Sunday, 31 March 2013

IPA stories: Gahr Smith-Gahrsen

This article could just as well be named "How To Brew an IPA with Gahr Smith-Gahrsen".


Gahr is a 40-year-old schoolteacher from Norway's second largest city Bergen. He's won a s**t load of homebrewing contests and even been on "Norge Rundt" (Around Norway) one of the most popular TV-shows in Norway. His greatest brewing achievement except for winning the Norwegian Homebrewing Championship, and brewing the winning beer a 10% barley wine named Andhrimnir at Nøgne Ø, is starting up Norway’s very first gypsy brewery "ABC Brewing" with his friend Kim Odland. I interviewed ABC Brewing back in January and you can check that out here. But this time the subject is brewing IPA's at home. Gahr is referred to by many as a human brewing encyclopedia and is very active on the Norbrygg forum. Norway’s best home brew store uses Gahr's recipes in their "all grain recipe brewing kits". So it were only natural to have another talk with Gahr when I started this IPA focus period on this blog. Gahr and John J. Palmer were the biggest brew geeks I could think of so I'm very proud to feature them both here on this blog. Check out the Palmer thing here.

Warning: This will get geeky! (This is only for homebrewers and aspiring homebrewers.)


Tell us about the first time you ever tasted an IPA?

Well, actually I don’t really remember exactly when, but it was probably a Goose Island IPA sometime back in the 1990s. I remember having read about the resiny, citrusy fruitiness of Cascade hops and American IPAs, but didn’t really know what to expect. I guess you could call it love at first sip. The sheer freshness of it was fantastic. It was in the summer, and I remember being a bit annoyed that the beer wasn’t lower in alcohol - Goose Island IPA clocks in at 5.9 %, a bit on the low side for an IPA these days – because it was such a perfect summer thirst quencher. It’s still one of my favorite beers, actually.

When did you start brewing IPA, and do you know how far back homebrewers have made IPA in Norway? Do you have any stories?

My first IPA was brewed on December 4. 2005. It was an English-style IPA, using pretty decent amounts of Target and Goldings hops. The OG was 1.064 with 50 IBUs. Before this I had mainly concentrated on brewing British style beers and a few lagers.

To be honest, I don’t really know for how long Norwegian homebrewers have been brewing IPAs, but the popularity has increased a lot, as have the amounts of hops used, since then. The knowledge of the brewing techniques used in the brewing of the style has also increased among brewers in Norway.

When it comes to stories, I guess I have one that illustrates the usefulness of knowing a bit about brewing to style. It’s not funny or anything, but I once visited a small Norwegian brewpub, which shall remain nameless, and talked to the owner/brewer about the house beers. He proudly poured me a glass of his newest creation; yes, it was supposed to be an IPA. There was, however, very little about the beer that actually reminded me of an IPA, faint, flowery hops, a watery mouthfeel and a sweet, almost cloying finish, and when I asked him about the recipe, he revealed that he used Saaz hops to give the beer a rather unimpressive 40 IBUs. Fermenting the beer with Brewferm dried yeast without any proper oxygenation or temperature control didn’t do the beer any favors either. It just goes to show that proper brewing techniques and knowledge are the main factors in the brewing of quality beers.

A younger Gahr. Photo:

What's the perfect IPA mash/grain bill to get the most out of your hops and give the IPA a nice backbone? Mash methods, additives... 

If you pose this question to ten different brewers, you would probably get at least 11 different answers. For American-style IPAs a lot of brewers, particularly American, would state that the only way to go would be to use American two-row pale malt as the base malt. This gives the beer a crisp malt backbone, but personally I prefer a more bisquity British pale malt for this. Like with any beer, there is a definite element of personal preference here, but it is still important to consider the balance of the beer. An IPA should definitely lean towards the hops as far as balance goes, but the malts are still important. I like to add a small amount of munich and pale and medium crystal malts, but I keep the amount of these malts below 10 % of the total malt bill, to avoid any problems with attenuation or sweetness. The crystal and munich malts are there simply to add a certain complexity, not to compete with the hops. My typical IPA would use about 4,3 % munich at 25 EBC, 3,4 % pale crystal at 70 EBC and 1,7 % crystal at 120 EBC.

I don’t really see the need for any special techniques when mashing an IPA. I tend to mash at about 65 °C for an hour, and then ramp the temperature up to 77 °C for the mash-out. A single step infusion mash would work just as well. The important thing is to mash at a temperature that will give you a well-attenuated beer. You want the beer to be fairly dry to keep it relatively easy-drinking. IPAs should be quaffable, in my opinion. Not in the sense that you should drink pints and pints of it all through a long evening - you would probably fall over - but you should be able to have more than one without being overwhelmed by malty sweetness.

As for additives, I tend to use an addition of calcium sulphate, or Gypsum if you will, to slightly enhance the hop character and to hit the proper pH of the mash. Water adjustments are not crucial, though. The water in Norway tends to be rather low in calcium, so adding some form of calcium is generally a good idea, but it’s important not to go overboard with it. A calcium level of about 50 mg/l helps the yeast flocculate. I use about four grams of calcium sulphate per ten liters of water in my IPA batches, and I sometimes add small doses of calcium carbonate to my IPA as well, to hit a target pH of 5.2. You want a pH below 6 and above 5 to maximize enzymatic activity and to avoid tannin extraction from the grain husks. Tannins are mostly extracted if the pH rises above 6 during sparging and can cause astringency in the final product. But too much sulphate can hurt the flavor, so be careful. Lervig brewer Mike Murphy is well known for his hoppy beers, but he swears by calcium chloride instead of calcium sulphate, Chloride enhances the maltiness of the beer, and you avoid any soapy off-flavors.

Other additives would in my case be plain sucrose, but I only use that in double IPAs, simply to boost the gravity without ending up with an excessively sweet beer. I don’t care much for imperial IPAs that are too big, they taste too much like barley wines. I typically add 5-10 % sucrose to my double IPAs.

What's your favorite hops combos? And why?

Oh, there are so many! My go-to hop combo would normally be a small dose of Chinook added as a first wort hop or at 60 minutes, depending on what I feel like at the time of brewing, and then a 50/50 blend of Amarillo and Simcoe for flavor and aroma. For dry hopping I would use a blend of equal parts Amarillo, Simcoe and some other hop, probably Chinook or Columbus. I like the way Amarillo and Simcoe work together; the tropical notes of the Amarillo work really well with the rougher grapefruit and pine of the Simcoe. I have used this in my home-brewed IPAs for years, and we use pretty much the same hopping in the ABC Brewing West Coast Lager, albeit at a lower rate than for an IPA. I generally look for hops that complement each other in this way when I choose hops for American-style beers; I want a certain complexity in IPAs, so I will usually pick one smoother, more fruity variety and one slightly rougher. Lately I’ve been doing a few beers with Mosaic and Summit. I think they make for an interesting comb too. Summit can be quite sulphury and almost garlic-like when used at high levels, but these characteristics diminish when it is paired with the right hop. Mosaic has a powerful mango aroma that I enjoy a lot. Mosaic and Chinook are pretty good together as well. If you are looking for hops that pull in the same direction, if you know what I mean, Mosaic and Nelson Sauvin can work great as well. Lots of homebrewers are into single-hop beers as well these days. I like the idea of single hop beers, but I see them more as a tool for learning than as potentially fantastic beers. Depending on what varieties you go for, they can end up rather one-dimensional. The hops I find work best in single hop beers are probably the good old Cascade. Sure, this has to do with personal preferences, but single-hop IPAs can be a bit lacking in complexity at times.

Gahr & Kim of ABC Brewing. Photo:

What does it take in your mind to create a technically well brewed IPA?

IPA is no different than any other style in this regard; the most important factors are knowledge and technique. By this I mean knowing what matters in brewing and being able to execute these techniques properly. Cleanliness IS godliness, and conducting the fermentation in the right way is the most crucial part of brewing. I always find it strange how homebrewers can spend tons of money on really great equipment for mashing but skimp on the things that help them control fermentation. I’d rather spend my money on pure O2, proper temperature control and a magnetic stir plate than on shiny mash equipment. I’d much rather do BIAB beers and keep my O2 and temperature-controlled fridge, than get a full Blichmann or Sabco setup without the oxygen and fermentation temp control. I’d prefer both, but I have my priorities in order. Sure, a certain level of control is necessary when mashing, but the fermentation side of things is WAY more important! An IPA should be clean, without too many yeast-derived esters, higher alcohols or diacetyl, and good yeast handling ensures this. Pitch the proper amount of fresh, viable yeast ( has a great pitching rate calculator), oxygenate the wort well and control the fermentation temps.

What are the no-no’s when brewing an IPA?

Too much sweetness and overpowering malt is a no-no in my book. Go fairly easy on the specialty malts, and mash for attenuation. Diacetyl should also be avoided. Not using enough or using way too much of them aren’t good ideas either. The beer needs a certain balance. The hops should be the most prominent feature in an IPA, but some homebrewers add way too much bitterness. Granted, the beer should have a firm bitterness, but the enamel on your teeth should still be intact after a few pints. Lip-curling bitterness is not a point in itself, everything in a beer needs to serve a purpose, and all beers should be enjoyable to drink. I tend to add a lot of the bitterness to my IPAs as late hops. This ensures that you get a decent hop flavor and aroma as well as bitterness.

Yeast & fermentation, what yeast do you recommend to use when brewing an IPA and what are the most important things during fermentation?

Well, I guess I have already touched upon some of the things I find important, but when it comes to selecting the right yeast, there are different schools of thought. The Chico/American/California yeast is definitely king when it comes to commercial examples of IPA these days. That’s the Wyeast 1056/White Labs WLP001/Safale US-05 strain, available to anyone. It ferments cleanly, attenuates well and is really temperature tolerant. If you treat it well, it lets the other ingredients of the beer shine and really makes the hops pop. However, it might just be a bit too neutral for some. A number of noted breweries use English strains for their American-style IPAs. Nøgne Ø uses the White Labs WLP007, and rumor has it that Stone also uses a version if this strain. Lagunitas uses a strain similar to the White Labs WLP002/Wyeast 1968, the strain known as the “Fullers yeast” and Kinn uses the fantastic top-cropper Wyeast 1318. These yeasts produce higher levels of esters than the California yeast, but if you treat them right, the still produce wonderful IPAs. It’s all about achieving a balance between the hop- and yeast-driven aromatics of the beer and getting the attenuation right at the same time. I have used all of the above for IPAs in my homebrewing, but these days I’m mainly using WLP001 since that is the strain we use in the American-style ABC brews.

What are the do's & don'ts of dry hopping?

The main rule would be only to use fresh hops. Keep your hops refrigerated, preferably frozen, and avoid oxidation. If they don’t smell fresh, get rid of them. Dry hopping is not that hard, actually. You just chuck in the hops you want, and leave them there for a few days and you’re good to go. One thing I find, though, is that a little really goes a long way at times. Although it is tempting to use insane amounts in a lot of beers, sometimes showing a bit of restraint can give you a cleaner beer where the different nuances of the brew come into focus. Don’t get me wrong, I like wasting hops just as much as the next brewer, but there’s not much point in hopping the hell out of a beer just because you can, if it doesn’t make the beer better. Not using enough hops on the other hand, can also be a fault. While a certain amount of restraint can be a positive, without a proper hop aroma, an IPA will be pretty boring.

When you do use large amounts of hops, the contact time can be an issue. I like to dry hop in different stages to keep the contact time fairly low for at least parts of the hops. It’s a technique we use for the ABC Henrik Imperial Amber, for instance. We divide the dry hops into two equal parts, and add the second load four to five days after the first addition. The total time on the dry hops will be no more than ten days. The goodness is mostly extracted in the first three or four days, and by keeping the contact time a little shorter for the second load, we avoid excessive vegetal notes in the beer. We’re working on an ABC IPA at the moment where we’ll be dry hopping in different stages too. That being said, I have never really experienced the much maligned “grassiness” you reportedly get from dry hopping for too long in any of my beers.

Thinking about temperature is also a good idea when dry hopping. The volatiles of the hops are more easily extracted at higher temperatures, so you would typically want to dry hop at fermentation temperatures or slightly higher.

Choosing the right varieties to dry hop with is also important, of course. I always think of which direction I want the aroma to take; pine, resin, stone fruit, citrus, dank, catpiss (yes, catpiss!), herbal, floral or vegetal etc. Catpiss sounds pretty awful, but it’s all about the blending of aromas. Like when a faint sulphur note can add freshness to a light lager. Rough smells in hops can add an underlying complexity in a blend. Still, there’s a difference between “rough” and “bad” here.

Label for the award winning Barley Wine. Photo:

Do you use any special hopping techniques?

I tend to add flavor hops at 15 minutes before flame-off and chuck the aroma copper hops in at a couple of minutes before flame-out. There’s nothing special about this per se, but when you use large amounts, you also get the bulk of your bitterness this way. It’s a technique commonly referred to as “hop bursting”. It really gives a lot of aroma and flavor to the beer and provides bitterness at the same time.

To achieve a smooth bitterness from the actual bittering charge, I like to use first wort hopping (FWH). In FWH you add the hops as soon as the bottom of your boil kettle is covered when running off from the mash. This gives the hops a really long contact time with the wort. Many brewers claim that this gives the beer a better aroma because somehow the aroma compounds are “locked” in the beer by the higher pH of the wort before the start of the boil. There hasn’t been too much proper research done on this, but based on the stuff I have read on the issue I would argue that it really gives the beer less aroma, because of the long contact with the hot wort, thus giving the impression of a smoother bitterness and cleaner beer. You get better isomerization of the alpha acids, but the volatile hop compounds that provide aroma are evaporated and disappear from the beer to a larger extent than when you boil for, say 60 minutes. The result is a perceived bitterness roughly equaling that of a 60 min. boil (some say less), but with a smoother feel.

Dry hopping in different stages is also a technique I like, but I’ve already gone into that, so I won’t repeat it.

What's the most important thing in an IPA for you?

I probably already said it, but drinkability and hoppy freshness really rock my boat. Clean fermentation and malt flavors, and zingy hops, rule.

The off flavors to watch out for and how to avoid them?

Again, avoid the fermentation derived off-flavors arising from poor yeast handling and bad fermentation practices. Phenolics from yeast tend to clash with American-style hops, diacetyl can ruin any beer, too much fruit from esters, and so on, all these problems can arise from fermentation issues. Treat your yeast well and it gives you good beer.

Be careful when bottling and kegging beer, especially when dealing with very delicate light or really hoppy beers. Hop compounds in beer oxidize quickly and the cardboard aromas you get from oxidized hops will ruin any beer. Oxidation happens quicker at high temperatures, so store your beer cold. The colder the better, above freezing that is. The brewing scientist Charles Bam forth reports that lowering the storage temperature by 10 °C, will treble the shelf life of a beer due to the slower oxidation reactions.

What's your favorite IPA and why?

That’s really hard to say, because I tend to think of favorite beer moments not favorite beers as such. Beer is a social drink, and the enjoyment of beer to me is always linked to a certain state of mind, a certain event, a specific place and time, and above all, to other people. One of the best IPAs I ever had, maybe the best was a Nøgne Ø IPA chugged when cramped behind the brew setup at Nøgne Ø. I was at the brewery to brew the Andhrímnir Barley Wine together with Frank Werme, and since the brewery had visitors from certain authorities that day, we were a little weary of drinking too much when we were in their view. The beer was fresh form the warm room, just carbonated, only three or four days after bottling. We crash-cooled the bottle in the sink after testing the carbonation level and I tell you, beer doesn’t come any fresher than that! The Cascade and Simcoe aromas really blew me away. Well fermented beer very often needs very little aging, and this beer damn near proved the existence of God. I really like Kinn Vestkyst and Ægir IPA as well. They are quite different examples of the style, but both excellent in their own way. Ægir’s is the smoothest, most easy drinking example; Vestkyst is more hop and yeast forward. The great American IPAs are really too many to mention, but Stone IPA, Dogfish Head 60 and 90 Minute IPA, Sierra Nevada Torpedo and Goose Island IPA have all given me beer moments that I will remember.

Anything you want to add on the subject?

Think your recipes through properly, read books, and keep a good log. Good logs are a great tool in learning and developing your brewing skills. Note down everything you do when brewing. When something goes wrong or when something works really well, it’s really helpful to be able to check what you have actually done on your brew day. You may think you will remember everything, but you probably won’t. There are tons of good books out there, Mitch Steele’s IPA book is great, and learn as much as possible on yeast and fermentation. And above all, to cite the great Charlie Papazian: Relax, don’t worry, have a home brew!


And on that note we thank Gahr for taking the time to share the knowledge and for responding so thoroughly. I hope you will find it useful dear reader. I have at least found it useful as I've changed some of the techniques I use when brewing an IPA after getting these answers from Gahr. Yes it's true, I do these geeky interviews on my blog for myself, to learn and get better at brewing. I'm a selfish bastard! But it is also my goal to be able to influence others, not only with the bombastic enthusiastic articles, but also with serious and plain knowledge. If you came this far in the article chances are you love good craft beer. If you support this blog please subscribe (You can do it under the comment field below) and share. Spread the magic...

- Haffy

PS support ABC Brewing if you find their beer on tap in a pub near you! If not ask the bar manager to order some. My favorites so far is Halvor IBA & Henrik Imperial Amber.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

IPA stories: The John J. Palmer Interview

John J. Palmer was born in 1963 and raised up in Michigan. In 1987 he graduated in Metallurgical Engineering. He now works in California in a lab and has built and designed parts of the International Space Station currently in orbit around our planet, that's enough for me to label him a rocket scientist. He's somewhat of a geek and a home brewer, an excellent combination I would say. He is most famous for being the author of the book "How To Brew", it's somewhat of a home brew bible. Early version of what later inspired the book was posted online on home brewing ftp sites before the Internet back in 1993. And in the year 2000 he self published the first printed full version through a home brew web page. John was nice enough to answer some questions for my recent deep dive in IPA brewing and history. Here we go with the interview...

Photo from:

Haffy: So I understand that you've been brewing for a really long time, when did you start brewing and when did you brew your first IPA?

John: I started brewing in 1992 and brewed mostly pale ales at first: American, English, ESB. But I don't think I brewed an IPA until probably 1994. At the time, IPA seemed to be too much. I hadn't developed my taste for hops yet.

Haffy: Do you remember the first time you ever drank an IPA?

John: I believe my first "IPA" was Anchor Liberty Ale, which is really more of an American Pale Ale today. I thought it very bitter at the time. The second one was probably Vinnie Cilurzo's Blind Pig IPA in 94 or 95. And that's probably when I started brewing them as well. At the beginning, I was very influenced by Michael Jackson's writings and was brewing a lot of English style pale ales and IPA's because I liked the sweeter heavier beer to balance the hops. But by the time I wrote How To Brew (1995-2000), I had switched to the American style without much crystal malt at all.

Haffy: The American IPA, from Bridgeport to Anchor and Sierra Nevada and so on, your view on the rise of the American IPA?

John: I am proud to say that a lot of the rise in craft brewing and IPA happened here in California! Not that I had much to do with it of course. There were many small breweries opening in the nineties, in fact there was a boom and crash because of the sudden glut on the market of craft beer and most of the American populace was not ready for it. But meanwhile, a couple core brands like Sierra Nevada, Steelhead, Russian River, and Rogue, kept producing good craft beer and pushing the envelope with IPA into the early 2000's. Sierra Nevada never had an IPA by name at that time, but their annual Celebration ale was always referred to as an example of an English IPA because of the high hopping. But meanwhile, American IPA was coming to be defined by a lighter malt body and flavor to allow the bitterness to be brighter.

Haffy: Cascade hops was released back in 1971, do you know what/who used it and if there were any home brewer traditions in making typical American IPA before it was commercialized? And what can you say about if?

John: I have always liked the Cascade hop, I like the freshness of it. I did not care for the more oniony Columbus hop which so many early IPA brewers gravitated to. Cascade was first used by Coors, purely for bittering, and then they started moving away from it to other varieties such as Willamette. This left a lot of Cascade on the market, and start ups such as New Albion and Sierra Nevada were the first to use it in Pale Ale. By the time I started brewing in the early nineties, it was synonymous with craft beer. I am pretty sure that craft brewers used it first, and then home brewers picked it up. The home brewing movement had been very small prior to Papazian's book "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing". In many ways, the advent of the Internet was the rebirth of craft beer in the US. I was too young myself to know about Ballentines IPA (Editor: First American IPA brewed from ca. 1890 to 1990) on the east coast, and didn’t learn about the style until Michael Jackson's books and Beer Hunter series around 1990. 

Check out John's old internet page here.

Haffy: I've read How to Brew, actually before I started to brew myself. But where and how did you find the inspiration to write and publish this thing yourself?

John: Well, I grew up drinking dark beer in Michigan. This style is called American Dark Lager today, but it was closer to a Munich Dunkel style back then in the many small breweries in Michigan and Wisconsin. Lots of German and Scandinavian descendants in these states. I learned to brew in order to brew that style rather than the Corona, Dry, and Light beers that were so pervasive here at the time. My first batch was terrible, so I put on my engineering hat and figured out why. And then I wrote that down to help other new brewers, and it was born from there. It took me five years and several rewrites to make it good, and I am still revising it as I learn new things. The self-publishing was because publishing companies don't want to publish YOUR vision, they want to publish theirs. They think they know the market. They wanted a simple 100-page booklet to be easy for new brewers to pick up and try that first batch. Nothing complicated. I proved them wrong, to the point where they came to me and asked to publish it, and by that time (2005), I was tired of shipping books myself and happy to let them.

Haffy: Have you brewed American IPA with European malt? And what do you think is the main difference between that and American 2-Row?

John: Yes, well, what do you define as European? From Europe? (Belgian/German malts?) Maris Otter pale ale malt has long been a favourite of pale ale and IPA brewers for the better richer malt flavor it has compared to typical US 2-Row base malt. US Pale Ale malt is also available and is used extensively, but I think it is really more of an economic decision rather than a stylistic one. Recently my local microbrewery switched from American 2-Row plus Munich to Weyerman Pale Ale malt because of the superior flavor. I tasted the malt myself and had to agree that it was much richer and didn't need the Munich malt boost like the 2-Row base malt did. I don't think US brewers claim that US 2-Row is a part of the style. It is typical, but that is a cost and availability issue. It's lack of malt flavor I think can be directly traced to Anheuser Busch and Miller because they were looking for a blander product and they bought 90% of the malt in this part of the world until craft beer came along. (Now they only buy about 75%) I think the definition of American IPA is the lack of Crystal 60. Keeping the malts lighter with only touches of Munich, Crystal 20 and Crystal 40 to provide complexity. There should be a rich malt flavor, but it’s a rich pale ale malt flavor.

Haffy: The malt base on an IPA? What's your go to base, to make a great drinker that promotes hop flavor but still isn't to dull...?

John: Like I said earlier, the English Pale Ale malts set the basic tone for the beer with small amounts of Carapils, Crystal 20, Crystal 40, and Munich 10 for accent and complexity. The pH of the mash and pH of the beer are very important for this. Alkalinity for this style should be low for the beer to be bright tasting. The mash pH should be 5.2-5.4 for best results.

Haffy: What is your favourite hop combo for an IPA and why?

John: Cascade and Centennial; I like the classics. I also like a bit of Amarillo and sometimes some Citra for variety, but I have never been fond of the heavy cannabis smelling hops (CTZ type) or the super fruity South Pacific hops like Nelson Sauvin in an IPA.

Haffy: American IPA's don't really travel to well, what can be done to improve this?

John: Beer staling is an issue for everyone. It all comes down to the oxygen residual in the bottle, and the storage temperature. Many US brewers are striving for less than 10 parts per billion in the bottle, but that still only give a couple months of flavor stability because the fresh hop aromas dissipate (oxidize) so quickly. Poorly bottled beers will have 100 parts per billion or more, and if stored warm (above 12C, they will only be in peak condition for a couple weeks at most.

Haffy: If I'm not wrong, you're already on the fourth edition on How to Brew, do you see yourself updating and adding to this book indefinitely? (Like a life work kind of book?)

John: Yes, I am working on the next edition now, but don't have a timetable for completion, perhaps next year sometime? How To Brew has been so well received that I would hate for it to become dated and irrelevant. 

1st ed. Pic:

Haffy: Yeast & Fermentation: What are the most important things to remember to make your IPA shine?

John: Pitch the proper amount of healthy yeast and maintain the right fermentation temperature! Use the pitching guidelines in How To Brew or at and pitch a healthy starter at 65-70F (18-21C). Over pitching lowers the esters, and under pitching creates more byproducts.

Haffy: Dry hopping: What to do and what to not do...?

Do not leave the dry hops for too long, they will get grassy or hay-like. Master brewers of IPA's recommend no more than 3-5 days at fermentation temperature, shorter if warmer. Dry hop additions can be staggered to increase the effect, but no more than 4 days for any one bag. Oxygen is still a problem when dry hopping. Start at the end of active fermentation or purge the head space with CO2.

Haffy: Your favourite IPA?

John: There is a couple. ;-) Firestone Walker Union Jack, Stone IPA, Bear Republic Racer 5, Russian River Pliny the Elder, and Sierra Nevada Torpedo, and Sierra Nevada 2012 Celebration.

Haffy: What does the future hold for John Palmer?

John: Fortune and Glory I hope! I am just finishing the Water book and I am proud of our efforts there. I have never been to Europe. Hopefully one of these days I will be invited to speak at a conference there. I would love to try the beers first hand like I have in South America and Australia.

Haffy: Spinal Tap brewing story: Your most outrageous brewing experience...

John: I built a really wonderful digitally controlled, gas-fired, and recirculating infusion mash system that worked great for doing step mashes. It was automated so that I could flip switches on the control panel (built myself) to open and close valves to direct the worth flow between the tuns. The mash temperature control worked beautifully, but grain bits had accumulated in the valves and prevented them from fully closing. My yield suffered greatly, and the beer was a little too bitter for best drinkability. I have since dismantled it and built another that doesn't have automated valves. Much easier to clean afterwards too! Never underestimate how hard it is to clean something, because if it is difficult, it won't be done as well as something that was easy.

Haffy: I read that you were involved with making and designing parts for the International Space Station, anyways brewing in space, when will it happened and how would you make it possible?

John: Brewing in space has been tried to some degree. The yeast fermented the sugars, but without gravity the CO2 did not vent, and the yeast ended up sitting in their waste products. There is no advantage to brewing in space other than the novelty of it. And there is no yeast flocculation either. So it really is a terrestrial activity, like bungee jumping. 

Check out these links for more info on brewing in space: 

Follow this link to buy this great book.

More articles on the IPA subject coming soon, next one up will be Norwegian Champion home brewer Gahr Smith-Gahrsen and in that interview we're gonna get very technical. I recommend that all you home brewers and beer geeks out there check that out. If you subscribe or follow my blog you will receive an automatic E-mail when it's posted. (You do that under the comment field below this article) And if you like this blog don't forget to share it on your social medium of choice. Spread the craft beer propaganda...

- Haffy

Thursday, 14 March 2013

IPA stories: Jan Halvor Fjeld

Hello beer lovers, I'm currently working on a huge article on India Pale Ale. I f**king love IPA's! Since it's taking more time than I like and I'm pretty busy these days you can consider this a teaser. Nøgne Ø brews one of my favorite IPA's and the originator of my favorite Nøgne IPA is Mr. Jan Halvor Fjeld, let's see what he has to say on the subject:

Photo: Kenn Hanssen

Around 1995 I was flying longhaul and the interest for other types of beer than the “fizzy yellow stuff” started to evolve. Someone told me about a Norwegian pilot who was much crazier about beer than I was. He’s name was Kjetil Jikuin. So after some years when I finally met him, we started talking about beer and we've been friends since.

Two Captains DIPA is Nøgne Ø’s version of “HumleHelvete” (HopHell). I changed the name and the recipe some to adapt to their ingredients. I read an article about Double IPA’s in Zymurgi by Vinnie Chilurzo, Russian River. He gave a homebrew recipe. I adjusted the recipe to my own ingredients, brewed it and suddenly I was Home brewer of the Year 2010.


I gave Nøgne Ø “Cart Blanch” to brew Two Captains. It was supposed to be brewed as a single brew, but it sold very well, so they brewed 3 batches before they decided to stop. Someone liked Two Captains so much that they started a Facebook group to get Two Captains back. I was of course very flattered and supported the movement. In the same period Nøgne Ø won a medal in Australia with Two Captains and they decided to continue brewing the beer. Last Wednesday I was at the brewery and they were brewing batch # 8 of Two Captains, I think. For me it is a great compliment, pleasure and honor to have “my” beer brewed at a world class brewery. To walk into a liquor store in the US and find “my” beer on the shelf is an adventure. Priceless.

I do not remember tasting my first IPA. But I remember very clearly my first American Pale Ale. It was a revelation. I was mostly into English and German style beers. Easter 2009 I was in Trondheim, at “Den Gode Nabo”. Nøgne Ø Pale Ale was on tap. After one sip I was hooked on American Style Beers.  So thank you Kjetil, once more.

Photo: Nøgne Ø

How is the perfect IPA? It’s a matter of personal taste. I prefer the more light colored, drier versions, not to bitter, but with plenty of hop taste and aroma. I am a great fan of Matt Brynildson at Firestone Walker, try their “Double Jack” or “Union Jack”. Other good commercial examples are Bell’s ”Two Harted Ale” and “Lagunitas IPA”, almost a session IPA. To brew an IPA/DIPA to my taste you must restrain the use of (dark) crystal malts and use a most of the hops late in the boil. The fermentation is important, I like them fairly dry (FG around 1.012) and not too estery, keep the temperature down, both in mash and fermentation. Home brewers that use an immersion wort chiller have an advantage; they can cool the wort down immediately after the last, big hop addition and get lots of hop taste and aroma. And remember that hoppy beers are best fresh.

I do not think I have a favorite hop or hop combo. I have tried several, but my latest IPA/DIPAs are conventional, mostly Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe and some Amarillo. I often use Warrior as a bittering hop, but also Chinook and Columbus. In dark beers I like Northern Brewer. Good combos are Cascade/Centennial and Amarillo/Simcoe. Do not use too many types, the taste can be muddy. I like several additions throughout the boil and most in the end.


I started thinking about home brewing about 1998 and set my first extract brew in November 2007. Not too good. 5 more extract brews, the switched to all grain, first brew 26th February 2008. Now I have 171 batches made. Only home brewing so far, but you never know…

Thank you so much Jan Halvor for sharing your story, more on IPA coming soon. If you enjoy “Die By The Beer” please comment, subscribe & share...

- Haffy