Homebrewing & Why I Hate IPAs

Well, this week we take a look at something else very dear to my heart: beer.  Our lovely reader asks:

What do you homebrew? How do you decide what to brew?

If you didn’t know this already, yes, I do homebrew beer (as well as gaming systems).   As of now I’ve mainly tried out various brown ales, because I’m working on perfecting my recipe.  If you’re at all familiar with homebrewing, you can do what’s called a full mash, a partial mash, or extract brewing.  Many homebrewers choose to do extract brewing (where you buy a big ol’ container of malt syrup) because it greatly simplifies and shortens the brewing process.  I like to make everything I do in life more complicated than necessary, so I do a full mash.  This means that I extract my own malt syrup from whole grain barley by steeping it at specific temperatures, for specific periods of time, at a specific pH.  It gives me more freedom to experiment, and also more room to fuck up, both of which I do a lot, because I’m still inexperienced.
The question of how I decided to waste so much time on a brown ale is a relatively easy one: I love brown ales.  I’m attempting an English style brown, because I love big malty flavors and not too much hop bitterness overpowering all the subtle and delicious undertones that can come along with a truly great grain bill.  But I will brew just about anything, with pretty much only one exception:  IPAs.   It’s not that I have anything inherently against IPAs, and a good IPA is a wonderful thing, but by and large I find that most IPAs are shitty, poorly balanced, focus way too much on the hops, and forget that the main ingredient of beer is malted barley.  It annoys me to no end how hard it is to escape them, and so I find it difficult to want to brew them.

Living in Denver, CO, one of the biggest craft brew cities in the US, you can’t brew if you don’t make an IPA.  And why is that?  Because even in the world of brewing (a very small community) you still can’t escape trends and fads.  And that’s all IPAs are: a goddamn silly fad.

IPAs became popular (along with other high alcohol, high hop beers), because they survived the sea voyage from England to India more effectively.  They were practical.  When you add hops to beer you have a few choices open to you: add them early in the boil (lots of bitterness & preservative effects) or add them later in the boil or directly into the fermenter (lots of wonderful aroma).  

Bitterness is also measured with IBUs (International Bitterness Units), and goddamn it, there is such a thing is too much bitterness.  Lots of IBUs aren’t cool.  It doesn’t mean you’ve accomplished something awesome, it just means you dumped a shit-ton of hops into your boil.  Fuck.  If I have to hear another person extolling the wonders of the shitty IPA they’re drinking, just because it’s an IPA, I’ll probably boycott IPAs out of spite.

Now, I recognize that everyone has different palettes, and different tastes, and I will reiterate: I love a good IPA.  But whenever you create a fad, you inevitably over-saturate the market with crap.  And in my opinion, the worst crappy beer you can drink is a crappy IPA.

Drink beer that’s delicious, not beer that’s popular.  Think.  Drink.  Enjoy.  And support your local brewer.

If you wish to submit a question to the Dungeon Master, please e-mail them to dungeonmastermind@gmail.com, or you can Tweet me a question @AskthedDM. And make sure to review the disclaimer.

You can also see me in action in One Die Short.

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10 Responses to Homebrewing & Why I Hate IPAs

  1. NVNative says:

    TOTALLY agree. I am so damned sick of IPAs.

    I went into a store today, and my choices were all the light lagers you get on tap in most American sports bars (which are OK with me, from time to time), and about fifty varieties of IPAs, double IPAs, Extreme IPAs, Raspberry IPA (whatever the @#!$ that is), etc., ad naseum.

    The really sad part of it is — and far too many beer drinkers have no clue; very many microbreweries run by novice brewmasters use heavy doses of hops to mask poor brewing art. First and foremost, water is the key ingredient. And if you don’t know which additives it takes to turn your Denver tap water [profile] into Newcastle upon Tyne [profile], you’ll never brew a decent approximation of Newcastle Brown Ale no matter how hard you try. After water, knowing how to extract malt from raw grain is the next most important key. But hell, it’s just a lot easier to use copious amounts of boiling hops, strong fermenting hops, and a lighter bottling hop, a marketing department, and call it an IPA, and get away with what should be a crime — crappy beer.

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  4. artratt says:

    I totally agree with your opinion on American IPAs, although I tend to think the biggest issue is brewers focusing on bittering and ignoring aroma hops. On a gaming note, would you buy a Smoked Bragot as Dwarven Ale? I’m thinking of brewing one for a Dwarf-centric adventure series in the near future.

    • I agree about the buttering hops. I actually got into a whole side conversation about that as a result of this post. As for the bragort I’ve never experienced one smoked but I’d have to say it does have a decidedly dwarven feel to it and I would definitely be interested in trying one. Honey smoked meats are always a good thing, I’d imagine that might translate over well to a beverage.

  5. Alex says:

    Great post. I’ve always been a fan of nut brown ales with lots of warm, roasted flavors, myself. Or an occasional stout or porter.

  6. Awesome, awesome, awesome. And not just because I hate IPAs too. 🙂

    I’m going to share this with my husband and his chamipionship home brewer friend. They may disagree with you on some points, but they also might have some interesting perspectives / advice.

    Thanks for answering my question! I’ll have to think of another one soon.

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