Improving your Homebrew Recipe

I have only been homebrewing for a couple of years now.  I switched to all-grain about a year ago to brew three batches of beer for my sister-in-law’s wedding.  After the incredible feedback, I finally got the confidence to start creating my own recipes.  I have made a few stouts, porters, IPAs and cream ales and I feel like I finally have the start of something good with a recent batch of IPA that I named “Tropic of IPA”.  My inspiration was Cigar City Brewing’s “Jai Alai” and Ballast Point’s “Sculpin”.  Those two beers have a tropical taste that I never thought was possible with hops alone.  So I was on a mission to create an IPA around 60 IBUs, an alcohol content between 6 and 7, and to have a very powerful tropical taste and aroma.  I put together the most simple grain bill I could think of: 2-Row and Caramel 20L.  That’s it.  Then I thought about my hops.  I have heard a few people say that bittering with Citra creates a cat pee smell, so I definitely wanted to stay away from that.  I decided to resort back to my good ol’ Centennial hops to do the bittering and pile on the Citra late in the boil (last 20 minutes) for the aroma and flavor.  The last decision was the yeast.  I just wanted a yeast to ferment the sugars and get the hell out of the way, and what better yeast can do the job than California Ale yeast (WL001)?

The end-result yielded an orange toned beer that made you feel like you were sitting under a coconut tree on a tropical island.  I even had a few non-IPA drinkers tell me how different and enjoyable it was.  They couldn’t believe there wasn’t any fruit added to the beer.  So, did I hit the nail on the head, or do I use this recipe as a starting point for my masterpiece?  Well… I have spent many commutes to work listening to Brad Smith’s Beersmith podcasts and I came across episode 30 where he talks to Randy Mosher about designing great beer.  I have probably listened to that episode a dozen times and Randy clearly advises to keep your recipes simple and justify every ingredient that you add every time you brew.  I have searched the web and have come across countless recipes that have well over 6 types of grains, maybe a dozen hop additions over 5 or 6 varieties and I scratch my head and wonder what the hell the beer even tastes like.  That’s the reason why I started this IPA recipe with a simple grain bill and a simple hop addition schedule.  It gives me a starting point and helps me decide what changes should be made to the overall recipe and ultimately make something great.

So, a keg of Tropic of IPA later, followed by a great response and a high level of personal satisfaction, I’m going to make a few changes.  My first change: add some mouth-feel.  I once brewed an original all-grain recipe of Raspberry Oat Wheat that had a very unique mouth-feel that I’d like to apply to this beer.  If I were to label that feeling with one word, it would be “chewy”.  I don’t know how you describe a beer as chewy, but yeah… it was chewy.  Maybe a slight oily feeling.  I accomplished that characteristic with toasted oats.  I won’t be toasting them for the IPA, but I will be adding about a pound of oats to the grain bill to beef up the body and give that chewy mouth-feel.

The other modification I’m going to make is to substitute an ounce of Amarillo hops in for the Citra at the 5 minute mark. The Citra hops gave an intense, tropical taste and aroma, but I feel like it needed just a tiny bit of orange/tangerine flavor, and I’m hoping I can get that out of an ounce of Amarillo. Citra by itself tasted like a combination of lime and pineapple.

So, that’s it.  Still keeping it simple, but every change is justified.  I’m posting the modified recipe below.  If you decide to give it a shot, I’d love to hear some feedback.  Cheers.

Tropic of IPA Batch 2


11 lbs. American 2-Row
2 lbs. Caramel/Crystal 20L
1.0 lb. Flaked Oats


1 oz. Centennial (First Wort)
1 oz. Citra @ 15 min.
1 oz. Amarillo @ 5 min.
1 oz. Citra @ 5 min.
1 oz. Citra Dry Hopped for 4 days


California Ale Yeast (WLP001) with a 1 liter starter


OG: 1.073 / FG: 1.017 / 56 IBU / 7.3 ABV / 7 SRM

View this recipe on Brewtoad

5 thoughts on “Improving your Homebrew Recipe

  1. I have some citra and centennial laying around…and I have been totally thinking about doing a simple IPA with oats! What a coincidence! I am going to take this as a sign that I should nab your recipe and give it a shot :)

    1. You won’t be disappointed Alex. I’m all about starting with simple recipes and improving them over time with analysis. Let me know how it turns out if you make a batch. Also, when you first wort hop the Centennial, take a big whiff and tell me it does not smell like fruit loops!

    2. Haha I will certainly try the sniff test. (been a long time since I have smelled fruit loops, they don’t exist in Europe)

      Yeah I am finding that especially for hop centric recipes, complicated malt bills do nothing but distract and offer ways to screw up. I think it is Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River that says even crystal malt has no place in an IPA recipe.

    3. If anything, the Caramel 20 in the recipe adds a little golden/orange color. I was going for that but I also wanted to sweeten it up just a hint too. I can’t say I could detect the sweetness. It’s definitely something you could substitute for. Any ideas?

    4. Oh yeah i wasn’t saying it is wrong, just remember reading that quote somewhere when talking about extremely simple recipes. For me I think it needs a little crystal, unless you want just straight hop water. My house pale ale recipe has like 5 malts in it, and I have even been thinking of adding a little oatmeal. I think it all comes down to what you want to shine in the beer the most.

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