Being a homebrewer and a perfectionist is not a good combination. Beer should be a laid back. You drink it with friends, enjoy it outdoors on beautiful days, it warms your soul on cozy, rainy days. When used properly, it’s very relaxing and enhances the enjoyment of most situations.
By association, homebrewing is meant to be a relaxing hobby, one that allows us to create our own interpretation of the beverage we love. (And yes, any successful homebrewer loves beer. You won’t stick with it long if you don’t. It’s too much work.) After all, the motto Charlie Papazian made famous in his homebrewing book is “Relax. Don’t Worry. Have a homebrew.”
I’ve been brewing for almost three years now, so fortunately I’m familiar enough with the process that I don’t get very anxious or worried during the brewing process. I still screw things up all the time, but I’m able to recover without ruining the beer.
(Like this past weekend, when I forgot to put the bazooka screen inside the mash tun before I added the hot liquor and grain. I tried to insulate my arm with a rubber glove and garbage bag to reach in and attach it, but I still got a couple nasty burns on my wrist. Before I stuck my hand in, I had one of those crossroads moments in life. I knew I could do pretty bad damage to my arm, but if I didn’t, my beer would suffer. I chose the beer. I lived, and I shall be rewarded.)
So even though I’m not as anxious about brewing as I used to be, I’m still a perfectionist when it comes to the finished product. I have been from the beginning. My first 10 batches or so all had that “homebrew twang” to them. They were all drinkable, but I could just tell. That always bothered me. But, I stuck with it, knowing I’d get better.
Even as my beers improved, I could always find something that I found slightly off. Perhaps a stout wasn’t stout enough, or a pale ale was too bitter, or I didn’t get enough hop aroma. People have given me very nice compliments on my beer, but I always knew where they fell short.
After almost three years and over 20 batches, I finally nailed it on my latest IPA. At the risk of coming across arrogant, let me say that it turned out exactly how I like it. It’s not for everyone, and others may prefer different characteristics, but for my tastes, this one brings everything to the table.
Isn’t that why all of us homebrew? Over time, you learn and experiment trying to get everything just right to create that unique beer that you are proud to claim as your own. Eventually you figure out how to make your favorite beer. If that wasn’t the goal, then we might as well hang up our galoshes and head to the beer isle at the grocery store.
I doubt this IPA will ever win any awards, but I feel like I finally got everything right for my tastes, the hop/malt balance, great hop progression from aroma to flavor to bitterness, a firm body and good malt flavor. I’m sure there’s room for improvement and I’ll tweak the recipe on future batches, but I have enjoyed this IPA as much as anything I’ve had from other breweries, and I don’t say that lightly.
Untamed IPA Reviewed
It’s orange-amber color with slight off-white head. The head is creamy and sticks around for a while. The aroma isn’t strong enough to make you slap your mama, but citrus hops are very apparent. I used Centennial and Nugget for aroma and dry hopped with Cascade. There’s also a sweet candy-like undertone in the aroma.
There’s a lot of citrus hops in the flavor. The hops aren’t overpowering, as they are very well balanced by a strong malt backbone. It’s pretty sweet and has some bread and caramel things going on. For an IPA, I feel like the malt character has a good bit of complexity. It tastes very good and has a lot of body, but isn’t thick or high-alcohol. My measurements came in at about 5% ABV.
It finishes bitter, but not overpowering. The bitterness fits in very well with the overall character of the beer. That’s the theme of this beer: balanced. It’s big and flavorful, but balanced throughout. I’ve been trying to achieve this for years and I feel like I’ve finally done it.
To give the beer some non-traditional twists, I added a few different grains to the mash. I toasted some of the 2-row before adding it to the mash (10 minutes at 350 on a cookie sheet). I also used a small percentage of wheat and extra special malt (Special-B). I also cut back on the amount of C-20 I’ve used in the past.
To get some of the hop balance, I used a blend approach that I learned from David Merritt at Coast. He suggested to blend hops as I progress through the boil. So in this recipe, I added Amarillo and Millennium at 60 minutes, Nugget and a little Amarillo at 15 minutes, Centennial and a little Nugget at flame out, and then I dry hopped with Cascade. All told, I used 10 ounces of hops in the boil and dry hopped with 6 ounces, 3 in each 5-gallon carboy (keep in mind it was a 10-gallon batch).