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Why tweak? Rye IPA attempt #2

I am getting ready to rebrew the Rye IPA that I was very happy with when I initially brewed it earlier this year. It got me a 2nd place finish in an area competition in the “Specialty” category. I came up with the recipe when attempting to “clone” Founder’s “Red’s RyePA” which was a beer that really hit me upside the head when I first had it. My resulting beer was no clone of the Founders beer, to be sure. Red’s RyePA has much more of a bitter bite and there are other flavors I never got from my version. However, my beer was probably my best one, overall, to date. Finally managed to get the mouthfeel I often found lacking in my other brews.

Founders is not a brewing willing to share recipe details, although their site does supply some info. I found much more on homebrew websites where I found other homebrewers attempting to replicate this beer. I found one post in which a brewer from Founders had responded to someone’s questions in an email and he gave an estimate as to the percentage of rye malt used, as well as some other vague comments as to the grain bill. Basically he suggested about 15% rye, a large amount of carapils (no specifics, just something like “more than one might typically use”) and something about medium and a dark crystal malts.

What I ended up for the original recipe was this:

US 2-Row Malt 10.00 lb (69.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Rye Malt 2.00 lb (13.8 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Carapils Malt 1.00 lb (6.9 %) In Mash/Steeped
Belgian Aromatic Malt 0.50 lb (3.4 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Caramel 120L Malt 0.50 lb (3.4 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Caramel 60L Malt 0.50 lb (3.4 %) In Mash/Steeped

German Northern Brewer (10.3 % alpha) 21 g Loose Pellet Hops used 60 Min From End
German Northern Brewer (10.3 % alpha) 7 g Loose Pellet Hops used 30 Min From End
US Amarillo (10.3 % alpha) 28 g Loose Pellet Hops used 20 Min From End
US Amarillo (10.3 % alpha) 28 g Loose Pellet Hops used 10 Min From End
US Amarillo (10.3 % alpha) 28 g Loose Pellet Hops used 1 Min From End
US Amarillo (10.3 % alpha) 56 g Loose Pellet Hops used Dry-Hopped

I mashed at 156° (higher than any other mash I’d done), which helped keep the beer from being too thin. Even with that high mash temp, it still got down to 1.012. This was the first time since some early extract batches where I used dry yeast. Fermentis S-05 is a dry yeast based on the Chico strain American ale yeast (Wyeast 1056 or White Labs 001) but it definitely attenuates more. In the few beers I’ve done since with the dry yeast, I’ve found it tends to finish lower than my experiences with the liquid verisons of the American ale yeast. I might just try going with a variation like Cal Ale V or II which is supposed to attenuate a bit less. I like dry finishes, but I also need to avoid thin beer. Higher mash temps can help by providing more unfermentable sugars.

I was a little low on the original gravity because I over estimated my boil-off rate. Boil off can vary greatly depending on the outside temp and humidity. Cold and dry, you tend to lose more liquid during the boil than if it’s warmer and/or humid.Basically I used a bit too much sparge water because I assumed I would lose more than I did in the boil. So I ended up with a beer around 6.3% instead of the 6.6% of the Founders beer.

Ok, so, as I start looking at this recipe planning to rebrew it, I start thinking about making it “better”. Relative term of course. Maybe I’d just be making it different. On thing for sure, the original was loaded with late addition Amarillo hops which were very evident in the flavor. I also dry-hopped it with 2 oz of Amarillo, so there was a lot in the aroma as well. It was VERY well received by friends in addition to the competition, so part of me is saying “don’t mess with it!” However, I am thinking it was a bit one sided in the hop area. Also, I was thinking about increasing the amount of rye slightly too. Now that I’m over trying to clone something, I am more thin king about tweaks to my preferences.

Original was Norther Brewer hops at 60 and 30, and then a lot of amarillo (1 oz each at 20, 10 and 1 minute left in boil). Amarillo is fairly citrusy, but more in an orange way than grapefruit (typical of Cascade hops). It also seemed fairly “mellow” in the flavor. Noticeable, but I wonder if it downplayed the bittering hops somewhat. I am considering a couple options with the hop bill:

• substitute some of the Amarillo with Columbus, which has what is referred to as a dank, with earthy, piney elements. I’m wondering it this would work well in conjunction with the Amarillo. I know it can dominate, so I would probably still use a little more Amarillo than Columbus.

• go with Chinook or Columbus in the bittering charge rather than Northern Brewer. Not sure if that would make a noticeable difference.

• Simcoe. Do I mix a little simcoe in with the late additions as well, making a more complex hop aroma and flavor?

I see plenty of homebrewers making IPAs with various mixtures of these hops. Just not sure how they will play with each other AND the rye (probably going from 2 to 2.5 lbs of rye in this new attempt)
I’m going to push this post out to some great homebrewers (Mike McDole and Nate Smith for example) who are real hop fanatics, and see if they can take the time to read and comment.


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