How to Make India Pale Ale at Home

Ever since the micro-brew revolution swept the United States during the late 80′s, people everywhere have discovered the joys and benefits of brewing their own lagers and ales at home. Though the financial advantages of saving a few bucks by fermenting your own suds is a plus, many brew simply for the therapeutic upsides and for the control it gives them over the finished product. Brewing can be a soothing, soul affirming experience, and many find it to be a very enjoyable pastime. Here we’ll look at how to craft a pre-industrial favorite that has achieved a newfound popularity in the modern age: the India Pale Ale.

We’ll assume for the sake of brevity that you have the necessary equipment such as a 5 gallon primary fermenter, airlock, siphoning tube, hydrometer and bottling tools. If not, any local home brew store can set you up with all the necessities or a full starter kit with the required tools for under $100, including the ingredients for your first batch. As to the material of your primary fermenter, glass is preferred but a plastic jug will work just as well and won’t typically leave any unpleasant tastes in the finished product. Just make sure to wash out the vessel beforehand and sanitize properly in between batches.

Now that we’ve covered the required hardware, we’ll get right to it. For a standard 5 gallon batch of IPA, you’ll need 5 pounds of pale malt extract, between half a pound to a pound of bittering hops for flavor, a few ounces of finishing hops, Ale Yeast to trigger alcoholic fermentation, as well as a few large pots for boiling the water. Bear in mind, this is a very basic, generalized recipe. If you simply buy an India Pale Ale kit, all of these will be included, in more or less the amounts listed. As you gain experience and play around with the formula on subsequent batches, you can fine tune it to your taste or try something more advanced and complex.

Start by boiling a little more than 3 gallons of tap water in a large pot on the stove and bring it up to 155 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. While this is happening, it’s a good idea to fill your kitchen sink with as much ice as you can. You’ll see why in a minute. Once you’ve reached the desired temperature, place the bittering hops in a steeping bag and let them sit in the boiling water for half an hour. This will extract the bitter flavor we’re looking for from the hops. After the alloted time, remove the bag but don’t squeeze out any excess liquid from the hops into the mixture, as this may result in a far too bitter tasting brew.

Next, you’ll steadily ratchet up the heat until the water begins to boil, at which point you need to turn off the stove and move the pot off of the burner. Add the malt extract and stir until the liquid is thoroughly and completely dissolved and there are no clumps sticking to the sides of the pot. At this point, the dissolved malt extract and hops are called a “wort”. Bring the wort to a boil again, keep it there, and steep the finishing hops in it for another hour. After an hour has gone by, turn off the heat and immerse the pot in the ice-bath you made earlier. It’s important to bring the wort down to 70 degrees Fahrenheit as soon as you can.

Once that happens, you’ll funnel the wort into the primary fermentation container and take your hydrometer reading so that you can calculate the alcohol content later when bottling. As the last step, take the Ale Yeast and pour it directly into the fermenter, stir it in thoroughly and cap the jug with an airlock so that carbon dioxide can bubble out. Keep the vessel in a dark place, preferably with a temperature of 65 to 70 degrees. It’ll be ready for bottling in a week or two. Letting it age for at least a month before consumption is generally a good idea, as that will give it time to mature properly and develop a more complex taste profile. And there you have it: all you need to know to make your first batch of India Pale Ale.