What’s in your IPA…Other than hops?


                                           Wood Sorrel


Our fourth hop growing season is just getting underway and to properly prepare I figured it was time to get out the beer brewing equipment and use up some of last year’s remaining harvest. So, what to brew…? IPAs are my go to. But even for a hop grower, IPAs aren’t always all about the hops, at least not all the time. I’ve been wanting to find a way to include grapefruit into a brew for a while. And if Ballast Point has taught me anything it is that grapefruit and IPA are a good match. And so my first Grapefruit IPA was born.


Experimenting with, what are likely referred to as “other ingredients” in your beer calculator, can be just as much fun as deciding on a hop schedule and calculating IBUs, so I thought it would be fun to look back at my recipes and share some of the not so common ingredients I’ve played with over the years. I’ve included some added details for those in search of a starting point for a homebrew recipe. All quantities are based on 5-gallon batches unless otherwise noted. Enjoy, and feel free to  share your own adventures in using “other ingredients” in the comments section below.


Beer styles: IPA, Amber Ale

Time of addition: Flameout

Notes: This is an essential ingredient in possibly my favorite beer to brew. I recommend using fresh rosemary and not too much. My “Rosemary Red” recipe has changed over the years, but the red hue and north of 50 IBUs have stayed constant. I have found 4-5 grams is enough for this beer style which is rather dry and hoppy. I like to add half at flameout and the other half during cool down using a tea ball (this usually follows my post-boil hop additions). The hop bitterness and rosemary aroma work nicely together.


Beer style: IPA

Time of addition: Bottling

Notes: I have only used coffee one time in brewing. I cold-stepped 4-5 tablespoons of freshly ground, dark roast coffee beans in 16 ounces of water, 24 hrs prior to bottling. This resulted in roughly 12 ounces of coffee that I added to half of my batch at bottling, leaving the other half sans coffee for comparison. I found this to be a good balance, with a slight lean towards being a bit heavy on the coffee side. Best part of adding during bottling is you can do so in small increments, tasting as you go. For properly calibrated taste buds I recommend not attempting after the consumption of several IPAs.

Common Sorrel and Wood Sorrel (Oxalis)

Beer style: Rye IPA

Time of addition: Flameout

Notes: Eaten raw, sorrel has an acidic, citrusy flavor. It is cultivated, but also grows wild, quite widespread in fact. Chances are you have it in your yard right now. I’ve brewed with both types in a Rye IPA recipe a few times now. In this particular recipe there are tons of Cascade hops added throughout the boil so its hard to say just how much the sorrel really added to the overall flavor profile. Hop quantities will likely affect how much you want to use. My flameout addition was 1 ounce of fresh sorrel. I did not want to dominate the brew with sorrel flavor or make it too “green,” which is what I accomplished with my hop-to-sorrel ratio of around 10:1. I’d recommend a stronger concentration if you really want folks to ponder what they are tasting.


Beer style: IPA

Time of addition: Late boil and secondary

Notes: As previously referenced, I used grapefruit for the first time recently. I added half of a grapefruit (juice and peel only) with about 1 minute left in the boil. I dried the remaining peel and added to the secondary. *more to come once this beer is ready to drink*

Cacao nibs

Beer style: Stout

Time of addition: Secondary

Notes: What, a non-IPA? Why not. For this brew I added 6 ounces of cacao nibs to the secondary after soaking them in vodka. If I ever use this ingredient again I’d skip the whole vodka soak thing. Reason being I’m not as concerned about contaminating beers as I used to be. I don’t remember the cacao nibs being that up front. I wish I had some better notes to share, but I experimented with large quantities of honey in this recipe which made this a rather “thin” stout and I feel the cacao just didn’t go that well with this combination.


Beer style: IPA

Time of addition: Secondary

Notes: I collaborated on this brew many years ago so I don’t have the exact quantity used. I can say that the heat was not overpowering and the flavor of the pepper was quite enjoyable. I believe this was due to not slicing the peppers. If you want more heat slice the peppers to release those seeds and oils.

Future considerations

Coconut, coriander, ginger.


Happy brewing!




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