One Beer, Four Decades of IPA Trends

No style of beer defines craft and home brewing more than IPA. American (now “west coast”) style IPAs dominated in the mid-1990’s when I started brewing, and while these IPAs have evolved a lot, IPA remains the style that epitomises craft and home brewing. Over the past four decades, we’ve seen the emergence of rye IPA, black, red and brown IPAs, double IPAs, the bitterness wars, “hop bursting”, NEIPAs, IPL’s, “cold” IPA, biotransformation, and probably a dozen other things I’ve forgotten. In some ways, IPA has gone from a style of beer to its own class of beverage.

I enjoy the whole gamut of IPA styles, although I’m glad the bitterness wars are over. But is it possible to brew a beer that captures the character and styles that emerged over the past four decades? Can these very different beers be married into something which encapsulates the spirit of each decade? Probably not, but that isn’t going to keep me from trying!


Which Trends?

Obviously not all of those trends can be combined, and we’re going to want to combine trends we enjoy. Some of these trends are also bound to be local. What was trendy around here may be different than what trended where you are. So here’s what I came up with:

From the 1990’s: The 90’s was the decade of the classic west coast IPA. Bitter, with lots of cascade and centennial hops, balanced by the sweetness of caramel and crystal malts. And since my brewing career started with these beers, this recipe will be largely based on this style. So I’m going to base the beer on a malt backbone of 2-row malt and a mix of crystal malts – although, as a sop to my evolving tastes, the amount of crystal will be less than used historically. And, as with the 90’s, this beer will use exclusively cascade and centennial hops.

From the 2000’s: This was an odd decade. On one side we had a bunch of brew-bro’s whose sole goal was bitterness. 1,000 IBUs, no balancing sweetness – perfect! (well, disgusting, but it still was on the shelves). On the other side we saw a huge “localvore” movement, and a proliferation of styles incorporating “alternative” grains and deeper colours. I’m going to draw on two of these: All of the hops used in this beer are from a local hopyard – hayhoe hops. And I’m going to incorporate some rye into the recipe for a deeper and more rustic malt character.

From the 2010’s: NEIPA is about all we need to say about this decade. If we want to be more pedantic about it, this decade saw a movement of hop additions to late and after the boil. We also saw a big focus on water chemistry. I’m sticking with a high-sulphate water profile, but I’m adding significant hop additions to the whirlpool and dry hop stage.

From the 2020’s: We’re only two years into this decade, so who knows where we’ll end up! So-far two trends have dominated: biotransformation and engineered yeast. I’m incorporating both of these. My late-additions are timed to allow for biotransformation, and I am using a Hydra – a new hybrid yeast from Escarpment labs.


Recipe – Four Decades of IPA Trends

Stats:

  • Volume: 22 L
  • IBU: 55
  • SRM: 7
  • OG: 1.061
  • FG: 1.012
  • ABV: 6.5%

Ingredients:

AmountIngredient%/IBU
5 kgCanadian 2-Row Malt74.5%
0.91 kgRye Malt13.5%
0.35 kgFlaked Barley5.2%
0.23Caramel 40L3.4%
0.23Caramel 20L3.4%
30 gCentennial (9.0%), boil 60 min27.8 IBU
15 gCascade (5.4%), boil 30 min6.4 IBU
15 gCentennial (9.0%), boil 30 min12.9 IBU
20 gCascade (5.4%), whirlpool 20 min2.8 IBU
20 gCentennial (9.0%), whirlpool 20 min4.6 IBU
1 packetEscarpment Labs Hydra Yeast
25 gCascade (5.4%), biotransformation, 2 days into primary
15 gCentennial (9.0%), biotransformation, 2 days into primary
25 gCascade (5.4%), dryhop, 3 days before kegging
15 gCentennial (9.0%), dryhop, 3 days before kegging

Brewing:

  1. I adjusted my brewing water to a 150:50 PPM ratio of sulfate:chloride, with 65 PPM calcium.
  2. Beer was mashed for 60 min at 67.2 C, and sparged to collect 33 L of pre-boil wort.
  3. Wort was boiled for 60 min, with hops added as indicated. Whirflock was added 10 min before the end of the boil.
  4. After the boil the wort was chilled to 20 C and the yeast pitched.
  5. The beer was fermented at 20 C for the first 48 hours, and then increased to 22.5C to promote attenuation at the same time as the biotransformation hop addition.
  6. Dry-hops were added on day 7 of the ferment, and the beer kegged on day 10.

Tasting Notes

A pint of "One Beer, Four Decades of IPA Trends" in front of a pine tree's trunk.

Appearance: Copper-brown with a finely-bubbled thick white head.

Aroma: Citrus and pine, just like a classic west-coast IPA.

Flavour: WOW. This beer turned out very nearly exactly as I had envisioned. The beer is bitter, but not overpoweringly so, with the caramel malts providing enough sweetness to make the beer easily quaffable. This sweetness isn’t a sickeningly-sweet caramel flavour like you sometimes get in an IPA, and instead is malty with hints of toffee. The rye provides a slight “rustic” note to that malt character, but isn’t otherwise notable. The hop flavour is tremendous – lots of citrus character, with some hints of tropical fruit. The aftertaste is a lingering hop citrus note that fades, leaving a malt sweetness behind.

Mouthfeel: Whetting and thirst-quenching. Medium-bodied. Despite the high hop levels, there is no “hop bite” or drying astringency.

Overall: I loved this beer, and indeed, the keg emptied in under a month. I am planning on brewing this again soon, but with a couple of tweaks. The first tweak is to double the rye addition (and reduce the flaked barley), to bring out more of the rustic rye maltiness. The second change will be to move the 30 minute “flavour” addition to the “biotransformation” addition. Lastly, I’m going to swap out the Hydra yeast for Escarpment’s Thiol Libre yeast. This yeast should bring out even more fruit character from the Cascade and Centennial hops.

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