At Crooked Run, we’ve definitely gone more IPA heavy. I have a stressful job juggling brewing, production management, and distribution, and to make my life easy, I started brewing more IPA since a) it sells way easier in distro and b) I need to reuse the same yeasts.
However, I do also really enjoy IPA, and I think there can be more nuances to it than just either bitter or hazy and double dry-hopped. With the right blends of hops and/or malt bill, both can really shine.
Two weeks ago, we had four similar IPAs on tap, but you could tell them apart pretty easily if you were familiar with them. That’s the result of picking interesting hop bills, and using the right malts that will actually show up in a juicy, highly-hopped beer.
First, I’d like to talk about the style of IPA I like to make. We do some very hazy, low bitterness double IPAs in the NE vein. However, those are for the taproom or on-premise cans only. Our other IPAs are generally 6.5-7% ABV with a fairly big but not obscene level of dry-hopping. These are my favorite beers, and also what we distribute. They straddle the line between New England and West Coast IPA: all ranging from 20-35 IBU, with a moderate level of suspended yeast.
This is done for two reasons. First, it’s the style of IPA that I like. There are two other very good breweries in Virginia that produce similar beers. Second, these beers don’t fall off immediately. This ties into number one. I’ve had some very bad NE IPAs. Drink fresh? OK fine, but if it’s on tap in your taproom and it tastes like a phenolic, sickly sweet mess, that’s on you. And if you plan to distribute these beers at all, you need to create something that has a shelf life greater than two weeks. Sometimes some super hazy low IBU beers hold up, but it’s really luck of the draw on that.
Even though our top seller is always whatever DIPA we released, I’ve really been enjoying just our single IPAs. We keep one standard IPA, Heart and Soul, on tap, with a couple of rotating IPAs. For these rotators, I keep messing around with different hop and malt combo. The idea is to get a beer that doesn’t just taste like a juicebomb, one where you can tell them apart by hop flavor, malt flavor, and color. Here are some examples:
Dedicated: Motueka and Denali. My favorite. It’s super mellow, kind of lemon-lime. Pale malt and a ton of carapils give a hazy yellow color and big body.
Envision: Sorachi and Mandarina. Straight orange. Vienna malt gives a very orange color and toasty malt flavor.
Still Searching: Citra and El Dorado. Very juicy tasting. Biscuit malt gives a real nice contribution to the malt flavor.
The key with hops is finding combinations that are unique, but still good. Yeah, we all love Citra/Mosaic/Galaxy, but it gets old if that’s all you use. For malt, I find that using either a combination of two row and Maris, or two row with kilned malts such as Vienna, Biscuit, Aromatic, etc can differentiate the flavors and colors.
Watch for more of these beers from us, as well as re-issues of ones that really work.