Searching for the line between "hobby" and "obsession"

Rabid IBA

9 oz. of hops, 15 lbs. of grain...

This past weekend I decided  to brew what is arguably the most currently discussed and controversial “style” in the homebrewing community. The style I’m talking about became popular within the last few years amongst homebrewers and select microbreweries and was just officially deemed “American-Style India Black Ale” in 2010 (style guidelines can be found here). Since it took a while for an official name for the style to be determined by the Brewers’ Association, brewers and drinkers alike took to calling it by a variety of monikers, such as “Black IPA,” “Cascadian Dark Ale” and “India Black Ale.” If you read around on various homebrew forums, you’ll notice many people seem to have a passionate opinion about the style’s naming convention as well as whether or not it deserves to be officially named a “style” at all.

All I can say is that I sure do like how it tastes. I’ve tried one commercial and one homebrewed example of the style and have found they both tasted like a combination of a strong IPA hop profile with some of the roast notes of a stout or porter. Very cool, unique brew. I’d call it the schwartzbier of the ale world (schwartzbier is a style of dark lager).

My plan of attack!

I’d bought a six pack of 21st Amendment Brewery’s “Back in Black” IPA a few months ago and was very impressed with the style, though my motivation to brew an IBA had taken a back-seat this winter to a developing preference for stouts, porters, scotch ales and anything fermented with Belgian yeast. That was, until I’d gotten my rocks off brewing such batches, and before I found local beer blogger Nick Pederson / Dank Brewing Co. who had attempted his own IBA recipe. Through him, I learned of a small local homenbrew club that he had helped to start just a few months ago. I attended their most recent meeting in February to which Nick brought a few bottles of his IBA. Just like with 21st Amendment’s, I was a big fan of Nick’s so I decided to take a leap and try brewing a non-kit all-grain recipe for the first time. Here it is (with a few minor modifications):

Base: 9.0 lbs. domestic two-row, 3.0 lbs. Vienna
Specialty: 1.0 lbs. Carafa III (added to the mash for the last 20 min. prior to fly sparge), 1.0 lbs. flaked oats, 0.5 lbs. American Crystal 60, 0.5 lbs. Cara-Pils
Hops: 3 oz. Chinook, 2.5 oz. Centennial, 2 oz. Columbus, 1 oz. Cascade, .5 oz. German Magnum (hop schedule listed below)
Adjuncts: nearly 1.0 lb. powdered sugar (15″) I had laying around to help dry out this IBA and pump up the potential alcohol content, 1 tsp. Irish Moss (13″), 0.5 tsp rehydrated Wyeast yeast nutrient (10″)
Yeast: White Labs Pacific Ale Yeast WLP041 (1800 ml yeast starter with 1 cup dark DME  at 1.038 pre-boil OG, 66 hrs. prior to pitch, cooled at 45* to separate yeast at 20 hrs. prior to pitch, then warmed again a few hours prior to pitch)

Brew day complete. Enjoying a 21st Amendment Back in Black, appropriately so!

Hopping schedule:

  • first wort / 60+ = 1.0 Columbus
  • first wort / 60+ = 1.0 Chinook
  • 60″ = 0.5 Magnum
  • 20″ = 1.0 Centennial
  • 15″ = 0.25 Columbus
  • 15″ = 0.25 Centennial
  • 10″ = 0.25 Columbus
  • 10″ = 0.25 Centennial
  • 1″ = 0.5 Columbus
  • 1″ =  0.5 Centennial
  • 1″ = 1.0 Chinook
  • dry hop in secondary = 0.5 Centennial
  • dry hop in secondary = 1.0 Cascade
  • dry hop in secondary = 1.0 Chinook

My OG finished just a hair under Nick’s target of 1.074 (at 1.072 prior to pitching my 1800 ml. starter, so a little less than that). The notable changes I made to the recipe when compared to Nick’s original were the addition of the 1 lb. of sugar in the boil, the substitution of WLP051 (Calif. Ale V) for WLP041 (Pacific Ale) and the substitution of Cascade hops for Simcoe when I dry hop during secondary fermentation (due to the current crop shortage of Simcoe).

I read some reviews about WLP041 yeast on White Labs’ site and many commented on how long it takes for this strain to start fermenting. I’ve had much success lately for quick and vigorous starts (6 to 7 hours post-pitch), but of course am sitting here almost nine hours post-pitch with zero visual activity. I’m a little mad at myself for caring about shutting the starter down Friday morning to separate the wort from trub by cooling it off, as I forgot about the temp difference issue and it was notable between the starter and the batch at the time of pitch (probably 45-50* starter vs. 68* batch). It bugs me, but I will have to exercise patience based on the reviews of how sluggish this strain is notorious for being.

Update: Fermentation began to be visible roughly 12 hours after pitch, though even 24 hours after pitch, this is one of the least vigorous fermentations I’ve had since I began doing yeast starters. Temperature is holding at 65*, within the 65-68* preferred range for WLP041.

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2 responses

  1. Wow dude. Fantastic beverage. I really dig the minor changes you made to the recipe. It really is a fantastic beer. Definitely a little less bitter and piney then mine…which I like a lot and is exactly how I would alter my original recipe! Nice work brotha! You’ve got skills!

    April 26, 2011 at 8:58 pm

  2. Thanks Nick! I recall your version being smoother than mine, but maybe that’ll change with age. We need to do a side-by-side comparison, I think. Brew another batch!! Oh, and GO ABOMINABLE PILS!! When is that competition again?

    April 27, 2011 at 7:56 am

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