Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pitch Slap IPA

My return to IPA brewing has come after a long hiatus. For months Belgian beers were the only thing that mattered, but its good to have gotten back to my first love, the almighty hop. My mental shift away from hoppy beers coincided with my own IPAs taking a bit of a downward slide. These things seem to be connected; the beers that I am currently into always seem easier to brew well. As my mind shifted away from hops and toward the yeast and fermentation aspects of Belgian beer, so did my best beers seem to start emerging as saisons, belgian pales, and golden strongs, where once they had been IPA's.

I had been discouraged by a few earlier mediocre attempts but now I was determined to create a killer, cutting-edge IPA. The first idea behind my new recipe was that it should be something local, I really wanted this beer to be not only Cascadian, but to be British Columbian. Citrus, fruity, floral, these things all seemed to speak of Cascadia, but to me what spoke most strongly of our greatest of provinces was the tree, and specifically the pine. From Prince Rupert to Fort St. John to Nelson and to Victoria you can always find pine trees, and what better ingredient to emphasise this than the most piney of hops: simcoe.

I had recently acquired a pound of hard-to-find simcoe from a hop order with some of the guys from BrewVic and was blown away by how fresh and pungent the hops were. It seemed a crime to let these hops sit, so with three successive brews I managed to destroy the entire pound. Two of these brews were versions of this recipe. Although simcoe hops dominate this beer I went for the fruity funk of amarillos and the dankness of columbus to round out its hop character.

It seems like the current movement in hoppy beers is away from the darker coloured, syrupy brews of years past. The newer wave seems to favour lighter colour, less crystal malt, and a lower final gravity. This creates a beer that is more crisp and refreshing and thus more drinkable. Highly successful IPAs of recent years such as Fat Tug and Pliny the Elder employ this technique to allow them to push the envelope on hop character while still keeping the beer drinkable. This would be a key aspect of my recipe, trying to shoot for a low final gravity without excessive crystal malt to keep my beer drinkable, despite the highly aggressive piney hop profile I wanted.

The first version of this beer was good, by far the best IPA I had made in ages, but the malt backbone wasn't quite strong enough to stand up to the aggressive hopping rate and the body suffered a bit. Also the dry hops may have sat on the beer just a hair too long creating a slightly harsh aftertaste of raw hops in the beer. The second attempt saw the malt increased and the dry hopping time cut by a couple days. The extra malt gave this beer another 0.5% abv taking it into the 7.25% range putting it right where I wanted it, an American IPA that balances on a razor wire from tipping into Imperial IPA territory.

The only thing this beer needed was a name. After a few aborted attempts, a locally famous beer connoisseur stopped by and we spent a good chunk of the evening discussing beer names. It had to be a bit in your face but not too arty, just like a good IPA, and had to say something about its local piney nature. Finally, it hit me, just like being smacked over then head with a pine tree... Pitch Slap! We both agreed it was perfect, so Pitch Slap IPA it is. Im pretty glad I made 10 gallons of this bad boy as the first keg is almost gone already!

Ingredients: Locally malted pilsner and vienna malts, wheat malt, crystal 60, crystal 30, amarillo hops, columbus hops, simcoe hops, Wyeast 1056 American Ale


  1. awww... I'm locally famous.
    And it's delish.

  2. Thank you sir, glad you enjoyed it. I would never have come up with the name without your help.