Black IPA Brewing Tips

Despite being one of James Kemp’s all time favourite beer styles and one he’s been brewing both at home and commercially for over 10 years, Black IPAs are one of the toughest beer styles to brew. Below are some pointers and guidelines JK picked up and learnt over the years to help you brew a really flavourful representation of this style.
MALT STYLE GUIDELINES
  • Carafa Special III: Use as little as possible, certainly under 5%, he uses between 4 and 4.3%. Can be sparged through or added to the main mash. JK experimented with different ways but found that if your water is right it doesn’t really matter (Imperial Black IPA).
  • Caramel Malts: Important for ‘topping up’ the colour and adding dextrins to the beer to support the rabid amounts of dry hopping you’ll need to do. JK uses 5%.
  • In Black Rocks, JK used a combination of Black and Chocolate and sparged through them and it created an interesting liquorice character.
  • In Raven he used black and chocolate as well for a slightly different more chocolaty character.
HOP STYLE GUIDELINES
  • JK uses three additions, bittering at the start of the boil, aroma and flavour at the end of the boil and dry hopping in the fermenting vessel. Research has shown that mid boil additions do not achieve the desired results, delicate essential oils are flashed off.
  • Work out your grams per litre of end of boil hops, JK uses between 6.5-7g/L. From that calculate your bitterness based on wort gravity and utilisation, should be about 4-5%. Subtract your target bitterness and then work out your bittering addition.
  • JK uses a BU:GU ratio of approx 0.91 which is a lot lower than what he would use in a normal IPA, he finds that heavy bitterness (BU:GU ratio of 1 or higher) comes through as a more roasted and a biting bitter character and detracts from the effect.
  • Dry hop with T90 at a rate approx 8.5-9g/L at the end of fermentation for no more than three days.
  • Varieties: JK always uses smelly big alpha, big oil varieties such as Citra, Simcoe, Columbus, Sorachi, Southern Cross, Nelson Sauvin, Chinook, Centennial, Summit, Apollo.
JK likes a balance between pine and fruity hop varieties, as the fruit character tends to lift the whole beer slightly, improving drinkability.
WATER STYLE GUIDELINES
One of the main areas that gets overlooked is the water profile, there are a few rules that help make your water treatment choices a little easier.
  • Carbonates mellow the harshness of some complex Maillard reaction products, therefore there is a positive relationship between carbonates and dark malts.
  • However be careful as there is a negative relationship between carbonates and highly bitter beers, they create biting and crude bitterness.
  • Ideally then you need to strike a balance by limiting the sulphates and the contribution to astringency while having a decent amount of carbonates to mellow the dark malts. An example of how water profile targets differ can be seen in this table.
Black IPA Water Profile
Hope these tips help you with your brewing.
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