It wasn't that long ago that I had been quoted as saying I'd never make a hazy IPA. My neighbor, Chuck, reminds of this almost weekly. Probably because I am almost finished with my 7 part test-batch series of NEIPA's called "fad". What changed my mind? You see, usually, I'm up for a challenge. But, c'mon, making a "hazy" beer and just throwing a lot of hops at it seemed quite far from a "challenge". I've been making crystal-clear IPA's and throwing a lot of hops at them for years. Like "I can update my Facebook status though it" clear. Skipping processes along the way and doing things to intentionally make it hazy seemed counter-productive. But then, it happened. I had just opened this brewery, and where were all of my friends? I pull out my phone and see they are all checking in at breweries all over on the north side. Hazy this and Milkshake that. What the fuck? Fine. I'll make an NEIPA.
As with any venture, I knew it would take a few tries to get it right, so I decided that 7 would be that number, and as always, I named them all first, before ever even sitting down with pen and paper to create the recipes. Nehru Jacket, Troll Doll, Pet Rocks, Poodle Skirt, Toga Party, Lava Lamp and Hula Hoop. Because, if I'm going to do this, I'm doing it on my terms, with a nice dose of sarcasm. And so was born the Cranky Britches "fad" series of NEIPA's.
Those of you that know me, know that when I set out to do something, I'm going to give it all I've got. So, after many discussions with fellow brewers, and many late nights of reading myself to sleep, I discovered that water chemistry and the malt bill are probably the most important part of achieving perfection in this style. Everyone else will tell you it's the late hop additions and the metric fuckton of dry hops and low flocculating yeast. Nope. We were already doing all of that. So, this article will focus on the water and malt.
Probably the most overlooked ingredient in homebrewing. If you haven't read John Palmer and Colin Kaminski's book simply titled Water, then I highly recommend it. After that, the best resource available is a spreadsheet called Bru'n Water. If you really want to take your homebrewing to the next level, you're going to need both of those resources. It's ok. I'll wait. Okay, now that you've read the book, let's talk water. Water salts, in particular. For the purpose of this discussion, I'm going to assume you have access to RO water either through a home filtration system, your grocery store, or you at least know the composition of your tap water and can run it through a carbon filter to remove the chlorine and fine particulates. What I need you to do now is play "The Price Is Right" with your sulfate and chloride levels, getting them both as close to 250 ppm as possible, without going over, using only gypsum and calcium chloride. Forget everything you know about IPA water profiles, for this one. We're going for "soft", "pillowy", is that even a word? Anyway, completely different end of the spectrum from a West Coast hop bomb. Play around with it for a little bit, and come back, and we'll talk about the malt bill.
Where do hazy IPA's get their distinct look from? Is it from yeast left in suspension? Is it from adding hops during fermentation? I'd argue that most of the appearance is coming from the proteins from the flaked grains.
I tested this theory on my first attempt, Nehru Jacket. My malt bill for that one was 67% Pilsner and 33% 1-minute Quaker oatmeal. (Yes, the oatmeal in your pantry can be used to make beer). Instead of using a strain like Conan o
r London Ale III, I used good ole Fermintis Safale 04, a highly flocculating English dry yeast strain. The beer came out about as hazy as one could expect without using adjuncts like corn starch or wheat flour, which I will "never" do. So, that part of the experiment was a success. I was real pleased with the malt character, so I stayed with the 67/33 ratio of barley to flaked malt. I use Premium Pilsner in most of my IPA's, simply because I believe it accents the tropical hops better than standard two-row. For what it's worth, you should never use any form of crystal malt in any American IPA. "Never." If you're using extract, purchase the lightest LME you can find.
Ok, so let's talk about flaked grains for a minute. For the purpose of this writing, we'll talk only about flaked wheat, flaked oats and flaked barley. My preference of the three is flaked oats. Flaked oats aren't malted, so you're going to get fewer fermentable sugars, resulting in a lower OG reading and a higher FG reading. This adds to the "pillowy" mouthfeel that everyone is talking about. It is also going to yield a slightly lighter color than the other two, which is a good thing. Flaked wheat tends to give a slightly tangy or tart finish, which is common in the style. Not a sour tart, just a little something right at the back of the throat. It's hardly distinguishable, but I prefer it to be absent. Others like it. The flavor seems to be magnified with a higher chloride content in your water, so find what works best for you. A lot of brewers are splitting the flaked portion of the bill between two or three of the choices, which I think is a great idea. Build your malt bill to achieve an OG of 1.065, or so. That should get you right in the ABV sweet spot for IPA's of 6.66-7.2%.
Now that you've settled on a grain bill and have built your water, it's time to mash in. During this experiment, I went through several temperature changes, but I finally settled in on 156 for my mash temperature. Normally, I'm at 148-150 on my IPA's, because I'm usually going for a crisp, dry, bitter finish, but in this case, throw that out the window. We're going for "smooth and pillowy", remember? And since we have so much flaked material, you can put some rice hulls in at this point, to avoid the dreaded stuck mash. So, mash in at 156 and hold it there for an hour. During this time, check your pH and see if you need to make any acid adjustments. Mine were usually close enough to the desired 5.4 range, that I chose not to add anything. If you have a HERMS, RIMS or are step mashing, you can bring it up to 170 for the transfer to boil. Otherwise, sparge at 170 and start filling the boil kettle! Cheers!
1:1 Sulfate to Chloride ratio, just under 250ppm using gypsum and CaCl
66% base grain, 33% flaked (possibly rice hulls, too)
156F for 60 mins, step to 170, sparge 170.