Make Your Best American IPA

There are so many versions, varieties, and approaches here that it would be arrogant to claim this will be your best American IPA—but it’s a very, very good one that’s held up well to the test of time.

Josh Weikert Jul 4, 2024 - 4 min read

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Ironically, it was taking my first stab at hazy IPA a few years ago that led me back to this more classically styled American IPA recipe, which I was using as a jumping-off point. These days, many breweries are calling just about any non-hazed IPA “West Coast–style,” but this one is more of a throwback, with a touch more malt sweetness than the leaner examples out West. There are so many versions, varieties, and approaches here that it would be arrogant to claim this will be your best American IPA—but it’s a very good one that has endured the test of time.

Style: Everybody knows American IPA … but does anybody really know American IPA? It’s a style that evolves and drifts, no matter how the style guidelines try to pin it down. This one is relatively modest in alcohol (6-ish percent ABV) and immodest in bitterness, with a one-to-one bitterness-to-gravity ratio (that is, IBUs to specific gravity points). These beers can range in color from gold to deep amber, but these days most fall on the paler end of the spectrum. This has some light malt character, but nothing overly bready or rich. Beyond that, it’s a showcase of hop flavor and aroma—but that doesn’t require you to use a fantastic amount of hops. We’ll use what we need here and no more.

Ingredients: We start with a base of American two-row plus a splash of Munich. I don’t use plain two-row very often, but when I make this with Maris Otter, it just doesn’t show off the hops quite as brightly. For a bit of malt character, though, I like light layers of crystal 20 and British crystal 45—they’ll add just a touch of sweet biscuit flavor to offset the bitterness. The hopping doesn’t need to be complicated to be good. I go with a hefty bittering addition (I tend to have Nugget on hand), then Simcoe late boil, Amarillo at flameout/whirlpool, and one ounce of punchy Citra for dry hops. Finally, I pitch a good old-fashioned American ale strain (aka Chico), such as Wyeast 1056. It’s clean and simple and lets the hops shine.

Process: Take whatever steps you need to ensure that you can leave the hops behind when you’re done boiling. Post-boil, I give the wort a good stir and let the temperature drop to about 190°F (88°C) before adding my whirlpool hops, which I then leave for 15 minutes to steep. After active fermentation stops, I add the dry hops and wait about five days before packaging. Optionally, cold-crash for a clearer beer.

Like most IPAs, this one is at its biggest in hop aroma and flavor when fresh. You can ignore my hopping choices here, but I find that these varieties play well together; the flavors complement each other in ways that make it easy to enjoy the fruity character without feeling like you’re drinking a mimosa.