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Thoughts on Recipe Design – WGBH English IPA

This post is a ramble about how the recipe brewed at the 2014 WGBH Craft Brewfest. The goal is to grant a little insight on how an experienced brewer can approach recipe design. This is certainly not the only way to get the job done as I use different strategies to approach different kinds of beer!


Extract or all-grain?

This particular event is of limited duration (four hours) using an outdoor burner with ready access to a garden-hose connection. Due to time constraints and the space available the only option is extract & specialty grain. My outdoor setup uses a 30 quart (7½ gallon) boil kettle, so I have to remember that I’m doing a full wort boil.


What to brew?

I like to use these kinds of bonus brew days to draw down my existing stocks of ingredients. One could always buy new every time but being a homebrew shop we tend to acquire perfectly fine ingredients that aren’t saleable for one reason or another. I like to use these first. So, what’s on hand?

Fuggle plugs, magnum pellets, a variety of Valley Malts, expired yeasts. In exploring the available expired yeasts (which we’re happy to sell at ½ off!) I discovered two recent liquid seasonals, White Labs 006 Whitbread Ale and Wyeast 1203 Burton IPA Blend. These combined with the aforementioned Fuggles made doing an English-influenced IPA a no-brainer!

Since I had two yeasts that I wanted to do I decided to brew the beer as a double extract. What I mean here is that my entire boil will be concentrated, just as when one makes a five gallon batch using a two gallon pot. The only difference is that my pot can hold enough so that the final volume will be ten gallons. Perfect for doing a split batch! It is important to recognize that this will be a concentrated boil as this will impact many things including color development and hop utilization (how much bitterness you get from your hops).


What to base the recipe on?

I’m not one to re-invent the wheel every time. When I decide to brew a particular style I then look up a few clone recipes of my favorite commercial brews. What’s similar? What’s different? What are the known stats?

For this batch, I used our Whale Arrow IPA for inspiration. It is a pretty standard IPA that was already setup for a concentrated boil. I wanted to change the recipe a bit as I prefer less Caramel malt in the grist (keeps the beer from being cloyingly sweet under the hops) and I liked the hop flavor in a Foolproof Backyahd IPA I had. The brewer hinted that it was a blend featuring Fuggle hops, so there we go!


The Grain Bill

Whale Arrow IPA is pretty simple: 1# Crystal 40, ½# Biscuit. Doubling it gives 2# Crystal 40, 1# Biscuit. As I mentioned previously, I prefer smaller amounts of Caramel/Crystal malts in my IPAs so I replaced half the Crystal malt with Cara Stan. Cara Stan is a lovely English malt from Hugh Baird’s that has a nice toasty biscuitness that adds a pleasant flavor and mouthfeel at a low color contribution of 30-37°L. So our grain bill became:

1# Crystal 40, 1# Cara Stan, 1# Biscuit.

No Valley Malts were used as they weren’t quite the specification I was looking for in this beer. Oh well, we’ll save them for next time!



Whale Arrow calls for a 3.3# can of Light LME and 3# of Light DME for an expected gravity of 1.059 and an ABV of 6.0%. The beer I wanted to make was closer to 4½% ABV so there were definitely going to be changes. I had also recently read Charlie Papazian’s recipe for the Perfect IPA (Zymurgy, July/Aug 2014) that used a bit of honey. Honey or other highly-fermentable sugars makes it easier to get a dry finish by thinning the beer slightly with a bit more alcohol than an equal part of malt extract would give. I was inspired by this choice so I decided to incorporate it in this recipe.

At this point my desired changes were a bit too complex to go by feel. I used Brewtoad to handle the hard work and found that reducing the DME by half, converting it to LME, doubling the whole thing, and adding the honey gave me approximately what I wanted. Hence:

3 cans of 3.3# Light LME, 2# Clover Honey

For what it’s worth, the honey had been lingering at my house since winter and I wanted to rotate the stock anyway.


The Hop Schedule

I don’t fuss too much with the standard 0/45/55 (added at minute 0 (start of boil), minute 45, ect). I did want the beer to favor the hop aromatics so I shifted the 55 to 58. It won’t make a big difference to the beer but it makes me feel like I tried.

For the bittering strike I started by doubling the Whale Arrow IPA’s 19.5 AAU. I don’t fuss much about bittering hop variety as long as I get relatively close. We had Magnum, so the hop used was Magnum. It weighed in at 12.3% AA but has been lingering in the freezer for a bit, so I used 10% as an estimate of strength. That gave me an estimate of four ounces to get the 40-50 IBUs I was looking for. Unfortunately Brewtoad disagreed so I ended up reducing the bittering strike to three ounces. The software still estimated the IBU at over 60 but I don’t feel that that is particularly accurate either.

The flavor and aroma strikes were pretty simple. The Whale Arrow recipe specified one ounce for flavor and one and a half for aroma. Doubling gave targets of two and three respectively. I didn’t worry about AAU for these strikes as the varieties were relatively low alpha acid to begin with. I figured that I’d make at least half of each strike Fuggle and round out the balance with Cascade. Sure, it’s not a traditional English variety but I wanted the grassiness of the Fuggle to support the reduced pine character of the diluted Cascade. I favored whole ounces so I rounded on the aromatic strike.

0  3 oz Magnum hop, pellet, 12.3%AA

45  1 oz Fuggle hop, plug, 3.2%AA
1 oz Cascade hop, pellet, 6.7%AA

58  2 oz Fuggle hop, plug, 3.2%AA
1 oz Cascade hop, pellet, 6.7%AA


Finishing off the recipe

Since yeast is already decided all that remains is adding the usual process aides. I use an Irish Moss concentrate called Whirlfloc as a kettle fining and a yeast nutrient called YeastX to provide some extra goodies for my little buddies. Since this is a bitter English ale I added my usual Burtonizing salts, 1 teaspoon gypsum (CaSO4) and ¼ teaspoon epsom (MgSO4) for five gallons, so for this batch I doubled it. You can read the complete recipe here. Or see the Brewtoad version here.


Thanks for reading! I hope that you’ve enjoyed this trip through the recipe creation process. Approaching fruit / spice / herb / vegetable beers is different and building from scratch different yet! The most important things to remember are that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel and to relax as it’ll still be beer at the end. It may not be EXACTLY the beer you wanted but now you have a recipe to tweak! Cheers!