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The Cold IPA. You’ve not heard of this one. Neither had we until just recently, and we've been thinking it over ever since. You see, we specialize in making beer at home and new styles like this are what we live for. For us, there is no greater joy than being creative, trying new things, and making our own unique version of the beer styles know and love. Well, perhaps there is one greater joy: brewing an exciting new style such as this one!
So we delved into the Cold IPA style to understand what it's all about. We compiled brewer's notes from the originator and the early adopters. We evaluated the tasting notes from the early reviews. In short, we did our homework and now it's time to see what it's all about.
Here's the Cold IPA recipe we came up with and we think it's sure to be a winner. In fact, we might even be brewing it ourselves for the first time at the same time as you are. If that's the case, please don't hesitate to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Related: How to Make Beer At Home
What is a Cold IPA?
The title "Cold IPA" is a bit of a misnomer if you ask us. According to the creator of the style, cold IPA's have nothing to do with temperature except for the fact that Americans enjoy drinking cold beer. As far as the style goes, a cold IPA is a dry beer with a smooth-crisp mouthfeel. It holds the drinkability of American Lagers yet has the hop complexity of modern Pale Ales. So, perhaps because lagers are often the beer of choice on hot weather days, and this beer has similar qualities, the addition of "cold" is meant to make it more enticing in warm weather.
Cold IPAs are fermented with lager yeast at higher end of its temperature rang, or with an ale yeast at the bottom end of its temperature range which helps accentuate the hop character, leaving the malt palate in the background. The style is so new that it hasn't quite made it into the style guidelines. Will it make the cut and be awarded official style status, like NEIPAs? Or will it go the way of the Brut IPA, and fade away into history? Only time will tell.
IPA is the Champion
India Pale Ale is all the rage. We like them, you like them; you could say they define the modern day American craft scene. Their depth and variety has brought them accolades and fanfare. Their popularity has created sub-styles and tertiary styles, and all manner of offshoots; some long-lasting, some long gone.
Cold IPA is the Contender
The Cold IPA may in fact be taking hold. Let’s not hold our breath just yet. However, we CAN take a deep breath of its hop character, as that is what this beer is all about. Yes, all IPAs are about hops, but this one is unique. It is intense, yet gentle. It holds a deep organic quality which differentiates it. It feels like the vine, fecund growth, springtime.
Let’s be clear, Cold IPA is the antithesis to NEIPA. Its hop character is forward but subtle. The grain bill is interesting but clear. Its overall affect is persuasion rather than assault of the senses.
How is the Cold IPA different?
The cold IPA is different for three primary reasons. First, it's made with only pale malts - no red, no black, chocolate, crystal, or smoked malts. Second, the mash containers a very high percentage of adjuncts. Anywhere from 10-40% of the grist are made up of adjuncts typically flaked corn and/or rice. Third, it's fermented with lager yeast at the higher end of its temperature rage or an ale yeast at the lower end of its temperature rage.
How to Make a Cold IPA
For written explanation of how to make a cold IPA, read on. For an extremely deep dive on how to brew a Cold IPA in video format, check out the brew session we did with Devin Tani, the Technical Education Coordinator at White Labs. Helps us break down this recipe style pretty well.
This beer is best fermented with ale yeast in the mid-upper 50s to low 60s or with a lager yeast in the lower to mid 60s. It is ideal for winter brewing and many folks in our neck of the woods heat with wood or at the very least economize their fuel use during wintry weather. In the past, brewing winter ales could be challenging and create family controversy as you needed to bump the heat up a couple of degrees to keep the yeast happy. One of the adults in the house could see that as a costly conditionality.
Making the Cold IPA leaves no such issues. Depending on your yeast, you could even go down to 60˚ and it would be just fine. Let’s dig in.
The Cold IPA Recipe
First, let's take a look at the ingredients. Keep in mind that none of these are set in stone. If your local homebrew shop doesn't have one of these items in stock, substitutions are perfectly acceptable.
- 7.40 gallons of water
- 9 lbs. Pilsner Malt (US)
- 2.5 lbs. Flaked Rice
- 8 ounces Barbe Rouge hops – 7-10% alpha acid -or- 8 ounces of Cashmere hops
- Yeast of Choice – for 5 gallon pitch
- 1 package of Charlie’s Fist Bump ale yeast - WLP1983
- -or- 1 package of Belgian lager yeast - WLP815
A note on our grain bill. We’ve done our research and are aware of the creator, Brewmaster Kevin Davey’s – Wayfinder Brewing Co., Portland OR - intentions as he formulated the Cold IPA. He wanted a dry beer with little to no residual sweetness. Here is a bit more about it in his words.
He used 20-40% corn or rice to dry it out, keep the alcohol strength and feature the hops… and we were tempted to do it a bit differently. We are Clawhammer, we have our groove, so we thought about substituting the wheat and oats in place of the corn and rice but in the end decided to use 20% flaked rice and no corn.
We pay homage to our mountain heritage by using Riverbend- Chesapeake Pilsner malt from our friends at Riverbend here in Asheville, NC. Here are some commercial examples of Cold IPA here.
We’ve gone rogue once again…actually rouge. We batted around ideas and know that Cold IPA is American and American hops are intended to stake the foreground of the palate. We also decided that something different was in order. Barbe rouge is unique in its newness and also its mildness. Its alpha range is in the 7-10% range, not the 10-16% range. For this reason, it feels a suitable choice to bring out hop character.
It’s predominant humulene and myrcene essential oils will bring out the floral and earthy character of gardens, while also adding the citrus and berries to the taste.
If you must have American hops, Cashmere is a good choice. It has a similar flavor, bitterness, and essentials profile.
The guidelines for Cold IPA brew day/ fermentation
- Mash temp – 150˚
- Mash time – 60 minutes
- Boil time – 60 minutes
- Cooling – 20-30 minutes
- Primary fermentation – 1 week
- Dry hopping – add during primary fermentation, 3-day steep
- Secondary fermentation – 2 weeks
- Conditioning/ Carbonation – 2 weeks to 2 months
Cold IPA processes
Most processes will be similar to our Quad recipe. We will elaborate on the differences.
Steps on Brew Day
- Mill grain
- Grain additions
- Adjust pH
- Mash grain
- Complete mash out
- Boil and hop additions
- Chill and pitch yeast
We crush our grain pretty aggressively with a drill and a grain mill. Brew in a bag systems are extremely forgiving of extra fine milling, which is great because a fine crush improves efficiency. We typically set our grain mill to .025" and run the grain through twice.
Add Grain to Kettle
Slowly add the grain to the kettle and stir, breaking up any clumps. To be honest, stirring probably isn't a critical component of the process. But it just feels good. So we do it.
Stabilize the pH if you need to. Because there aren't any dark malts in this recipe, it may be necessary to reduce the pH using phosphoric or lactic acid. You're shooting for something as close to 5.2 as possible. The best practice here is to add a little bit at a time as to not overshoot.
Nothing too special here. Just a normal 60 minutes mash at 150. We are mashing at the low end of the brewing spectrum. Beta-Amylase works best in the 148-153˚ temperature range and will convert the vast majority of starches into shorter glucose chains. This will make for a drier beer and also stay true to the pale ale style.
This step is very important for this beer as it will help with efficiency which will create the dry crisp beer we are after. During the mash out we raise the temperature of the kettle to 170˚, so as to stop the enzymatic conversion of starch to fermentable sugar which make the mash and wort more fluid.
Here again we don't deviate from the standard 60 minute boil as we want to maximize the hop additions to coerce the most character that we can out of them. The 60 minutes of boil time allows us to layer the hops in accordance with their intended affect. We are big fans of the 30 minute boil but wanted to give the Cold IPA the time it requests at least for our first batch.
For purposes of illustration as well as keeping a simplicity to this complex formulation we will use a single hop variety. We choose the Barbe Rouge, hailing from our friends across the water. It was chosen specifically for its balance of strength and moderation. At 7-10% alpha acid by weight, we may utilize its bittering and flavor profile to great affect.
It will add the nuance so much desired in today’s IPAs without beating us over the head. It is rich, deep, and decidedly unique. Therefore, we showcase this hop to go with our traditional early American (old world malt bill).
- 60 minutes – 1 ounce, this lays down the floor for bittering.
- 8 minutes – 2 ounces, at only 5% apparent utilization, this addition will give the main flavor profile: red berries, passion fruit, and currants.
- Flameout – 1.5 ounces, this will add the aroma profile, giving a minty, pine, even earthy aroma.
- Dry hopping – 3.5 ounces, after primary fermentation has mostly subsided, about 70% attenuation, you may add the hops to the fermenter. Soak for three days and rack the beer into a secondary carboy and rest for 2 weeks, letting the beer finish.
The following are some notes on the process as they will differ from other pale ales.
Get the beer down to 60˚. It is critical that we make this happen. Using the plate chiller, wintertime city water may do the trick. Well water certainly will. 65˚ would be OK but remember, beer temp rises 3-4 degrees during fermentation so 60˚ is best. This will assure a good start to the yeast, nice flavor, no aroma.
Remember, once the beer has been boiled, it's pasteurized. It should be free of any wild yeast or bacteria, which could spoil the beer. However, your hands have not been pasteurized. Neither have the scissors you're cutting the yeast package open with. What we're getting at here is make sure to sanitize anything that will come into contact with the beer from here on out.
Here we begin the cold process. The first time around, we recommend a White labs Charlie’s Fist Bump yeast- WLP1983. Ale yeast is easier to use and less temperamental than lager yeast. This proprietary yeast will activate and thrive in the 55-60˚ range. Most ale yeast, American Ale (Chico) for example, does its best work at 65-72˚ F, producing its characteristic esters and fruity nose to accentuate the hop aroma.
A Cold IPA wants none of this. We want hop bitterness, hop flavor, and hop aroma, and then again some more. Ferment in primary for 4-5 days and then add the dry hops. 3 days later transfer to secondary.
We rarely recommend transferring to a secondary vessel for fermentation. However, for this recipe we are. We're doing this for two reasons. First, this beer will take longer to ferment than normal because it's being made with an ale yeast at below average temperatures. Yeast is less active at lower temperatures, especially ale yeasts.
Second, we want to limit the amount of time that dry hops will be in contact with the beer. There is such a thing as "too much of a good thing," and more than 3 days of dry hopping at the amount we suggest qualifies for this. So, after 3 days on the dry hops in primary, rack into a secondary vessel.
Secondary fermentation used to be very common but it's something that homebrewers rarely do these days. Current thinking is that the risks (contamination and oxygenation) outweigh the benefits. We're actually still concerned about both of these so what we're going to do is ferment this beer in a keg and do a pressurized, closed transfer with CO2 into a clean and sanitized secondary keg. Note, we're using one of our prototype keg fermenters, but any keg will do.
Store at basement temperature, we hope about 57-62˚ for two more weeks. Check gravity to confirm that it's done. Then the beer is ready for packaging and consumption.
If you chose to brew the beer as we've done here, and you absolutely nail it, AND if our calculations are correct, these are the benchmarks you should hit.
- Original Gravity (OG) - 1.055
- Final Gravity (FG) - 1.008 – 1.012
- International Bittering Units (IBUs) - 56
Do you want to go Lager?
Another option here is to go with lager yeast. We recommend White Labs Belgian Lager yeast, WLP815. This will primary nicely in the 60-65˚ range. There will be next to low sulfur production and next to zero ester formation. This is the ideally neutral yeast character.
An added benefit is the aging potential of this beer. You could easily lay this beer down for 6-8 weeks and it will only improve.
An Alternate Cold IPA RecipeWe aren't the only ones taking chances with this new style. Our buddy Martin over at The Brulosophy Show recipe added his own take to the Cold IPA style by adding thiol powder. Check out this video he put together on the style:
Final Thoughts On the Cold IPA
The Cold IPA is unique with its fermentation temperatures. When you make the Cold IPA, focus on the details a little bit more and at the same time, relax. The worst that could happen is that you make good beer. The best that could happen is the chance to expand your knowledge and advance your brewing skills to another level.
In the end, we want you to have a good experience brewing beer on Clawhammer system. If you want more from your brewing experience, then we want that too. Expand your skill sets. Be creative, be adventurous. This spirit of creativity drives us to make our original recipes. We hope it leads you to a higher road too. Happy brewing.