and they don’t coat the tongue much; that would be antithetical to producing a beer to drink a bunch of. The carbonation level and the finish length are all geared to make them “crushable.”

image credit: OrthoCity Brewery & Smokehouse

The All Day IPA from Founders Brewing is the quintessential example of a session IPA, but Indiana makes very good sessions too. OrthoCity Brewery & Smokehouse in Warsaw has a version called The Bone Smasher that is excellent, and Big Lug’s Clint is very flavorful as well. You could include Centerpoint’s (Blood) Orange IPA as well, but that is both fruit and session, so the waters get muddied.

13) Imperial IPA/Double IPA – If you like your IPA with a bit more alcohol kick, then move beyond the American IPA to the Imperial or the Double IPA (really the same thing). While most American IPAs sit somewhere between 6.0 and 7.8% ABV; DIPAs tend to start around 8% and can go up to near 10% ABV. But it hasn’t always been this way, in 2009 or 2010, you might expect a lot of DIPAs to fall in the 7-8% range, but as American IPAs got stronger, so did the DIPAs.

As far as the names are concerned, the “imperial” term is a nod to the Russian Imperial Stout, where a good stout was bulked up with more malt (and therefore more fermentable sugars) to end up with a beer that had more alcohol than a typical stout – same here for the American IPA. On the other hand, “double” doesn’t actually mean two times as much anything, not hops, not malts, and not ABV, but it does imply additions that build the beer into something large.

DIPAs are still incredibly hoppy, but many example seem a bit more balanced due to the increased malt. The hops still tend to be American varieties, and can be added just about any time during the process – in the boil, through the boil, as a dry hop, even in the mash! While Vinny at Blind Pig and then Russian River is said to have invented the style, Walter likes a lot of the Indiana examples. Two versions that stick out to us are the Double Thai.P.A from Bare Hands Brewery and especially the Absolution DIPA from Redemption Alewerks north of Indianapolis.

14) Triple IPA – If bigger is better, than biggest must be best. This is the philosophy behind the TIPA. Whatever additions in hop and malt led to a DIPA, bump it up again and you’ll eventually get to a triple IPA. I’ve explained before that IBUs are a poor way to describe the bitterness of a beer; perceived IBUs is more personal, and is altered by things like amount of malt and residual sugar. Therefore, let’s just say that TIPAs almost always have a high perceived bitterness, and not worry about the argument of whether or not you can taste anything above 100 IBUs.

Triple IPAs tend to swing back to the more unbalanced profile, with hops again overpowering malt, more like boozy West Coast IPAs, and certainly more than most IIPAs. Alcohol is most often north of 10% ABV, and can venture right up into the range of the biggest barleywines. Perhaps this is why not as many beers/breweries self-identify as triple IPAs. The high alcohol and high perceived bitterness could turn off some drinkers, and therefore might nudge brewers away from calling their biggest IPAs triples. I have only anecdotal evidence for this, but still – Walter and I have tried over 300 DIPAs but only 18 TIPAs, and it’s not because we shy away from them.

Walter is always going to scream “Devil Dancer!!!” when someone asks about TIPAs, but Founders doesn’t make that beer anymore. As far as Indiana triple IPAs go, the two I remember most fondly are the Hop Opulancy from Deviate Brewing in Indianapolis, and the Milford Ditch from HopLore Brewing in Leesburg.

The next little grouping of IPA sub-styles have more to do with when the hops are added to a beer. The aim in these cases is to get flavor and aroma from the hops, not so much to add to the bitterness. However, adding the hops into the fermenter early can tip this into the New England realm, as opposed to just adding some aroma.

image credit: Upland Brewing

15) Dry Hop IPA – This technique is named for the fact that some hops (either dried whole cone hops or pelleted hops) are bagged and dropped into a beer after primary fermentation (or nearly so). Since there is no heat being applied, none of the alpha acids get isomerized to iso-alpha acids and therefore no bitterness is added. Also because of the lack of heat, the hop oils that really work to build aroma don’t get volatilized, so they stick around in the finished beer too.

Beers can be dry-hopped (DH), double dry hopped (DDH), or even triple dry hopped (TDH), based on how many times a bag of new hops is dropped into the maturing beer, and while it is no where near anything like an actual rule, DDH and TDH beers often use loose hops on the later additions. The brewer is looking to build a profile, so the second and third dry hops might use different hop varietals, but are just as often the same type as the first dry hop.

Hop addition after fermentation is done (or nearly done) is one of the things that separate DH beers from New England IPAs. New Englands often add hops in primary fermentation so that the yeast can metabolize some hop compounds as well – that, and the fact that New Englands use ALOT more hops in the fermenter. It’s one reason that New Englands are more expensive.

It’s hard to name a good dry hopped Indiana IPA, because these days almost all of IPAs are dry hopped to some degree or another. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be an IPA, the award winning Klipspringer from Metazoa Brewing is a dry-hopped saison – and people are nuts over that beer.

If you hurry, you might be able to get some Wet Your Whistle at Flix Brewhouse. image credit: Flix Brewhouse

16) Wet Hop IPA – If you want to dry hop an IPA in the early fall, then you have the opportunity to choose to do a wet hopped IPA instead. We have talked about this a bit in the past; wet hops are fresh from the bine, so they have more water, but they haven’t lost any of their oils to the air or to the heat of drying. Because of this, hanging a bag of these hops or letting them loose in the brite tank or late in fermentation will impart a great deal of hop aroma and flavor without giving any of the hop bitterness (never boiled). You’re going to get that bitterness with a typical IPA anyway.

A brewer has to use quite a bit of wet hop for a decent size batch of beer and the wet hops need to be in a beer within 24 hr. of harvest – both of these factors mean that wet hop beers are seen for just a few weeks each year. If you find one, drink it. The freshness of the hop is a characteristic you won’t soon forget. Plus, since you need fresh hops, it is likely that you will be consuming a local hop as well. One of the Indiana hop farms, or even a fried with some bines in the backyard is likely contributing to your wet hop IPA (often called a harvest IPA). The wet hops tend to be a bit more dank – kind of earthy, herbal, and grassy, but they are wonderful.

I was under the impression that wet hop beers were made similarly to dry hopped beers, just using un-dried hops instead of dried hops. This may be so in most cases, but there are those brewers out there who just have to do things a bit differently. Rob Malad at Flix Brewhouse in Carmel has a wet hop beer called Wet Your Whistle in which the fresh hops are added to the wort right after boiling; hot enough to steep some great flavors and aromas, but not hot enough to get isomerization to bitter compounds or lose oils to the air. In fact, there are no hops in the boil of this IPA, making it a zero IBU example like many New Englands or milkshakes.

Next time we’ll finish up the IPA sub-styles – I promise. We have some of the odd styles to get to, things like International IPAs and Belgian IPAs. Who, knows, I might even deign to talk about fruit IPAs.

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