India Pale Ale. Better known as it’s modern day, and less historically accurate cousin, IPA. One of the most popular craft beer styles in America, especially here on the west coast. In 2011, I had 52 different IPAs total. Of these 52 different IPA’s, I’ve managed to choose my favorite 10 that I had the pleasure of consuming this year. And by 10, I really mean 17. Enjoy, in no particular order:
Dogfish Head 120 Minute/90 Minute/60 Minute IPA/Aprihop
This might look like 4 different beers, but to me I see 4 different variations of the same beer. These are the most approachable of the IPAs, with more so a strong hop aroma and flavor rather than bitterness.
The 60 and 90 are available year round. The 120 is only available a handful of times a year, and is hard to find when it is. Aces and Ales happened to get it on tap and Whole Foods and Khoury’s sold out of the bottles immediately. Aprihop is a variation of the 60 Minute with apricots thrown in, available in the spring time.
Stone Cali-Belgique IPA/IPA
Stone IPA is one of my favorite IPAs and a great example of the “west-coast style IPA.” This is a strongly bitter beer with a bright, citrusy aroma. It is available nearly everywhere that sells beer and on tap at nearly all the PTs as well as Millers Alehouse and Yardhouse.
Cali-Belgique is the same beer, but made with a Belgian yeast strain. This is the best Belgian style IPA I’ve had. The Belgian yeast adds a little bit more fruitiness to the beer that compliments the citrus flavors.
Despite being a year-round brew for Stone, Cali-Belgique can only be periodically found in Las Vegas.
Lagunita’s Sucks Holiday Ale
Probably the heaviest hop aroma of all these beers, this IPA is incredible. Loads of sweet, citrusy aroma. Very sweet and smooth body and very drinkable.
This is only a seasonal ale that was brewed in place of Brown Shugga’. This is still available in bottles around town and is currently on tap at Tenaya Creek Brewery.
Coronado Cask Idiot IPA
Neither the cask version, or the normal version is available in Las Vegas. I had this beer in San Diego. I never had the normal version, but the cask version was probably the smoothest IPA I’ve had. It wasn’t overly bitter and had a bit less aroma then the other IPA’s on this list. Being as it was on cask however, is what made this beer stand out from the rest. Soft texture, lightly carbonated and full of earthy, piny hop flavor.
Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA/Sculpin IPA
Sculpin IPA is one of the highest rated IPA’s on Untappd. It is another “west coast style” IPA in that it has a strong bitter bite with huge grapefruit flavors and aromas.
Ballast Point recently started distributing to Las Vegas, but are keeping Sculpin in California.
If you visit the brewery in San Diego, they may have Habanero Sculpin on tap. This is a version of Sculpin with habanero peppers thrown in. The pepper flavors compliment the hop bitterness perfectly, and it adds a nice burning finish!
Baird/Ishii/Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA
A truly incredible and unique beer. This one had mixed reviews from people as they felt that the citrusy hops didn’t go well with florally aroma and tea flavor. Like I said, it’s very unique and I thought it was awesome. Sadly, it was only brewed once and was never available in Las Vegas.
Maui Flyin’ Hi.P.Hay/21st Amendment Hop Crisis
Technically two different beers from two different breweries, but I’m grouping these together as they were both amazing IPAs and both from cans. Both had amazing hop aroma bursting out of the can and a great citrusy flavor.
Maui Flyin’ Hi.P.Hay is apparently a limited release beer, but I feel like I saw it in town recently. Maybe not?
21st Amendment Hop Crisis is also a limited release beer and sadly, the brewery does not distribute to Nevada.
Dogfish Head Hellhound on my Ale
As you can tell, many of these IPAs are being described as “citrusy.” This beer actually was brewed with lemons! As such, it had a nice sweet lemony flavor pairing with the harsher citrus bite from the hops.
This was a special release beer commemorating blues guitarist Robert Johnson. It was brewed twice last year and may still be available in town.
Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
Variation of the IPA style, a black IPA is both hoppy and roasty. This particular beer is probably the greatest black IPA there is. Very full bodied, soft texture and a wall of leafy hop aroma.
Brewed this summer for Stone’s 15 anniversary, there are no plans to brew this again. Good news is that it’s still available in town. I recently saw it at both Khoury’s and the Las Vegas Blvd Whole Foods. If you can’t find it, then you should try…
Stone Double Dry Hopped Sublimely Self Righteous Ale/Sublimely Self Righteous Ale
This beer is available year round in bottles and can be found on tap at Yardhouse. Sublimely Self Righteous Ale is very similar to Stone’s 15 Anniversary ale except there is a little less alcohol and less body making this less filling and more drinkable. Still has the wall of hop aroma that hits you right before your first sip, this is one of my favorite beers!
Earlier this year Aces and Ales had a double dry hopped variation. What this means is that there was even more hop aroma bursting out of the glass, making this an even more flavorful beer than it already is!
All of the above images were taken from the respective brewers’ websites.
After spending the day seeing all my beers taste like vinegar, I was scared to try one of my finished beers. I bottled both the IPA and black IPA the day I brewed the brown ale. What if I contaminated those beers while bottling? It’s been 2 weeks since I bottled those beers and I had put one of each in the fridge to try two days ago. I had to try one of them to see if it was ok.
I opened a bottle of the black IPA and poured a glass. It smelled great. And it tasted even better! I was so relieved. It wasn’t very hoppy, a bit more like a porter than a black IPA. Very malty with a sharp bitterness in the finish. If I were to change it, I’d add more hops early in the boil to add more hop bitterness and more hops during fermentation to add some more aroma.
The color is surprisingly very black. When I initially brewed this, it was much more brown and I was concerned that I didn’t add enough carafe malt. After tasting it now, I’m thinking a little less would tone down the sharp bitterness in the finish. And besides, it’s crazy black now!
It has been over a month since I last wrote on here. Despite originally planning on using this as a means to talk about my homebrews, I have failed thus far. So, let’s make up for lost time.
I have brewed 6 different beers in the past month. Through this, I have changed my workflow when brewing and I have decreased the amount of time and effort it takes to brew. After each beer, I decide that I am exhausted and need to take a break for a couple of weeks. That never lasts, I get the itch to brew again a few days later. Below are the beers I have made:
Pale Ale: This was the first beer I made. I wrote this recipe entirely from scratch and intentionally wrote the recipe to be as basic as possible for the sake of keeping it simple. Pale malted barley and centennial hops. Once the beer was brewed and ready to go into the fermenter, I measured the gravity (density of sugar) and it was spot on to my calculations. Awesome! One week later, after all the visual signs of fermentation disappeared, I checked the gravity and found that it didn’t drop as much as it was supposed to. Meaning instead of my beer having 5% alcohol, it was only at 3%. I later learned that the most likely reason this happened was due to my inability to keep a consistent temperature during fermentation. Yeast is very temperature dependent and different yeast strains ferment at different temperatures. When the yeast notice a rise in temperature, they work harder. When the yeast notice a decrease in temperature, they go into hibernation. The yeast I was using was meant to ferment at 70º F. Not the easiest thing to do in Las Vegas during the summer. With this beer, I learned how to maintain that temperature.
I continued the process to finish this beer anyways. Despite it not being perfect, I wanted to see what it would taste like finished. I dry hopped the beer and let it sit for another week and then I bottled it and let it condition and carbonate in the bottle for two weeks.
A few days ago I cracked one of the bottles open to taste it. To my surprise, it was great. Despite the failed fermentation, it tasted like a normal beer. It didn’t have the watery taste that art artificial beers have (Bud/Miller/Coors) and it didn’t seem sweet from the residual sugars. It had a very dry, crisp finish and was very refreshing. The aftertaste was however a bit bland compared to the initial taste. I had intentionally used few ingredients so I could have a blank slate. Sure enough, this gave the aftertaste an expected simple taste to it, but I was suprised that it wasn’t more present.
Black IPA: I initially was planning on brewing regular IPA next, but I was too excited for this beer that I couldn’t wait and decided to brew this one next. Building upon my pale ale recipe, I added two more malts: crystal malt to give it another element of sweetness, and carafa malt to make the beer black in color with a slight roastiness. I still used only one variety of hop, but this time I used cascade hops.
I had brewed only two gallons of the pale ale. This beer, and all the other beers that I made, I brewed three gallons. That means more grains. Not to mention the fact that this was going to have a higher alcohol content than the pale ale so even more grains were used. Long story short, I mashed the grains with too much water and spilled some. While mashing I also had a hard time keeping a consistent temperature. When mashing you typically keep the water between the mid 140ºs to high 150ºs. Any lower and the sugar conversion doesn’t take place. Any higher and you stop the conversion process. Long story short, I measured the gravity before the boil and I was way off. Not wanting to have another weak beer, I made a few changes to the recipe and added some turbinado sugar to bring the sugar content up. After the beer finished the first stage of fermentation I tested the gravity, and it was right at it needed to be, bringing the beer to 6.8% alcohol content!
This beer is still carbonating so I haven’t had a chance to taste the finished product yet. But the taste I took a taste when I was bottling it makes me very excited to drink this! It has a very hoppy aroma but isn’t too bitter. Cascade hops aren’t really known for their bitterness. The addition of the crystal and carafa malts give the beer a nice malty body.
IPA: The original plan was that this beer and the black IPA would be the exact same beer except with the black IPA getting the carafa malts to make it black. My intention was to make very similar beers with only one different ingredient to taste the difference that it makes. This was originally going to be brewed second. It would be the same recipe as the pale ale, but with more hops and an additional malt. The black IPA would then be the exact beer as this, but with the carafa malt. Because I brewed the black IPA before this one, and had the mishaps that I did, I brewed this one a bit differently. I was very cautious and scared that my sugar levels would be low again. Despite not spilling or boiling over the wort, I was still worried. I decided to add less water before the boil than I did before. This would make the sugar level a little bit more concentrated. I finished brewing, took a gravity measurement and was shocked. I wasn’t too low on sugar at all. It was crazy high, and I didn’t even add sugar like I did to the black IPA! The result was that this beer finished with an alcohol content of 8.5%.
This beer is also still carbonating and should be ready to drink about the same time as the black IPA (I brewed them 2 days apart). This beer tastes very different from the black IPA, despite the original plan of them being very similar. They have the same amounts of hops in them, but since this has a higher alcohol level, the residual sugars mask some of the bitterness and leave mostly just hop aroma. The added alcohol also give it a slightly thicker body, making this a very smooth beer with a very balanced hop level and a high alcohol content.
Brown Ale/Porter: I’m grouping these together because they were brewed one day apart and have a combined story. I kinda used recipes for these. I used the ingredients that the recipes called for but I changed the amounts used to match the alcohol and bitterness levels that I was looking for. I also changed the recipe for the brown ale because I wanted to try adding some dried maple syrup. Basically, it’s maple syrup that was boiled down to a solid and broken up into small chunks. This sounded like it would be awesome with the brown ale.
The first 3 beers I used a California strain of yeast. These two beers used two different British yeast strains. Both of the yeast strains wanted to ferment at 65º. I kept the first three beers at 70º, so I figured that this wouldn’t be too hard. Wrong. Keeping these at 65º in the summer was a bad idea. First, I mentioned earlier that if the temperature is higher, then the yeast work faster. This sounds like a good thing except for the fact that when the yeast work faster, they put out some off flavors. Specifically, it makes the beers smell and taste like alcohol. The brown ale fermented to the right level that it should have, 6.4%, however it tastes like it is in the range of 8-10% but without the sweetness/body to balance it. I still thought it tasted good, just not what I was planning for.
The porter on the other hand, suffered due to my attempts to control the temperature. The wild temperature swings caused a stuck fermentation for the porter. Unlike the pale ale, this time I tried to fix it. I added the California yeast I had used before and raised the temperature to 70º. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. The porter stopped at 4.3% rather than 6.3% alcohol. In addition to that, it has the strong alcohol taste that the brown ale has.
Both these beers will be bottled in the next week or two and will be done conditioning about 3 weeks after that. It will be interesting to see how they turn out.
6: I’m not sure what style to call this. I’ve been calling it 6 since it’s the sixth beer I’ve brewed. After the temperature issues I’ve had, I started to be intrigued by the saison style of beer. Saisons were brewed by farmers in Belgium and left to ferment in barns during the summer. The result is a yeast strain that ferments up to 90º! Living in Las Vegas, I was excited to try this yeast. I wrote the recipe from scratch by first writing a recipe for a saison the same way I did with the brown ale and porter, by copying ingredients and adjusting the amounts for a saison recipe. I then re-wrote it substituting the grains in the recipe with the leftover grains I had from the first 5 beers. Since I am very fond of black beers, I threw in the rest of the carafa I used from the black IPA. I chose hops based off of what I had leftover as well. Saisons are not typically hoppy beers but I decided to try making this one moderately hoppy, about the level of a pale ale. I used the hops I had that were not over the top to try and keep them from being overpowering. I went to the local homebrew shop to buy the yeast but they didn’t have the specific yeast I wanted. I instead grabbed a different Belgian yeast that will ferment up to 78º. I typically keep my house between 70º-75º so I decided it should be fine.
Saisons are typically light in color and light in hops. They have a very crisp, dry finish and are a little peppery from the Belgian hops that are typically used. Mine is a hoppy, black saison. I figured this will either be awesome or terrible.
I just brewed this beer last friday so it is still fermenting and I haven’t taken a gravity reading or taste since I put it in the fermenter. That one taste was pretty good though! The taste will change quite a bit as the sugars are converted into alcohol and the hops balance out, but so far it is at a good starting point!
There you have it. Six beers in four weeks. I am going to wait to brew again until I bottle the brown ale and the porter. I haven’t decided what I’ll brew next. I am going to keep away from making traditional British beers for now until the temperature drops outside. I am planning on ordering the specific Belgian yeast I’m looking for online and will brew several beers with it. For sure a traditional saison and an IPA using the yeast. Knowing me, I’ll probably make it a black IPA. Whatever I brew next, I’ll be sure to actually start writing about it and posting the pictures I take!
If you are interested, or even just mildly curious, about how to brew beer at home, you need to read this book. This book excels over many other revered texts on home brewing simply for how straight forward and beautifully presented the informations is.
Brewing beer is not easy but it isn’t difficult either. It is an involved process with a lot of independent variables that the brewer is in control of. Because of this, every other book on brewing is typically a lengthy read. Beer Craft, on the other hand, is neither too wordy or too simple. It can easily be read in one sitting. Despite this, Beer Craft is just as informational as other books on home brewing. It is very clear what steps need to be followed exactly, and what steps you have the freedom to explore on your own. In addition to this, there are plenty of charts breaking down different ingredients and how they can be used. Brewing beer is a science. The ratios of the ingredients used and even the different temperatures used can alter the end product. Beer Craft does an excellent job of teaching the science without being too overwhelming.
Most books will recommend beginners start by using malt extract to brew beer. Beer Craft doesn’t even suggest this as an option, giving only all grain brewing methods. Where others will caution against the involvement required to brew all grain, Beer Craft provides the reader with one gallon recipes that can be brewed on a standard kitchen stovetop with supplies that do not require a hefty financial expense. This allows beginners to brew beer like the pros do, right from the get go.
Lastly, few books properly instruct beginners how to begin formulating their own recipes. Descriptions of beer styles is usually done by describing the final product, not the ingredients used to create it. Within Beer Craft are various charts showing what malts are used, and to what percent of the total grain bill, for each style of beer. Within each recipe Beer Craft gives, there are suggestions on what to change or add to the recipe. For example, Beer Craft provides a recipe for a pale ale. It then gives substitution suggestions to change it into an IPA, imperial IPA or even a black IPA. In addition to the recipe suggestions, one of the most useful chapters is one on adding specialty ingredients. Not only does it suggest different fruits or spices to add, but how much should be added and at what point in the process it should be added. Taken together, you learn what ingredients make up 10 different styles of beer, and suggestions on what to change in order to create other styles, or what to add to create something entirely new. If you want to brew an IPA with oranges, you can create a recipe simply by using the pale ale recipe, following the guidance on how to make it an IPA, then following the suggestions for adding citrus fruits. No other book I’ve read has shown me how to do this so easily.
I’ve learned more about beer reading this book than I have from reading anything else. This was also the shortest of all the beer books I’ve read and the best looking!
For more information, and more photos of the pages, go to the Beer Craft Book website