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Make Your Best English IPA

The English IPA is another iteration of the popular style and is more balanced than its American counterpart.

Josh Weikert October 09, 2016

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Ever heard of a “retronym?” It’s when something’s name has to be modified to distinguish it from a similar thing that’s invented later—think “acoustic guitar,” which is a name we didn’t need until the electric guitar was invented.

Which brings me to English IPA. Until the American IPA took over the craft-beer world, English IPA was just…IPA. While it may be viewed as the older, boring uncle of the insane IPAs that now dominate most beer geeks’ minds, it’s still a phenomenal beer to make and drink. I know what you’re thinking: “Another IPA recipe???” But hang in there—I think you’ll enjoy this one, and if not, there’s always next week’s beer. Since this is going to be my first batch after my equipment-repairing hiatus, though, I couldn’t resist sharing!

Style

The English IPA (or British IPA, as it’s sometimes called) started its commercial life pretty conventionally; while I’m sure we all know the legend of how it was crammed with hops to help it survive the long trip to India, that’s simply not true. India Pale Ale was, in fact, exported to India (and Russia, and America, and the continent…), but it was already popular in its own right in Britain and remained so. For those interested in learning more about IPA styles around the world, we have a pretty comprehensive guide here: (https://beerandbrewing.com/VtXo8ykAAMgVjygC/article/how-to-brew-your-best-ipa-ever).

The style is much, much more than simply a toned-down version of modern American IPAs. True, the IBU level is lower (about 50 IBUs for the ingredients lineup described below), but it also makes more obvious use of crystal malts. And, of course, its ingredients are (usually) English. When done properly, you end up with a beer that has more body and hops character and bitterness than the English bitters but much better balance than most American IPAs. This is a style worth brewing and might end up being the best evangelical tool in your arsenal to bring people over into the craft/homebrewed beer light.

Ingredients

This version of English IPA (“Calling Bird India Ale”—it’s a Christmas favorite!) is a bit redder and a bit lower in alcohol than many modern English versions. It takes the lower-gravity starting point of the traditional English IPAs and adds more of the great English crystals that we homebrewers can now get. But the key features—lots of earthy, floral hops balanced by firm bittering and crystal malt flavors—are there in spades.

Start with about 9 lb (4.8 kg) of Maris Otter to yield about 45 gravity points. In addition, you’re about to make some English maltster pretty happy: Use ½ lb (227 g) each of British Medium Crystal (about 45L), Dark Crystal (about 90L), and Extra Dark Crystal or “Dark II” (about 120L). I’ve had great results with Fawcett, but use what you know and like. This should give you an ABV target of about 5.5 percent and a whole host of great flavors such as caramel, toffee, and even a bit of currant.

For hopping, add your favorite bittering hops at 60 minutes to yield 45 IBUs. Go with something high-alpha because you’re going to be adding enough hops plant matter in the later stages to start flirting with that vegetal flavor you can get from an overabundance of hops. At 10 minutes, add 1 oz (28 g) each of East Kent Goldings and Fuggles, and then at flame out/whirlpool add 1 oz (28 g) of Fuggles. You’re also going to add 1 oz (28 g) of Fuggles post-fermentation as a dry hop, so be sure to have it on hand for when the time comes!

And for yeast, I’m going back to my beloved Wyeast 1007 (German Ale). It produces clean, slightly estery, malt-rounded beers, and it’s a perfect match for these ingredients. If you must stick to authentic English ingredients, then sub in Wyeast 1318 (London Ale III) instead.

Process

Mash as usual, but if you’re working with soft-to-slightly-hard water, you might want to consider a bit of gypsum to up the mineral content—it will add a nice flinty bite to your finished beer’s bittering. I use ¼ tsp in the mash, a measurement calculated long ago when my water report nomogram suggested it was a good idea.

Fermentation should be relatively cool—you don’t want an ester bomb, and if it costs you a tiny bit of attenuation (though it shouldn’t), that’s a price you can be willing to pay in this style. I begin fermentation at 64°F (18°C) and hold it there for 3—4 days. Once the initial fermentation phase is up, I let it warm as much as it likes, which usually ends up being about 69—70°F (20─21°C) in my fermentation fridge. This should also clean up any diacetyl—I’m looking at you, English yeast─users who don’t trust my German yeast. A few days after fermentation completes, cold crash and add your dry hops. As noted above, 1 oz (28 g) of Fuggles for about 5 days should add a wonderful earthy, grassy, floral kick to your beer’s nose! When dry hopping is complete, rack out from under the hops and package, carbonating to about 2 volumes of CO2.

In Closing

This beer goes fast at our holiday parties, even attracting admiration from the macro drinkers and the “I don’t like beer!” crowd. It makes for a perfect “winter” IPA, what with the caramel and toffee notes you’ll get from the crystal malts, and it’s great for a long party where you’ll need your wits about you to lead the carols around the piano. Happy (future) holidays!

Prost!

Whether you like to brew over-the-top hops bombs or prefer the subtle pleasures of a British pub ale, discover how to build your own beer recipes from the ground up with Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®’s online course, Intro to Recipe Development. Sign up today.

Have you brewed this recipe? What did you think?