Piled high with lupulin powder, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. named its latest seasonal release Powder Day IPA. But to make this double dry-hopped bomb, they didn’t just shoehorn everything into the tanks.
“The amount of research that has come out on dry-hopping over the last couple of years has been staggering,” says Scott Jennings, Sierra Nevada’s innovation brewmaster. “We’re trying to put it into practice to the best of our ability.”
Some of those studies, Scott says, detailed beers that achieved more dry-hop expression and better utilization by doing more frequent, small hop doses instead of “massive, gigantic hop doses [where you] let the beer be on the hops for great lengths of time.”
Powder Day, then, is an experiment of sorts in hopping strategy, and Scott had to start by slashing the kettle additions.
“I selected specific [whole-cone] hops for the hot side that are essentially the highest alpha acid–containing hops that we can get,” Scott explains.
The German varieties Herkules and Polaris are acid-packed—Polaris is north of 20 percent—so even a small amount achieves the 45 IBU target for Powder Day. This means Scott and the brewing team can go big on the cold side.
“Probably a little more than 80 percent of the total mass of hops that we use in Powder Day is as [lupulin] dry hops,” Scott says.
And that list of dry-hop varieties is long: Amarillo, Chinook, Comet, Citra, Idaho 7, and Mosaic. But how they’re blended and when they’re applied is quite deliberate.
To draw out Powder Day’s citrus and resinous character, for example, that particular dry-hop mix hits right as Sierra Nevada chills the tank, after primary fermentation. And since that 800-barrel vessel is wrapped in cooling jackets, there’s an added benefit.
“When you turn those [glycol] jackets on, you’re creating like a convection current inside the tank,” Scott explains. “Because the beer that’s cooling along the side wall starts to push down. And as that is going down, it’s pushing up the beer that’s more towards the center of the column of beer. So you just have this convection current—up the center, down the sidewall, up the center, down the sidewall.”
By adding dry hops at this precise moment, “you get the most out of that hop dose because you’re mixing it in a gentle manner.”
In the end, Powder Day is loaded with fruity layers of citrus, mango and pineapple, “and it’s got just enough West Coast character in it” says Scott, who’s partial to the style.
“We’re trying to capitalize on a lot of different hop flavor and aroma expressions just based on dry-hop placement, technique, and varietals.”
Scott calls the recipe a win, saying the overall hop intensity from flavor and aroma is really satisfying for him as a self-proclaimed hophead.
Powder Day IPA pours a shimmery gold, capped by snowy foam, and boasts a 7.7 percent ABV. It’s only available through March, so use Sierra Nevada’s Beer Locator to track it down.