Well, it’s almost that time of year again. The temperature outside is finally climbing above the freezing point on a regular basis, and even getting quite warm here in Atlantic Canada. That generally means a common shift in brewing, or at least it does for me, to more session strength beer. Up until about six months ago, I was notoriously behind on brewing as the season dictated. I always seemed to wait until I was craving a particular style appropriate for the time of year before I got around to brewing said style. But no more, I’ve decided to try to plan months ahead (finally), so I brewed a session IPA in April. My kegs generally last about two months, give or take, depending on how much I enjoy the beer. So, this should set me up into June.
I enjoy a session IPA anytime of the year. But especially when it’s getting warmer outside, it’s refreshing to have a light ABV, highly hopped, easy to drink IPA. I’d use the word “crushable” as the ideal description, but that term is thrown around way too often, and far too loosely. Essentially something that is highly hopped like a standard IPA but sub 5% abv and IBU’s in the 40 range. Some commercial examples that come to mind would be Maine Island Trail Ale by Rising Tide, Diavoletto by Bissell Brothers and very local to me, Session IPA by Trailway. The first two I look for whenever I’m in Portland through the summer months, and Trailway’s version is always a solid choice, though even more enjoyable on a hot patio.
Writing a recipe for this style is pretty easy, simply take a favorite IPA recipe you have and dial back the ABV and IBUs. I tend to keep my dry hop additions consistent with my IPA ratios, and I think I’ve finally settled on a new dry hop routine (for now) that seems to be working well for me. I add about 40% of my dry hop addition on day 5, approximately the time primary fermentation is winding down. The rest I add four to five days later, which I leave for another four days. This allows me to keg a hop forward beer within two weeks of brewing. It seems that since I’ve started this routine the beers have had more pronounced hop character, and this one was even quite juicy, especially for the first couple of weeks. The grist is kept simple, as it is for all my hop forward styles now. This recipe has a mix of 2-row, Maris Otter, and a small amount of carared, and acid malt.
I try not to pick too many hop varieties for any IPA, I find that mixing more than a few varieties can muddle flavors. So I try to pick two or three, at most, that I think work well together. For this brew day I selected Citra and Galaxy. Citra because I love the tropical and slight dank quality it has, and well, who doesn’t love Citra? Galaxy I haven’t had the pleasure of using much prior to this, though the descriptors sound very interesting. Most resources online cited fruity, citrus, and tropical character, which seemed to be qualities that would match well with Citra. Or at least that’s what I was hoping.
With the hops selected, the only big decision left was yeast strain. Months ago I would have went with my default, US05. I find it quite clean, plus it flocculates, and attenuates very well. But more and more I find myself reaching for Wyeast 1318 London Ale III, it seems to help fruity hops punch through just a little more. It attenuates well, albeit not as well as US05, but if you mash reasonably low it will still finish in the 1.010 range. Wyeast mentions that it may finish slightly sweet, but it doesn’t seem to add to any up front sweetness from malt (which I’m not a fan of in any hop forward style). That slight sweetness they mention only seems to add to the beers being perceived as “juicy”. If that’s what you’re looking for in an IPA I suggest you give this strain a try. I’ll always keep a few packs of US05 on hand for impromptu brew days (though those rarely happen anymore), but otherwise I’ll be making any hop forward American styles with LAIII for the foreseeable future.
Recipe Targets: 4 gallons, SRM 4.5, IBUs 42, OG 1.047, FG 1.012, ABV 4.6%
1.50 kg Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) 46.7 %
1.50 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) 46.7 %
0.13 kg Carared (20.0 SRM) 4.0 %
0.08 kg Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) 2.5 %
12.00 g Citra [12.90 %] – Boil 10.0 min
12.00 g Galaxy [15.10 %] – Boil 10.0 min
37.00 g Citra [12.90 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 15 mins
37.00 g Galaxy [15.10 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 15 mins
30.00 g Citra CHILLER [12.90 %]
30.00 g Galaxy CHILLER [15.10 %]
56.00 g Citra [12.90 %] – Dry Hop (split as per dry hop method mentioned above)
56.00 g Galaxy [15.10 %] – Dry Hop (split as per dry hop method mentioned above)
1 whirlfloc tablet @ 10mins
1 tsp yeast nutrient @ 10mins
Wyeast 1318 London Ale III
Brewed by myself, mashed in with 8.5L water to hit mash temp of 152F, mashed out with 4.7L of 200F, then batch sparged with 3.3 gallons of 170F. 60 minute boil. OG five points high 1.052, chilled to 62F, shook carboy and pitched starter. Fermentation quite active after 24 hours, and vigorous at only 36 hours, this strain can be a beast. FG 1.010, finishing a little lower than expected. Dry hops were added on day 4, and day 8, transferred to a co2 purged keg on day 12. Force carbed @35psi for 48 hours, then reduced to serving pressure.
This is by far the “juiciest” hoppy beer I’ve brewed, and certainly up there with my best so far. The first week or so after this was carbed it was extremely punchy, tons of hop aroma and flavor. I love how these two hops work together, melding tropical and fruit flavors. Initially Citra was dominating slightly, and it was a little dank, but Galaxy quickly caught up and things evened out.
My only complaint was that it was just slightly thin, not too much so, but it was noticeable to me. As with all hop forward styles I did find this beer starting to fade after only two weeks, though it was still very tasty. I think it’s time for me to look more seriously at creating an oxygen free system to transfer from primary to keg. I would certainly brew this again, although I’d love to try different hops of course. But, if you’re considering this recipe I would say adding some wheat malt or oats (~5%) would be a good idea, simply to add a little mouth feel.
Appearance: Pours with a thin white head, quarter finger, that lasts for a few minutes before fading to a thin ring. Golden orange in color, quite hazy.
Aroma: Moderate-high fruit hops, a touch dank with something slightly tropical, possibly mango.
Taste: Moderate to highly hoppy (for the style), lots of fruit initially, and then mango punches through and takes over. Finishes smooth with no bitterness, and just a little sweetness.
Mouthfeel: Light-medium carbonation with mouth feel that’s just slightly too light.
Overall: As I mentioned before this turned out really well. Loads of hop aroma and flavor, quite juicy. My only issues were that it was a little light in mouth feel when it was first carbed, though that did seem to remedy itself within a week or so. Perhaps the carbonation settling in helped to fill it out. The hops did start to fade faster than I would have liked (as they always seem to). Otherwise, one of my best hoppy beer yet.
Coming up: My (multiple) attempts of brewing a hoppy kettle sour, and all the problems I’ve had thus far with lacto starters.