5 Tips for Better IPAs from Russian River

It’s safe to say Vinnie Cilurzo, owner and brewmaster of Russian River Brewing Company, knows a thing or two about making hoppy beers. His double IPA, Pliny the Elder, has earned the title of Zymurgy‘s 2015 Best Beer in America for seven consecutive years—and this year readers also named Russian River America’s top brewery. The full results of Zymurgy‘s Best Beers in America are published in the July/August 2015 Zymurgy, which AHA members can access instantly online.

We asked Vinnie for a few tips about making great IPAs, and here is what he had to say:

1. Don’t go Crystal crazy.

Keep crystal malts to a very low percentage of your total grist bill. Too much crystal malt can hide some of the really nice aromas and flavors contributed by the hops.

2. Dry it out.

If you like a dry, lighter-bodied beer like I do, try using 5 percent (of your total fermentables) dextrose sugar in the kettle. This will give you a drier beer while not contributing any additional body.

3. Utilize hop extracts.

Consider experimenting with pure resin Co2 hop extract for the bittering addition. Pure resin hop extract still needs to go through an isomerization stage in the boil, but, you are adding a lot less green matter which can lend a very clean hop character and bitterness.

4. Treat your water.

Adding sulfate via gypsum in both your mash and boil is a great way to get more hop character out of your beer. The calcium also aids in a healthy mash and in yeast flocculation. This can be beneficial for dry hopping, since you can achieve less yeast in the beer while the dry hops are in contact with your beer.

5. Dry hop and repeat.

Instead of one dry hop addition, try making two dry hop additions. You might find that you get a little more aroma from the hops by having the hops in contact with your beer in two stages.

Photo © Duncan Garrett Photography

Homebrewers Association
Homebrewers Association