Brewing My Perfect DIPA


Now, notice I said MY perfect DIPA, not THE perfect DIPA.  What tastes amazing to me may not be as good to someone else.  So this article will focus on my struggle to brew MY perfect DIPA, but I think that what I’ve learned in this process will hopefully help others questing for the perfect hop bomb. IPAs and DIPAs are my favorite styles of beer, and tend to be what I brew the most of.  There’s more to it though then just throwing a bunch of hops into the kettle without thinking about all aspects of the recipe and how they’ll blend together. A great place to start looking on tips for IPA and DIPA brewing is this homebrew blog: That particular article has some great pointers that really helped me improve my hoppy beer, though its more skewed toward the West Coast style, while my IPAs tend to be of the newer Northeast Style.  His entire blog is great too, definitely worth a read. There are plenty of world class DIPAs out there, but the ones that have inspired me the most have several things in common.  Those beers are Heady Topper, Pliny The Elder, Surly Abrasive, Bissell Brothers Swish, and hoppy beers from Hill Farmstead, Trillium, and Treehouse.  Breweries such as Three Floyds, Pipeworks, Firestone Walker, Victory, Lagunitas, Stone, and others all make great hoppy beers that have inspired me as well.  Lets look at what makes these beers and other top tier hoppy beers great.

Hops:  Loads of em.  To get an IPA to have the hop profile that these world class brews have, you have to use a crap ton of hops.  I’m an active member on, and it always blows my mind when people try and brew IPA and DIPA with only a couple ounces of late hops and dry hop.  You need to be using a boat load of hops in these beers to be on par with the greats, especially late addition and dry hops. It hurts the wallet for sure, but in order to get that HUGE flavor and aroma its just a necessity now days.  My DIPA’s tend to have an ounce per gallon or more for the dry hop.

Hop choice is important too, and try to use hops that compliment each other.  I personally am a huge fan of dank and/or fruit juice like IPAs, and I shy away from using hops that have more floral qualities.  That’s just my personal preference.  I’m a huge fan of Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo, Galaxy, Zythos, Mosaic, and a few others to get my fruity flavors from.  Of course there’s also the old standby’s of Cascade and Centennial for a more grapefruit and floral experience if that’s what you want.  To get that dank quality, I’ve been using a lot of Columbus and Apollo.  They each have a pungent earthiness, but still have some citrus as well.  Use a super high alpha acid hop to bitter with like Apollo, Warrior, Magnum, Columbus, and others.  Hop extracts are a good way to go for bittering to keep the hop matter down, and both Heady and Pliny use extract.  The beers I mentioned above all utilize some combo the hops I’ve mentioned here, but there are a ton of good hops out there that I didn’t list that impart various flavors that work well in IPAs.  Experiment with these hops and others to see what works for you, but make sure you don’t skimp.

Another thing to consider is freshness.  Make sure the hops smell great to you when you open them, otherwise they aren’t going to smell great in the beer.  Old or improperly stored hops can lead to undesirable flavors in your finished beer.

Malt:  Malt of course takes a back seat to the hops in these beers, but it can’t be overlooked.  You can brew a good IPA with some 2 Row and a bit of crystal, but many of the greats have a bit more to them than that.  Thats where I differ in opinion with some of the West Coast IPA guys, and this is why I prefer Heady a bit over Pliny.  Pliny is basically 2 Row and a small amount of Crystal.  For my IPAs, I sometimes like base malt with a bit more to it than 2 row.  Beers like Heady, Abrasive, and New Glarus Scream all use malts from the UK as their base, or at least part of their base.  Heady uses Pearl as its base, Abrasive and another of my favorites, Bissell Brothers Swish, do a 2 Row and Golden Promise mix (Though Surly’s website now just says 2 Row for the 2015 batch), and Scream uses some Maris Otter.  Using a base malt with a bready or slightly toasty flavor can give you a good malt base without having to use a bunch of specialty grains.  There are plenty of great IPAs just made with 2 Row though, so don’t be afraid to go with the tried and true, I use it in some of my best hoppy beers too.  I’ve even used Pilsner malt as the base for an IPA, and it turned out great.  No matter what you do with the base malt though, please keep the crystal malt low!  Nothing makes an IPA more unappealing that that caramel sweetness distracting from the hops.  I like to keep crystal malts to 5% or less of the total grist.  Munich and Vienna malts are another good alternative to crystal to get some color and flavor without adding unfermentables.  Wheat, carapils, and flaked oats are good ways to add body to the beer without adding sweetness to it, and I use all three of those often in my pale ales.

`White Death

A lovely orange color for an IPA or DIPA

Color:  This kinda goes with the malt bill, but one thing I’ve noticed is that many of the new breed of great DIPA’s and IPAs have a light color.  Heady, Abrasive, Pliny, Scream, Maine Lunch, Dinner, and Another One, Double Sunshine, Toppling Goliath King Sue and many others all have a fairly light SRM.  Many of these great beers have a golden to orange color to them that is just beautiful.  So again, careful with those specialty malts like crystal so you don’t muddle that color up.  There are of course amber IPAs that are GREAT (Surly Furious for example), but I’ve found many of the typical copper/amber colored IPAs just don’t pop in the same way that the lighter SRM ones do, and its probably from overuse of specialty malts.

Yeast:  There’s some wiggle room in this area.  The Conan yeast strain found in Heady Topper can now be found commercially, and I’m a big fan.  I love the peach like and almost pineapple fruity esters that it throws off, and its a great choice for an IPA.  I’ve heard it can have issues with attenuation, but I’ve yet to experience that.  I’m also a fan of certain English strains for IPAs.  One of my personal faves is White Labs 007, Dry English Ale.  Yeast with a bit of a fruity ester profile can really compliment the hop profile of a beer.  Just make sure to ferment in the lower to mid 60s so the esters don’t become a distraction.  Good ol American ale yeast is always a good stand by though, and makes great IPAs too.  They’re crisp and clean, and don’t distract from your malt and hop bill.  The other big thing is choosing a yeast that attenuates well, since even a medium bodied IPA should still finish somewhat dry.  Use some simple sugar to help the yeast out if need be.  I’ve also become a big fan of Wyeast 1318 London Ale III, so much so that its become my house yeast!  If you are going for a beer like those made by Treehouse or Trillium, 1318 yeast is the way to go, and its my personal favorite.  This yeast will not typically clear when combined with large amounts of hops, and it really adds to that hop juice character found in those types of beers.

Water:  Water is something I won’t go deep into because…..well frankly I’m still learning and Chemistry sure as hell wasn’t my strongest class in school.  What I do know is that the right water is important for brewing a great IPA.  I won’t give specific levels because tastes are different, but I’ve found that a higher sulfate level is pretty important if you’re going more West Coast Style, less so with a more East Coast style.  I like to start with distilled water then build my water with a couple gallons of my tap water and adding other minerals back in.  There is a ton of room in this area to experiment though, so find what works best for you.  I’ve begun experimenting with lower levels of sulfate and higher chloride levels as well.  The reason for this is I’m chasing that Northeast IPA creamy smoothness you find in breweries like Hill Farmstead, Trillium, and Treehouse.

Technique:  There are several brewing techniques that you can implement to help brew the perfect IPA, and the clone recipes for the brews I listed above use them.  I believe it is imperative to do a hopstand/whirlpool after the boil is complete to get maximum flavor and aroma out of your hops.  In my opinion, take any hop addition in a recipe between 30 minutes and 10 minutes, and move them to five minutes and a hopstand/whirlpool.  Use a lot of hops here since this is where a lot of your flavor and aroma will come from.  There are of course different ways to do a hopstand/whirlpool, but I like to throw all my late hops into around 180 wort and let it sit for a while before I cool.  I like that I can still get just a bit of bitterness from the hot temps while still getting that great flavor.  Bringing the wort cooler before whirlpooling though will help retain some of those volatile hop oils, but won’t contribute any IBUs.

Another important thing to consider is oxygen getting to the beer.  Oxygen post fermentation is a hoppy beers worst enemy, and will muddle the flavors and aroma you’ve worked so hard to get into the beer.  I personally don’t transfer my IPA to a secondary just to minimize the exposure to oxygen.  Only open your fermentor when absolutely necessary.  If you keg, always purge head space with CO2 after you open the fermentor, and purge your receiving vessel when transferring.  Kegging has been the most dramatic step in improving my hoppy beers.  That’s not to say you can’t make a great bottle conditioned IPA, but it’s certainly harder and will see the effects of oxygenation sooner or later.  Be extra careful anytime you transfer the beer to minimize splashing.  If you keg, my preferred transfer method is in a closed system to eliminate exposure to oxygen.  I use a carboy cap with a racking cane stuck in it, and connect a gas line.  I then connect the racking cane tubing to my beverage out line on the keg.  Using a VERY low psi, I turn the gas on and the Co2 will start the siphon.

Another technique that many brewers use is multiple stages of dry hops.  I’ve read that the hops really only need 3 to 5 days of contact time with the beer to serve their purpose.  Layering the dry hop can add more powerful and complex aromas.  Keep in mind though that every time you dry hop, you may be exposing your beer to more oxygen if you aren’t careful or don’t purge your containers with Co2.  My preferred method is to do the first round of dry hops while primary fermentation is just finishing, usually at around day 5 or so.  The yeast is still somewhat active and should scrub off any oxygen introduced.  You may lose a bit of aroma to the active yeast, but the reduction of oxygen and the layered dry hop effect is worth it.  At about a week and a half to two weeks, I add a couple bags of the second round of dry hops into the keg.  I suspend the bags from UNWAXED dental floss.  This enables you to fish the bags out if you want to remove them, or it keeps the hops away from the dip tube if you leave them in.

I hope this information may help you in your quest for your perfect IPAs and DIPAs like it has for mine!

Doodle Face 2.0

Doodle Face 2 glassDoodle Face 2

Part 2 of my 2 batch brew day on 09/13/14. My first batch of the day, another batch of my DIPA White Death, went really well.  The second batch of the day was an update of my beer Doodle Face, named after my family Goldendoodle, Whiskey.  The first time I brewed this beer was just a small batch in my Mr. Beer keg.  The original was based heavily on Three Floyd’s Zombie Dust.  I was overshot my numbers on that brew by a pretty big margin, and while good, didn’t turn out like I’d wanted. For this batch, I decided I wasn’t going for a Zombie Dust clone.  This beer would be an APA, and still mostly Citra, but the hop schedule and malt bill changed quite a bit.  I actually had wanted initially to use Conan yeast in this beer too, but my LHBS only had two packs, which I used on the first brew of the day.  Instead, I used another favorite yeast of mine, WLP 007 Dry English Ale.  I’m actually glad I did this, it will help differentiate the two brews more.  I decided to go with a base of entirely Golden Promise.  I’ve done blends of that with 2 Row, but I’ve never had it as the lone base malt.  I like the sweetness that Golden Promise provides though, and I’m excited to see how it does here.  I used some caramalt for some color and additional sweetness, and used flaked oats and carapils for body.  I’m trying to keep this one from drying out too much, as I’d like to keep a creamy mouthfeel for this beer.   This was a 4.5 gallon batch, hoping to get 4 into the fermenter after straining the hops.

The water profile for this beer was Ca+2-146  Mg+2-0   Na-0   Cl-58   SO4-272

The brew day went well, My dad and brother Kevin were both over towards the end of the first batch, and my wife Kristin came home from a skydiving trip during this batch, so it was fun to have helpers and drinking buddies.  And I promised I’d put this in… brother Kevin stopped me from absentmindedly almost doughing in without my grain bag in the pot……there you go Kev.  Other than that, the brew went really well.  I mashed in at 153.5, a couple degrees under what I wanted, but it was close enough that I didn’t want to play around with it.

doodle face bag

Kev on the left, me on the right, draining the grain bag

Doodle face boil

Doodle Face Boil

After the boil, I whirlpooled the hops for a half hour, cooled, took a gravity reading, and then pitched a 1.75 liter starter of yeast.  For the second batch in a row, I basically hit my OG, 1.061, just one point short!  Now I just hope the beer doesn’t dry out too much.  Here’s the recipe:

Batch Size (fermenter): 4.50 gal   
Estimated OG: 1.062 SG
Estimated FG: 1.017
Estimated Color: 5.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 45.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
8 lbs                 Pale Malt, Golden Promise (Thomas Fawcet Grain         1        80.4 %        
8.0 oz                Oats, Flaked (Briess) (1.4 SRM)          Grain         2        5.0 %         
8.0 oz                White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)               Grain         3        5.0 %         
6.0 oz                Caramalt (Thomas Fawcett) (15.0 SRM)     Grain         4        3.8 %         
6.0 oz                Carapils (Briess) (1.5 SRM)              Grain         5        3.8 %         
3.1 oz                Acid Malt (3.0 SRM)                      Grain         6        2.0 %         

0.25 oz               Apollo [17.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min         Hop           7        17.4 IBUs     
1.00 oz               Citra [12.00 %] - Boil 10.0 min          Hop           9        17.8 IBUs     
1.00 oz               Citra [12.00 %] - Boil 5.0 min           Hop           10       9.8 IBUs      
3.00 oz               Citra [12.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  0.0 m Hop           11       0.0 IBUs      
4.00 oz               Citra [12.00 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days       Hop           13       0.0 IBUs      

1.0 pkg               Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007) [35 Yeast         
Mash        155.0 F       60 min        

The beer is currently fermenting with the other batch in my fridge at 65 degrees.  They’ll both get dry hopped when fermentation has finished, and will be bottled at around 2 weeks.  I’ll update at bottling time.

Bottled 09/28/14:  Bottled at two weeks in the fermenter.  I dry hopped for four days.  The hydro sample looked like orange juice, and tasted and smelled great.  The final gravity was a bit lower than I’d hoped, 1.013, but thats ok.  The beer ended up at 6.2%, just two points above what I’d hoped.  Tasting update to follow after I’ve tried this one a couple times.

Tasting Update on 10/06/14:

The hop gods must have blessed this brew day.  This was the second batch I did that day, my DIPA White Death being the first.  That beer turned out amazing, and this beer is right up there with it.  These two beers are two of the best I’ve brewed, and both recipes are keepers as they are.

Appearance:  Poured into a tapered pint glass as pictured at the top.  This beer looks like a glass of orange juice.  The color is yellowish orange and very hazy.  I know some may be put off, but I love the haze in this beer, it adds to the hop juice like quality I was going for.  I didn’t take any measures to eliminate the haze, and it definitely shows.  The beer had a nice frothy white head that stuck around for a while.

Smell:  The Citra hop aroma from this beer is huge.  There’s mango, orange, tropical fruit, and hints of grapefruit all exploding from the glass.  All hops, no real aroma that I could get from the malt or yeast.

Taste:  Soooooo good.  The taste follows the smell for sure.  There’s a nice initial bite of bitterness from the Apollo hops, but its not harsh at all.  This beer is basically a citrus and tropical fruit hop bomb.  Mangos, citrus, and hints of pineapple.  There’s a very mild ester profile from the English yeast that compliments the hops well.  The finish has some pleasant sweetness from the Golden Promise malt.

Mouthfeel:  This is another area where this beer shines.  Imagine orange juice with carbonation.  Very easy drinking for a 6% beer. I feel like I could guzzle this beer.  The beer leaves nice sticky lacing down the sides of the glass.  Very smooth.

Overall:  This one’s a keeper.  Waaaay better than the first version I did of this beer.  Granted, the first time I brewed this the malt bill was different, and I way overshot my efficiency and wound up with an under hopped IPA instead of an APA.  This beer went as planned, so I ended up with the Citra bomb I intended.  Though the hops dominate for sure, I love the sweetness that Golden Promise provides, and I’d like to incorporate it into some other recipes.  I also really like the White Labs 007 Dry English Ale yeast.  I’ve used it a couple times now, and I’ve really enjoyed it in my hoppy beers.  The slight ester profile it gives off when fermented in the mid 60’s goes really well with fruity American hops.  This beer turned out great, and there’s nothing I’d change about it.

White Death 2.0

White death glass 2White Death 2

This batch was brewed as part of a double brew day this past Saturday, 09/13/14.  The last batch of this beer was one of the very best I’ve brewed, but it wasn’t quite perfect yet.  This was my latest attempt at brewing that perfect DIPA.

I changed a few things from the first crack at this recipe, and it’s mostly just bringing this beer closer to being like Heady Topper.  I finally was able to get a couple cans of that beer, and it was mind blowingly delicious.  So I basically wanted to take that beer, maybe dial the bitterness back just a tiny bit, and use some Citra hops to get a bit of tropical hop flavor in there.  My last batch was pretty much that any way, but for the new batch I subbed Pearl malt in for the blend of 2 Row and Golden Promise.  Pearl is the base malt for Heady, and I like the bread/grainy like flavor it has.  I also just wanted to simplify the malt bill.  I made sure I got caramalt this time instead of the crystal 10.  I used two syringes of hop extract at the 60 minute mark, replacing Apollo hops from the first time.  I axed the Apollo addition at 30 minutes.  I added an Apollo addition at 5 minutes.  One of the unknowns for me here was the hop extract.  A spreadsheet someone on a site I saw calculated that I would get 83 IBUs out of the extract.  I figured that, combined with all the late hops/ hot whirlpool hops, would give me enough bitterness.

My water profile for this beer was:

Ca-155   Mg-0   Na-0   Cl-56   SO4-294

white death sparge

Heating the mash tun

I mashed in at 151 and left it for an hour.  My target was 152, but this was close enough for me that I didn’t feel the need to mess around with it.  I did my batch sparge, and then got the boil going.  I didn’t realize I had exited the timer on my phone at one point unfortunately, but I had a good idea what time it left off at.  Other than that little hiccup, the brew went really well.

White Death towels

My sophisticated way of keeping the mash tun insulated

whit death boil

The boil!

After the boil, I added all the whirlpool hops, and whirlpooled them hot.  This should get me some great hop flavor and aroma, while still contributing to the bitterness of the brew.  The hop stand lasted 30 minutes, and then I chilled to about 72 degrees.  I pitched my Omega DIPA (Conan) yeast.  I used two packs in a liter starter.  I took my OG, and I finally hit one on the dot, 1.075!

Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal   
Estimated OG: 1.075 SG
Estimated FG: 1.014
Estimated Color: 5.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 105.3 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
13 lbs                Pearl (2.5 SRM)                          Grain         1        83.2 %        
1 lbs                 White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)               Grain         2        6.4 %         
8.0 oz                Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM)                   Grain         3        3.2 %         
6.0 oz                Caramalt (Thomas Fawcett) (15.0 SRM)     Grain         4        2.4 %         
4.0 oz                Acid Malt (3.0 SRM)                      Grain         5        1.6 %         
8.0 oz                Corn Sugar (Dextrose) (0.0 SRM) Sugar 17 3.2 % 

2.00 oz               HopShot [14.30 %] - Boil 60.0 min        Hop           6        83.4 IBUs                
1.00 oz               Citra [12.00 %] - Boil 5.0 min           Hop           8        7.0 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Simcoe [13.00 %] - Boil 5.0 min          Hop           9        7.6 IBUs      
0.75 oz               Apollo [17.00 %] - Boil 5.0 min          Hop           10       7.4 IBUs      
2.00 oz               Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus (CTZ) [15.50 %] - Hop           11       0.0 IBUs      
2.00 oz               Simcoe [13.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  0.0  Hop           12       0.0 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Amarillo [9.20 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  0.0 Hop           13       0.0 IBUs      
0.50 oz               Apollo [17.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  0.0  Hop           14       0.0 IBUs      
0.50 oz               Citra [12.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  0.0 m Hop           15       0.0 IBUs      


2.0 pkg DIPA Ale (Omega Yeast Labs #OYL-052) Yeast 16 - 

2.00 oz               Simcoe [13.00 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days      Hop           18       0.0 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Amarillo [9.20 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days     Hop           19       0.0 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] - Dry Hop  Hop           20       0.0 IBUs      
0.50 oz               Apollo [17.00 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days      Hop           21       0.0 IBUs      
0.50 oz               Citra [12.00 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days       Hop           22       0.0 IBUs      

Mash In               152.0 F       60 min

I’ll update once this beer is in the bottles!

Bottled on 09/28/14:  The beer was dry hopped for four days then bottled at the two week mark.  The beer finished at 1.013, so my measured ABV will be 8.2%  Thats in line with what I wanted, and the hydro sample looked and tasted great!  I’ll update after I’ve had a couple so I can post tasting notes.

Tasting Update on 10/06/14:

So the good thing about hoppy beers is the nice quick grain to glass time.  A week in the bottle, and only three weeks total from brew day, and this beer was right where I wanted.  I did a post about the quest for my perfect IPA, and I think I found it!

Appearance:  Poured into my tulip as pictured up top.  The beer is a beautiful bright orange color.  This brew is very hazy which is something I actually enjoy in an IPA.  The Conan yeast, oats, high amount of hops, and wheat all contribute to some of the haze.  The beer pours with a nice white head.

Smell:  This beer has HUGE aroma.  Lots of earthy dankness, some pine, and some fruity aroma like pineapple, mango, peach, and citrus.  The Conan yeast contributes some nice peachy aroma as well.  You can smell this beer as soon as you crack the bottle open.  The only way I can see this being better is if I kegged and shot it through a hop rocket or something.

Taste:  Nice bitterness upfront, but its not at all overwhelming.  I like the bitterness the hopshot provided.  It’s advertised as being a smoother bitterness, and I think that’s true.  The hop flavor hits next, and its huge!  There’s some pineapple, grapefruit, orange, peach, and a bit of earthy spice to the flavor.  The finish has just a hint of sweet bready malt flavor to keep it from being strait hop juice.

Mouthfeel: This was the area that’s probably most improved over the first batch I did over the summer.  That first batch dried out way too much since I had to add more sugar than intended.  The mouthfeel on this batch it great!  Its a nice medium bodied beer with an almost creamy texture to it.   The carbonation level is medium, the usual for the style.  The beer leaves nice resiny sticky lacing down the side of the glass.  The hop resins almost coat your mouth as you drink.  Great stuff.

Overall:  Well ladies and gentlemen, this is it.  This is the beer I’ve been trying to brew.  There’s nothing I would change in this recipe.  Its one of the few beers I’ve brewed that’s turned out exactly how I wanted it to.  I’d put this up against any commercial IPA I can think of.  Its a shame this beer is such a hit on the wallet, cause I’d love this to be in my fridge at all times.  It’ll be interesting to see how this hold up over time.  The previous batch lost some hop goodness pretty quickly, but I did better racking to the bottling bucket this time, no bubbles and It was racked very slowly and gently.  If you are reading this blog looking for a good hoppy recipe…..brew this, you won’t be disappointed!