The Hop Process: Great Lakes IPA

Crack open and pour a fresh can of Great Lakes IPA and there’ll be no mistaking what our newest year-round brew is all about. Aromas of grapefruit, pineapple, and mandarin orange leap from the glass, making it clear you’re about to enjoy an India Pale Ale bursting with hoppy flavors and…*gulp*…intense hop bitterness. Or are you?

Take a sip. The same bright citrusy flavors that filled the air now wash over your palate, but gone is the aggressive in-your-face-bitterness you may have been expecting from an über hoppy IPA. 

With this much hop aroma and flavor packed into one beer, how is it possible for Great Lakes IPA to be this easy to drink? We sat down with Brewpub Brewer Steve Forman, the man behind the Great Lakes IPA recipe and whose bearded-likeness appears on the label, to find out how a change in the brewing process unlocked new hop potential.

When you were working on the Great Lakes IPA recipe, what were you going for?
I wanted an IPA that was nice to drink. Light in body, light in bitterness, but heavy with citrus and tropical fruit notes. I love hoppy beers, but I wanted something I could drink all of the time. 

So how is Great Lakes IPA any different from a beer like Commodore Perry IPA?
American IPAs are constantly changing. Perry’s recipe is pretty old-school compared to what is being made now. Modern American IPAs tend to be more hop-forward, especially when it comes to aroma.

That definitely comes across with Great Lakes IPA. I could smell citrus as it was being poured.
Exactly. European hops are a bit more reserved with earthy and spicy notes, but American hops are all citrus and tropical fruit. Every year some new American hop comes out and takes everything to a whole new level. The flavors and aromas just keep getting bigger and bigger.  

But not necessarily the bitterness.
That all depends on how you use the hops when brewing. It’s easy to equate “hoppy” with “bitter,” but they’re not one-in-the-same.

Adding hops at the earlier, hotter stages of the brewing process will allow for more bitterness because the alpha acids in the hop oil volatilize for a bittering effect. The cooler you add the hops, the more those oils will stick around for flavor and aroma. For Great Lakes IPA, Simcoe is the only hop we add to the boil because it’s known for having a very smooth bittering quality that doesn’t linger.

How are the rest of the hops used?
Purely for aroma and flavor. Azacca and Lemondrop hops are added after the boil for flavor and aroma, but then we finish things off by dry-hopping it with Mosaic hops.

What is dry-hopping?
It’s one of the best ways to achieve big hop aroma without the bitterness. Hops are added to the fermentation tanks at a temperature cool enough to lock in all of the hop oils and resins without any burn off. Dry-hopping might give the beer a little flavor, but it’s almost entirely for aroma. 

And since fermentation is one of the very last steps before bottling…
Those aromas will be packaged at their peak.

Great Lakes IPA is now available in 6-Pack 12 oz. Cans and 12-Pack 12 oz. Cans throughout our entire distribution footprint.

We want to see your first can of Great Lakes IPA! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and show us how you're enjoying that dry-hopped goodness by tagging your photo or review with #GreatLakesIPA!

Words by Adam Ritterspach

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