<old man rant>
Some of us here can remember a time when craft beer (back then we called it “microbrew”) wasn’t so complicated. It wasn’t so fraught with issues of identity, craft versus “crafty,” or the minefields of ownership and majority stakes. There were no paralyzing choices created by an entire wall of palate-erasing next-thing hop/acid showpieces at the bottle shop. This was pre-IBU arms race. Pre-“dank.” It was either a macro-industrial yella lager, or it wasn’t.
</old man rant>
Not that I necessarily want to go back. It’s easier for Americans now than it has been for generations to get good, fresh beer “brewed in your town or the next town over” as Norman MacLean wrote; and I like “dank” just fine. But nostalgia is a powerful thing and there’s great appeal in simplicity.
In the “microbrew” era, IPA was not yet a semiotic acronym (“I’ll have an India pale ale, please”—when was the last time you read it spelled out like that?) and it was closer to what we would probably now pigeonhole as a 20th century English IPA—a far cry from your Ságas and Traitors and Size 7s. It was caramelly and deep in color because we were unencumbered by well-researched historical documents. It was citric and piney instead of cat-pissy and dank because Simcoe and Amarillo were not even a glimmer in a Yakima Valley breeding program’s eye. We thought it was strong because 7% ABV was not yet entry-level.
This month: 1997 called and it wants its IPA back.
Target OG: 1.057, Target IBU: 50–55
- 8½ pounds Rahr 2-Row
- 1 pound Simpsons Crystal Medium or Patagonia Caramel 55L
- 12 ounces Weyermann Munich Malt
- 4 ounces Rahr Red Wheat Malt
- 2 ounces Chinook (1.75 ounces used in recipe)
- 2 ounces Cascade
- 1 ounce Willamette
- Wyeast 1056 American Ale
Key points for key pints
• Chico = amigo. Can’t miss with a classic. Good ol’ 1056 is your friend for this formulation.
• Alternative hop nation. Citra, Idaho 7, Azacca, El Dorado, Mosaic—any of your more recent hot-stuff hops would do just swimmingly in this recipe, but then it’s going to taste like Pearl Jam is playing on the oldies station instead of the Top 40. Your call.
To the homebrewery
Note: These steps are general guidelines and assume you’re already familiar with the all-grain brewing process. Refer to the instructions for your brew system and adjust as needed based on experience with your own particular equipment.
1. Make a yeast starter prior to brew day—this is a big beer and will need lots of yeast!
2. On brew day, collect strike water (I use 1.3 quarts per pound, YMMV) and heat to approximately 165°F.
3. Mill the grains, or have it done for you at the shop.
Mash & sparge
1. Add all grains to strike water and mix to achieve a uniform temperature of 151–153°F. Rest the mash at this temperature for 60–90 minutes. While the mash rests, collect and heat sparge water.
2. When the mash rest is complete, heat it to 170°F for mashout.
3. Sparge and collect the wort in the boil kettle.
1. Bring the wort to a boil and shake your fist at the millennials on your lawn. Add 0.75 ounce Chinook hops when the wort begins to boil, and boil for 60 minutes.
2. Fifteen minutes before the end of the boil, add 0.5 ounce each Cascade and Chinook hops.
3. At the end of the boil, add 0.5 ounce each Cascade and Chinook hops.
4. Cool it!
Fermentation and beyond
1. Transfer the cooled wort to a sanitized fermenter, aerate well, and pitch yeast.
2. Aim for a maximum fermentation temp of about 66–68°F. When fermentation activity begins to slow, allow the fermenter to warm up to approximately 70°F for a two to three day diacetyl rest.
3. When the gravity is stable and the green beer is diacetyl-negative, rack to a sanitized secondary fermenter. Dry hop with one ounce each Cascade and Willamette hops. Rest with the dry hops for approximately five days, or until the hop flavor is to your liking. Fine as needed, then package and carbonate.
4. Much like grunge, this IPA is best in the moment—don’t let your kids rediscover it in 20 years.
Until next time: Drink it like you brewed it.