How to Brew American IPA | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Last Updated: February 12, 2021

American IPA is a style based on its ancestor, the British IPA which has been rooted in beer history for well over 200 years.

However, the history for American IPA is only a little over 40 years old. During the late 1970s, when the modern craft beer movement started to take off, American India Pale Ales was not too far off. 

From Stability to Freshness

These brewers were breaking away from tradition and no longer made these IPAs with their intentions being transportation of the beer. Instead these beers were made with big grain bills and loads of hops to be consumed fairly quickly with freshness being key. 

The History of the American IPA

There are reports that in 1878 the Ballantine IPA, Newark, New Jersey’s very own Ballantine Brewing Company, was the earliest example of an IPA brewed in America. Almost a century later in 1972, Cascade hops were released by Oregon State University’s USDA breeding program.

This hop became the quinennestial hop, with its floral and grapefruit profile, for the IPA movement about to start in America. 

In 1975, Anchor Brewing used those same Cascade hops for their celebration of the bicentennial of Paul Revere’s ride when they brewed Liberty Ale. A few years later in 1983, Bert Grant’s IPA he brewed for Yakima Brewing and Malting Company was the first beer labeled as an IPA in the modern age. 

Beer writer and expert, Michael Jackson said Anchor’s Liberty and Grant’s IPA were both “the basis of the American style of intensely hoppy, aromatice IPA. Grant’s brought back the historic name and made it part of our beer vocabulary again.”

Style Profile for American IPA

Appearance

Similar to the American pale ale, the American IPA’s appearance ranges from burnt gold to an orange tinted copper. Usually it will be clear unless dry-hopped and unfiltered. Head is white to off-white. Hop oils will reduce head retention somewhat. 

Aroma

The aroma of an American IPA pretty much runs the gambit of what American hops offer. Some are fruity, intensely citrus, floral, and some are perfume-like. Some pine and resin is noted.

If dry hopped, an American IPA can have the aroma of fresh-cut grass. Malty sweetness may be detectable in very low tones. Fruitness from yeast esters is common. 

Flavor

Medium-high to very high hop bitterness is likely. However, the better IPAs out there will have a malt backbone that will even things out and provide balance. Hop flavor is citrus, floral, fruity, piney and resinous qualities.

Malt is usually hidden but low to medium detection with little sweetness and possible caramel or toasty flavors. No diacetyl should be detected. Bitterness will linger in the aftertaste, but should never be harsh or unpleasant. Finish is dry. 

Mouthfeel

Body is less full than in an English IPA. A smooth mouthfeel is common and expected. Little hop astringency. Alcohol warming will be noticeable in higher ABV versions. Carbonation runs moderate to medium. 

Food Pairing

Pairing an American IPA with flavorful, spicy food is a culinary and beery dream come true. The fruitiness of the hops plays well with spicy foods such as blackened Ahi tacos, Caribbean jerk chicken wings, Korean BBQ short ribs, roast beef dipped with pepper Jack and horseradish cream.

As for cheese pairings, the pungent pine hop aromas in the American IPA pair well with the earthy and pungent quality of Cambozola (a cow’s milk cheese that’s a combo of French triple cream and Italian Gorgonzola).

The firm bitterness of the beer cuts through the creaminess of the cheese, while notes of tropical fruit brighten the palate.

Tips for Brewing your own American IPA

Grain

Domestic 2-Row, a pale ale, or an English pale malt will all work well as a base malt for an American IPA. Crystal malts should be kept under the 5% mark of the grain bill. Munich or Vienna can add some great malt character without getting too roasty.

Hops

While you can get away with using some English malts for an American IPA, American hops really should be showcased in this beer. A traditional bittering charge at 60 minutes is a nice place to start with your hop schedule.

Something like Chinook or Simcoe will give the beer a nice bitterness. After bittering hops, the sky’s the limit with how much or little hops you want to add. Dry hopping is very common with the style and encouraged to extract more hop aroma and flavor in your beer. 

Yeast

A clean fermenting American yeast is encouraged for American IPAs. Wyeast American Ale 1056 or White Labs California Ale WLP001 are two popular strains.

Imperial Yeast also offers A15 Independence, A07 Flagship, and A18 Joystick. Safale US-05 is also the dry yeast strain to be considered. 

American IPA the By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 6 – 14 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.056 – 1.075 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.014 FG
  • IBU Range: 40 – 70
  • ABV Range: 5.5 – 7.5%

Martin Keen’s American IPA Recipe

Grain

70 %           9 lbs         Maris Otter     

30 %           4 lbs         Munich Malt  

Hops

1.00 oz         Columbus – Boil 30 min

1.00 oz         Denali – Boil   15 min

1.00 oz         Kohatu – Boil 0 min

Yeast

1.0 pkg   Hornindal Kveik Omega #OYL-091

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins 

How to Brew American IPA

Transcript: Today, I’m brewing an American IPA, and I’m going to speed things along by using Kveik Yeast,… Norwegian farmhouse yeast.

I’m Martin Keen taking the Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. And I’ve reached kind of a landmark stage in my Homebrew challenge in that I’m now in the IPA section. I just picked up my drop shipment of my IPA recipes behind me here from Atlantic brew supply.

I’m going to be brewing Brown IPA, red IPA, white IPA, Belgian IPA, whole bunch. But today I’m starting with American IPA and I’m using for the very first time Kveik yeast.

This in particular is hornindal Kveik yeast from Amiga. And well, according to the package here, the temperature range for fermenting with this yeast is between 72 and 98 degrees Fahrenheit. This is going to be an interesting brew.

Now full credit for this recipe goes to Homebrew challenge viewer Jason temple, who contacted me and said it would be fun to try out his pineapple express recipe, which is what I’m going to be using with just a couple of modifications to the hops.

Now, when you think about the style of American IPA, the first thing you’re going to think about is hops, right? And we need to build a malt backbone that will really support those hops. So what we’re looking to do is to build a grist that’s quite malty, but shies away from sweetness.

Now looking to build a beer here with an original gravity of 10 66, and that’s going to give us around about a 7% ABV and the bill for this is pretty simple. I’m using Maris Otter at 70% and then Munich II at 30%.

I’ve got 7.8 gallons of water, which I’m heating to my strike temperature of 158 Fahrenheit. And I’ve got a few water salts that I’m just going to use to balance this out. So I’m using my pretty much usual mixture of two grams of gypsum, three grams of Epsom salt and five rounds of calcium chloride. Throw that in.

Usually when I get a bunch ingredients in, I assemble it and crush all the grains all at once. So I’m ready for brew day. I haven’t done that today.

So it’s a chance to talk about how I’m using my grain mill.

So I’m using a monster grain mill. It’s got two rollers on it. And, um, this system that I’m using here allows quite a fine crush. So what I do is I get my feeler gauge here and I’ve got this set to naught 0.04, five inches, which is two of these things on the feeler gauge.

Then I’ll just make sure each time I use this, that they are going through here. In fact, it’s a little bit loose, so I’m just going to make sure this is nice and tight without over tightening on that.

And that should really help with my efficiency and making sure that the roller gap is where I want it to be. As for drills, I like the idea of cordless drills, but I found that this guy just was getting really burned out. Uh, it just wasn’t powerful enough. So I’m using a corded drill to drive my grain mill.

Well its not a milling session, unless you are absolutely covered in grain dust. Okay, I’m going to now add this in to the beer. It’s not beer yet, is it? It’s water. I’m going to add the grains into the water.

Now the last few brews, I had been double crushing my grains just to see if I get an improvement in efficiency. I’m not sure that I’ve really noticed much difference. So I haven’t double crushed this time. We’ll see if we hit my numbers. I’m expecting about a 68% efficiency, uh, with the system.

The pH is at 5.6, which is a little bit high that’s what BeerSmith told me it would be. So I’m just going to add a little bit of lactic acid, re-circulate and then just check it again. See if I’m in a sort of 5.2, 5.3 range. If not, I’ll just add a touch more lactic acid, but I’m going to mash here at 152 Fahrenheit for about an hour.

I mentioned earlier that Kveik yeast tends to do quite well with warmer temperatures. In fact, he prefers that and if you hit the higher temperature ranges, you’re unlikely to see more Ester production or which is exactly what we want to see in this beer.

So I’m going to ferment at the ridiculous temperature of 95 Fahrenheit or 35 Celsius. How am I going to do that? Well, I’m going to use my chest freezer and I’ve set it to heat up to 95 Fahrenheit.

I’ve done that using a brewers edge space heater, which I left running overnight. And this is just stuck to the side of the chest freezer and is connected to my temperature controller.

It doesn’t give off a huge amount of heat, but I guess it’s just enough. Uh, and it builds up over time because the heat’s got nowhere to escape and the chest freezer.

So, yep. This is set to 95 degrees and it’s waiting for the beer. That’s it for the mash. I, uh, I’ve been doing a lot of two and a half gallon batches recently, but I have done a five gallon batch here cause I just am so excited about this beer.

Uh, the only downside is there’s quite a bit more grain that I need to pull out now and I haven’t set up my pulley in this newest set setup. So, uh, see how it goes.

As far as hops go looking to get about an IBU of 61 from this. So that’s the bitterness, but what about the flavor and aroma, which is really the important part of this? Well, what we’re going for is citrusy pineappley tropical kind of flavors.

So to get that, well, we’ll start off with some bittering hops. I’m going to use Centennial as my bittering hop, which will go in at 60 minutes. With 15 minutes to go, I’m going to add Denali or sultana.

Apparently that’s two names for basically the same hop and what this is going to give is a citrus pineappley sort of, um, aroma and a little bit of spiciness in there as well. And then a flame out I have Kohatu, which will also contribute a little bit to the pineapple and the lime aroma that we’re looking to build into this beer.

That’s one hour done. Add the Komatsu now as my flameout edition, and now I’m going to begin the pretty short process to cool this down to about 95 Fahrenheit.

Well, I’ve chilled all the way down to around 95F and aerated it as well, because this is a reasonably high gravity beer. So now it is time to add in this yeast.

Now Kveik yeast, there’s lots of different strains I’m using, um, this one hornindal, which is really designed to emphasize fruity hops and to bring out esters of, um, a pineapple and dried fruit. But there are, there are strains that support clean lagers as well. I’m quite interested to give some of those a try.

Now, one thing that I read about with Kveik in general, is that it’s recommended you under pitch it. So it sort of makes sense to me that you would get more esters and phenols from under pitching. That’s exactly what I did with the, um, the wheat beer that I made, the hefevizen, I under pitched that, and I was getting a little bit more banana and clove, I think by under pitching.

But the instructions here from Amiga, they say that there is enough in one packet here for a five gallon batch of up to 1.060, OG, which is pretty close to what this is.

Perhaps we should not be surprised that a yeast company is not recommending under pitching yeast on their packaging, but regardless, that is what I’m going to do. I am going to put all of the yeast that’s in this packet per the instructions right into here.

So it’s just a case of sanitizing, the packet and the scissors snip it open and poor it in. So I’m going to put this into ferment at 95 Fahrenheit, 35 Celsius. I’m going to leave it for about a week. Kveik is supposed to be pretty fast to ferment.

Then assuming it’s done, I will check I’ll then cold crash it and plan to serve in about 10 days time. So I’ll see you then….

My, what a foamy set of beers we’ve got. That’s pretty crazy. I’ve just been sat here, getting the video ready. And it seems to like the foam is growing. It’s like a volcano that you do in like middle school. Did we put some like mentos in here? Yeah. I don’t know. Just definitely carbonated that’s for sure. This is a carbonated beer.

Okay. It has been 10 days since this was grain in a bag. Okay. So this is fast. Um, the fermentation, it was speedy. I checked on it the next morning after brew day and it’s already at 10 23, so it blew through this beer and I can’t wait to try it, so. Okay.

How do you smell it? I don’t know.

What do you think about the appearence? Foamy and what do you think about would color the actual beer itself? Um, it’s quite golden. Um, and it’s very bubbly. I can see all the carbonation. Yeah. Yeah. So I’m a little cloudy, which I think you would expect.

I did not provide any findings to this beer. Uh, so it hasn’t really had time to settle. I think with a bit more time, this would clear up a little bit more, but I mean, I think it looks perfectly presentable as it is. I’m scared.

I don’t want to just drink the foam. All right.

Oh my goodness. I cannot believe this beer is 10 days old. For me, the tropical fruit flavors are really quite apparent in this already. Smell them a bit more again, cause that’s on my nose. You’re wearing it. I don’t think there’s really much in the way of hop bitterness. No, I don’t think there’s much bitter in that.

No, I think, uh, this reminds me actually a little bit more of a, an English IPA in that there’s the malt character to it. And then there are some very American hops added in, um, what I would associate with American Beer very much, uh, fruity hops, but no real bite to it in terms of bitterness.

You put that into words for me. That’s exactly what I was thinking because usually with a, like a IPA, like Indian IPA or whatever it has that tartness that sometimes you can’t really like, you’re like, Oh, that might be a little bit too much, but this was quite smooth drinking on the mouthfeel.

Considering its age, it’s unbelievably smooth. It doesn’t taste green. It doesn’t taste young. It tastes fresh and fruity and yeah, I like this one. Yeah. I don’t think it’s going to last on tap.

Well, if you want to try this beer at particularly if you’re in a hurry, uh, this is such a good opportunity to, to brew a beer like this and just have it ready like next week. Um, all you need is in the description below, including beer kits from Atlantic brew supply. If you just want to get the kit of all the ingredients.

And next week we are moving on to a style that I could not be more excited about. It’s the first beer from a country that I haven’t done yet. And it’s one of my favorite places, you know, it, uh, I think, I think I do. Yeah. I should know it. Yeah. Well tune in next week, by which time I’m quite sure there’ll be none of this beer left and we’ll work on that one.

Awesome. All right. All right. Cheers. Cheers!

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.