The BJCP style guide has an ABV of 5.5 to 7.5% for IPAs. That doesn’t stop people from making more session-able IPAs (or hoppy blond ales) that have less alcohol, but good flavor. Founders All Day IPA is an example of a session ale with 4.7% ABV. Lagunitas DayTime is another, with an ABV of 4.65%.
This fall I brewed a session IPA. Unfortunately, the beer did not come out well. I created the recipe, but I don’t think the recipe is bad. I think the problem derives from one process decision I made that proved to be a critical mistake.
I had read somewhere that one way to bring down the amount of fermentables in the wort (and therefore get lower gravity) is to just take your first runnings and then add water to get to your pre-boil volume, as opposed to couple batch sparges. That sounded easy and it was sure to cut at least a half hour off my brew day. I didn’t realize the house of cards I was playing with.
After the fact, I can see that this chosen method had a few consequences:
- The straight water that was added did not get treated with the same water additions (Epsom salts, Calcium Chloride, etc.) as the mash water. That means that my water chemistry and ph was off. The yeast probably wasn’t happy about that.
- Because I only used the first runnings, the gravity was low; lower than the calculations in my BeerSmith software. To make matters worse, I added about a gallon more water than I needed, which made the gravity even lower. The low gravity meant that the yeast did not have as much fermentables to grow on. Again, the yeast was not happy. The carboy had extra yeast residue on the inside walls of the carboy and on the surface of the beer.
- The hops that I added were based on a recipe with a certain grain bill and gravity. The lower gravity meant that there were too many IBUs (bitterness) for the resulting beer.
The beer ended up cloudy, yeasty, and bitter. Undrinkable. I tried it each week, and it improved slightly, but not good enough.