Make Your Best White IPA | Craft Beer & Brewing

Make Your Best White IPA

White IPA should not be confused with Belgian IPA. It's what you get when you combine the flavor profile of a Belgian Witbier with a lot of highly-complementary new age hops.

Josh Weikert 5 months ago

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Not every "specialty" IPA makes sense to me, but the White IPA clearly does. It's what you get when you combine the flavor profile of a Belgian Witbier with a lot of highly-complementary new age hops. That's a beer I can get behind, because it functionally updates a classic style in a way that emphasizes the regional particulars of the original beer while incorporating updated ingredients.

The result is an "identifiable" style in the best sense of the word: the description has internal logic, and the result is a product worth emulating and replicating. I don't brew White IPA all that often, but sometimes I get an urge for something Belgian-but-not-too-Belgian, you know what I mean? When that day comes around on the calendar (often in late spring when I'm tired of "Spring Ale" from Whatever Brewery), White IPA fits the bill perfectly.

STYLE

White IPA should not be confused with Belgian IPA. I suppose it technically is a "Belgian" IPA, but it derives much more from the "Witbier" half of "Belgian Witbier" than the "Belgian." The characteristics are those of the Witbier: a blend of Pilsner malt and unmalted wheat, a spice-and-fruit flavor profile (whether from spices or not), a lively ester and phenol contribution from the yeast, and a modest level of alcohol. To that, we're adding a hops profile that leaves the Continent far behind, and instead derives its flavors from American or Australian/New Zealander hops varieties, and increasing our bitterness substantially as well. Being an IPA, this is obviously going to be more hops-forward than the traditional Belgian Wit, but it doesn't leave it behind: there's still a lot of recognizable Witbier in the White IPA. Hops should accentuate - not overshadow - our classic style.

RECIPE

This recipe wanders up to the higher end of the ABV range for the style, but not absurdly so in the context of where most commercial IPAs end up. Start with six pounds of Pilsner malt and five pounds of flaked wheat, to lay down the grainy/wheaty base that we'd expect from a Witbier. To that, add half a pound of Melanoidin malt (adding more and a different expression of "bready" flavor) and half a pound of Acidulated malt (to create an impression of lemon/citrus). That should get you to around 1.063, with a still-pale SRM level of six. You're also going to want a half-pound of rice hulls for our mash, or you run the risk of sticking.

Hopping is my favorite part of this beer. Part stays exactly as it is in my Belgian Wit recipe: take two ounces of Pacific Jade (which actually tastes like pepper, coriander, orange, and more that we're not going to add), and add enough to get 20-25 IBUs from an addition with 10 minutes left in the boil, then add the rest at flameout. To those flameout hops, though, we add a level ounce of Amarillo pellets, which will increase the fruity character and make it a bit less Continental and more classically American. The stone fruit flavors are a great complement to the lime-and-pepper of the Pacific Jade. Finally, returning to the top of the boil, add 25 IBUs from any high-alpha hops variety.

For yeast, this is one of two pale Belgian beers for which I don't use my preferred Ardennes yeast, and instead I recommend you stick with a more conventional Wyeast 3944 (Belgian Witbier) yeast.

You'll notice, as in my Witbier recipe, no spices or herbs added. I simply find them to be unnecessary, given the hops used. You can feel free to add them at your own peril: spicing increases the risk of astringency, and especially in an IPA variant that's something to avoid.

PROCESS

Mash at 152F, but let it sit for 90 minutes instead of the typical 60: it should result in a healthy and complete mash/conversion even in the absence of a protein rest. Boil as usual, and let your hops sit in the whirlpool for a good 15-20 minutes to extract as much of their wonderful oils, aromas, and flavors as possible!

Chill, pitch, and ferment this beer at 67F for the first 4-5 days before letting the temperature free rise to about 72F. It should finish up fermentation quickly - within ten days. Go ahead and package it up as early as you can (48 hours after airlock activity falls way off), and get it packaged up and carbonated to 2.25 volumes. A bit of haze is typical in the style, so there's not need to wait for it to clear. Keg/bottle it up and enjoy!

IN CLOSING

If you think of this as a heavily-hopped American Witbier, you're well on your way. Choose good hops - and feel free to experiment - and let them shine. This is a good base on which to build interesting and complex hops flavor, and it may become one of your go-to styles of IPA, especially in warmer weather. Who needs another Spring/Summer Ale? Brew this instead.

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