India Pale Lager

This is another post in our series on IPA variants. (See the related article links at the bottom of the page for more IPA variants.)

 

DSCN0144In the beginning, there was IPA. And craft beer drinkers decided that it was good. British IPA inspired American IPA, and from there the idea of making a big, hoppy version of almost every type of ale followed. Having nearly exhausted the pool of ale styles that could be hybridized with IPAs, brewers next decided to give lagers the “uphopped” treatment.

India pale lagers (or IPLs) differ from IPAs in one key respect — fermentation. IPAs are fermented with a clean ale strain, at ale fermentation temperatures (often 68–72 °F/20–22 °C). In contrast, IPLs are fermented with a lager yeast strain at lager fermentation temperatures (usually 50–55 °F/10–13 °C). To brew an IPL, a brewer could make adjustments to his grain bill and hop additions, or he could simply ferment his usual IPA wort with lager yeast.

Malts and Base Lager Style

If you wanted to, you could simply use the same grain bill that you use for your IPA for your IPL. After all, the malt character isn’t the focus of an India pale anything. On the other hand, beer drinkers are used to tasting certain malts — Pilsner malt, Vienna malt, Munich malt, etc. — in lager beers. Swapping Pilsner malt for the American 2-row pale malt in your IPA recipe may incidentally emphasize the lager aspect of the beer. You could also use the grain bill for a strong Pilsner as your lager base. (If you do swap Pilsner malt for American 2-row, you may need to boil longer — a 90-minute boil vs. a 60-minute boil — to evaporate the DMS.)

Swapping a portion of your pale malt for Vienna or Munich malt could make the base beer reminiscent of a Vienna lager or Octoberfest. Keeping the Vienna under 20% of your grist, or the Munich under 10% of your grist, would add a hint of malt character while still leaving the base beer pale similar to a Pilsner. If you were thinking more towards the malty, Octoberfest-like lager side, these percentages could be increased. And if you wanted the lager to be very malty — perhaps more like a maibock — you could even add a small amount of melanoidin malt (or aromatic malt). For a 5.0-gallon (19-L) batch, keeping the addition of this specialty malt under 5.0 oz. (140 g) would give that added malty kick, but not completely distract the the beer drinker from the hop character.

So, you can use a standard IPA grist for brewing an IPL. Or, you can make an uphopped Pilsner, Oktoberfest, bock, or any other relatively strong lager beer.

 

Hops and Yeast

DSCN0146You could simply use you usual IPA hop schedule for your IPL. However, there are a couple considerations worth thinking about. When any beer ferments, the yeast remove some bitterness from the wort. The neutral yeast strains used for brewing American-style IPAs remove less bitterness from the wort than most other ale strains. Most lager strains, in contrast, are described as leaving a malty finish. In addition, the pitching rate for lagers is roughly double that of ales. As such, there is the potential for a lot of bitterness to be lost during fermentation.

If you are making your first IPL, it may be good to do a split batch and ferment with two or more different strains of lager yeast. Look for strains that are commonly used in more hop-focused lager styles, such as German Pilsner or classic American Pilsner. You may also want to increase the amount of bittering hops you use. And finally, be sure not to pitch too much yeast. Use a pitching rate calculator and perhaps even slightly underpitch (adding, say, three-fourths the optimal cell count).

As with the malt flavor and aroma, certain hop varieties are frequently used in lagers. If you want to emphasize the “L” in your IPL, you may want to swap some of the American hops from your IPA with European noble hops. If your base beer was meant to resemble a specific lager style, using the hops appropriate for that style would reinforce that connection.

 

Options Everywhere

So basically, when you brew your IPL, you can model your grain bill after an ale or a lager. Likewise, you can model your hop schedule after an American IPA or amplify the usual hop schedule of your base lager. I’m not really hung up on beer nomenclature, but it seems to me that — if you want to label your beer and IPsomething — it should have some remnant of IPA in it. If you use all noble hops in your lager, I think it would be better to simply label it as a hoppy Pilsner, hoppy Oktoberfest, or hoppy bock. If you want to call it an IPA, leave some of the American IPA hops in the mix.

 

Kräusening

Brewing an IPL provides one opportunity to meld Old World brewing techniques with modern American IPAs. Kräusening is adding fresh, fermenting wort to a finished beer. The kräusen beer helps clean up diacetyl and other fermentation byproducts and this technique is (relatively) common in lager beer production. When brewing in IPL, you can also use kräusening to boost the hop aroma. If your kräusen wort contains a heavy dose of late hops, the volatile hop aroma compounds will be infused into your beer. In addition, the re-fermentation fueled by adding the kräusen beer is very mild. As such, the volatile hop aroma compounds will not be blown off by the vigor of fermentation. Kräusening your IPL with very hoppy kräusen beer is a great way to boost your hop aroma, and truly produce a beer that is truly a hybrid between an Old World lager and a New World IPA.

For a 5-gallon (19-L) batch of IPL, adding 2.0 quarts (1.9 L) of kräusen beer after primary finishes would work well. Make perhaps 2.5–3 quarts (~2.5–3 L) of kräusen wort, but hop it with up to an ounce (28 g) of late hops. Strain out the hops and get the wort fermenting with your lager yeast. Hope to yield about 2.0 quarts (1.9 L) of beer; the hops will absorb the rest. When the kräusen beer is at the peak of fermentation, add it to your main batch of beer.

In the beginning, there was IPA. In the end, you have a vast expanse of lager styles that could be made more hoppy. Of all the types of IPA variants, I think that this “style” has perhaps the most potential.

 

Related articles

Different Yeast Strains Yield Different IBUs

American Hoppy Ales (pale ale, IPA, double IPA)

Belgian IPA

Rye IPA

Wheat IPA

Session IPA

Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale

Comments

  1. I’ve taken a few stabs at the APL/IPL thing, and I have a few points to add. If you want the beer to taste like a lager, then I’d recommend a European lager yeast strain. The clean American ones (WY2007, for example) work fine, but they really don’t produce a lot of lager fermentation character. You might as well just use a clean ale strain and save yourself the time and effort – it’s hard to tell the difference between a clean ale strain and a clean lager strain once you add a lot of hops.

    As far as noble hops go, there are a few noble hop derivatives that start to produce more IPA-friendly hop character when you start to push the hopping rate. Sterling, Crystal and Motueka all come to mind. They all have noble hop character, but start to get fruity at higher hopping rates.

    As far as the base malt goes, I would just caution to keep the richer base malts like Munich at a low enough level where they don’t start to overpower the hops. I’ve found that once you hit about 20-30%, Munich malt tends to mask the hops.

    Love the krausening idea, by the way!

  2. Mike Rego says:

    In my mind, IPL is a great marriage of a crystal clear, golden, nobly bittered lager with modern hoponius aromas (nod to Jack’s Abby). I have made an “extra” Helles bittered with Hallertau to about 50 IBU and generously dry hopped with Mosaic and Meridian. And a classic Saaz BoPils dry hopped with Mosaic, Galaxy and HBC366. I enjoyed both very much and will definitely make them again.

  3. May I simply just say what a comfort to uncover a person that genuinely understands
    what they are talking about on the net. You actually realize how to bring a problem
    to light and make it important. More and more people should check this out and understand this
    side of your story. I can’t believe you are not more popular since you
    definitely have the gift.

  4. Greetings! Very helpful advicce in this particular article!

    It’s the little changes which will make the biggest changes.

    Thanks for sharing!

Speak Your Mind

*