How We Brew: War Pigeon Double IPA

At Drake’s, we brew a rotating series of Double IPAs that are released in 22oz bottles and on draft every 2-3 months. This gives us the opportunity to play with new hop varieties, as well as to try out some new formulations for malts, in a Double IPA.

War Pigeon Double IPA rests on two different experiments: on the malt side, we took lead from Vinnie Cilurzo and his homebrew clone recipe for Pliny the Elder. It has always been fascinating that in that recipe there is both Carapils, which one uses for building body (it adds dextrins), and Dextrose (corn sugar), which is generally used to dry out a beer. There is also C45 in the Pliny clone, but since this isn’t the 1990s, we didn’t add that.

We wanted to see how the Carapils and Dextrose worked, just because they seem like contradictory elements. It’s not like they would just neutralize each other, right? Snorting coke doesn’t make heroin stop working so we gave that a try (using actual corn, not corn sugar), and we were quite happy with the clean, crisp body, but with more texture than you might expect (not sweet). Anyway–fun!

But of course, the REAL fun for us in making a new hop forward beer is playing with the hops! In War Pigeon we assembled a bit of a menagerie of a hop bill. We started the build with a couple of classic U.S. hops, Chinook and Centennial. Chinook and Centennial both deliver bright citrus and pine, with Chinook also adding a spicy note that we feel adds an important amount of “cut” to higher ABV beers. They’re each added into the dry hop at a rate of almost 1.5lb/bbl. We felt like that was a solid base to build on, but craft beer drinkers are quite familiar with those flavors and we didn’t want to let them stand alone.

The next hop we brought to the party was Styrian Cardinal, a new variety from Slovenia, which has been producing hops since the 1840s, and is the 5th largest hop producing nation in the world. The most successful hop grown there has long been Styrian Golding, a derivative of U.K. Fuggle, and widely considered a high quality hop useful for the production of Continental-style ale and lagers.

Recently, the Slovenian hop institute has begun the development of new aromatic varieties. While there isn’t a ton of information out there about these hops, it appears growers are crossing in some American varieties, likely Cascade, to produce aromatic qualities desirable to craft brewers, particularly in the U.S. market. We’ve played with a few of these new Eastern European hops, Styrian Wolf, Styrian Cardinal, Styrian Fox and Styrian Dragon (it’s a menagerie!), and have found a real affinity with the Cardinal.

Styrian Cardinal has a bit of a typical U.S. citrus thing, but there are other fruit aromas we don’t really get in domestic hops, almost a berry-like quality. We felt this was a fun beer to create a platform for this hop. We add it at a rate of ~.75lb/bbl in the whirlpool and dry hop.

The final hop in War Pigeon is Mosaic. Mosaic is a daughter of Simcoe, and is particularly valued for its ability to take on and magnify the flavors of other hops around it, while adding a bit of a dark fruit note and some dankness to the show. In this combination, it seems to really kick up the berry elements in the Cardinal, and to just tie the whole thing together. It is added exclusively to the dry-hop, at a rate of ~.75lb/bbl.

It was nice to find a good platform for those Styrians. They are pretty unique hops and we hope to see more like them developed. Germany has also been putting some new stuff out (also derived from crossing U.S. hops in with local stock) and we’ve embraced Bavaria Mandarina and Hallertauer Blanc as good hops for American IPAs and Pale ales. Keep ’em comin’!

Learn More…

How We Brew is a new blog series by Drake’s Brewmaster John Gillooly, geared towards beer fans and homebrewers looking for a little more detail about our brewing process, ingredients, and creative choices. Check out the first post in the series called How We Brew: Brightside Extra Brut IPA.


John Gillooly, Drake’s Brewmaster