Have you heard about International IPA day? You haven’t?
Well that’s just a bit disappointing. But no matter, lets chat a bit about it and we’ll bring you up to speed.
Today is officially National IPA Day, a celebration of the lovely style of beer known as the India Pale Ale! This is a day where breweries from all over the world raise a glass to one of the most brewed, most requested, and most consumed styles of craft beer (at least in the US).
Many of you have probably heard the story that IPAs started out as an English style pale ale, but due to the fact that they were shipping it to India for some of the british troops who were stationed there, they needed to add more preservatives to it. These preservatives, at the time, were primarily hops. So, you ended up with a much more bitter and hoppier beer than the typical pale ale, thus dubbing them India Pale Ales.
Now, there’s a whole heck of a lot more to that history than the very generalized couple sentences that I gave you, but I won’t delve into that here. I will say, however, that if you’re interested in more about IPAs from a historical and technical standpoint, check out Mitch Steele’s book about that very subject.
Be that as it may, the style of IPA has seen an incredible amount of attention over the last several years, to the point where there are beer drinkers who swear by the style (some of which won’t drink anything else). There are black IPAs, white IPAs, belgian IPAs, brown IPAs, imperial IPAs, double IPAs, session IPAs, spiced IPAs, and everything else you could come up with that people have hopped to the gills and slapped the label IPA on. IPA has almost become less of a style than a marking on your beer that can be synonymous with “lots of hops”. In some ways, it may have gotten a little out of hand, but who am I to judge what a brewery calls their beer, so lets just embrace the ones that are good beers and call it good.
So here we are at Wanderlust, in a world of IPAs of every shape and size, left out in the cold without anything that has the ubiquitous IPA label on it, and staring down the barrel of a day to celebrate a style of beer that I have made a point to not put in my production lineup yet.
Not that I don’t like IPAs, but I feel as though it’s a style that there is plenty of around, and I prefer to focus my time and efforts on some other more unique styles. I won’t draw a line and say “I’ll never have an IPA in the lineup”, but the urge just hasn’t hit me yet, so I’ll stick to my guns and not brew one quite yet.
But, that still leaves me in a bit of a quandry about IPA day and the fact that I don’t have a beer to join in the celebration…….
……or do I?
Lets take a look at the Chateau Americana for a moment. This beer is one of my mainstays at the brewery, and is our biggest seller at the taproom and beyond. I had a sample sent off to White Labs several months back for a full workup of tests and analysis. One of the tests that they run is a measure of bitterness, or “International Bitterness Units” (IBU!). This number can be used to determine how bitter beers are in relation to each other and is directly related to how much and what type of hops you put in there. The Chateau Americana clocked in at 40.4 IBUs on the test.
In the world of beers, there are several sets of style guidelines out there, one of which is fairly widely used in competition called the “BJCP Style Guidelines” which you can find online here.
I’ll start by saying that I typically brew beers to a certain flavor profile that I’m looking for, and not necessarily to any sort of style guidelines. It certainly helps to relate the beer to a style to describe it, but it’s certainly not any sort of hard and fast rules. But, since this is a day that celebrates a style, lets take a little look through the IBU ranges for a couple different styles of beers on that list. Here are the recommended IBU ranges that might just apply.
I call it a Belgian Pale, so lets start there: Belgian Pale: 20-30 IBU
OK, so I’m a bit on the high side there, and probably even out of range for a traditional Belgian Pale.
How about American Pale, since I often describe it as “an american pale ale brewed with a belgian yeast”: American Pale: 30-45 IBU.
Definitely sitting squarely in the range, even towards the upper end a bit. Just for arguments sake, lets look at one more: American IPA: 40-70 IBU.
Again, definitely at the end of the range (the lower this time), but still not too far off, and technically in range.
Armed with this knowledge, lets just call it a Belgian IPA for the day, how about that?
It’s a bit of a stretch but really, what’s the point of a ‘special day’ if you’re just serving one of your regular beers and one that you typically don’t call an IPA anyways. At least, that’s what was running through my head. Since this day is really a celebration of hoppy beers, we’re going to take care of that by hopping up the Chateau a bit more than normal, and I’ve done that using the recently acquired casks that we have at the brewery. Dry hopping in the cask (or soaking the beer in more hops after it’s already done ferementing) has been a very old tradition, probably since beer has been served in casks, i just haven’t done it before (but now I have!).
Which brings us right back around to what is going on for IPA Day at the brewery tonight. We have a Firkin of Chateau Americana which got some extra hops added into it after it was put in the Firkin, and so it should have a marvelously pungent hoppy character and aroma above and beyond what the Chateau normally has. We have one with Simcoe and one with Sterling, and we’re going to tap the Simcoe tonight. It’s going to make for a delicious treat, and I highly encourage everyone to come by and give it a try.
We’re partying down with Blue Eyed Tomorrow playing some music, and plenty of the Chateau cask to go around.
Happy IPA Day!