Tunnel of Love is a double IPA based on my Optical Air recipe, but with a higher ABV, light-roasted coffee, and a different yeast strain.

It wasn’t as simple as that, though.

What I originally wanted was an imperialized version of my most recent Tropical IPA, which has a soft, smooth bitterness and a tangy, almost juice-like mouthfeel with a huge hop aroma and flavor notes of pineapple, mango and passion fruit. What I ended up with was a solid, but unremarkable double IPA.

Coffee wasn’t supposed to be added to the original recipe, but I used it to save this beer and turn it into something I could be proud of.

If I tried the original beer at a local taproom, I’d likely give it a Yep-It’s-A-Double-IPA and move on. That’s not to say it was a bad beer. There were no off flavors and I don’t think an unbiased tongue would’ve yielded any complaints. If I’d brewed it two years ago, I’d have been very excited, but these days I have a specific goal in mind when brewing and this one didn’t hit the target. So it needed a new direction.

The aroma was muted, the hop flavors were dull and reminiscent of the oldschool citrus-and-pine show, and the higher ABV was absolutely apparent in both smell and taste.

At first, I wondered if I’d made a mistake or if a soft and juicy double IPA was simply an oxymoron?

I pondered the following:

  1. Did using OYL-052 really change things that much? I know that different yeasts make totally different beers, but I assumed the infamous Conan strain would produce something softer, especially since it’s well known for its peachy esters. Instead, the original beer came off like a standard West Coast DIPA. If I tasted it blindly, I’d have assumed a Cal ale yeast was used. I fermented Optical Air with a fruity ESB strain because I thought it would accentuate the tropical flavors produced by the hop bill – which it did. Was that really the magic potion? Did the stone fruit characteristics of the yeast collide with the tropical fruit flavors of the hops and make a mud pie?
  2. To ramp up the ABV, I simply used less water (my system won’t hold an imperial-sized grain bill). In other words, the original recipe was basically identical to Optical Air, but with less water in the mash. Bad idea? Should I have formulated a DIPA recipe from scratch?
  3. My local homebrew shop was low on Pilsner so I used a bit of American 2-Row to help fill in the base malt bill. Could a couple of pounds of 2-Row really make that big of a difference?
  4. Finally, I forgot to add my gypsum addition to the mash so I tossed it into the boil with 10 minutes remaining. No way, right?

I eventually realized that the real question was this: Why did I brew this beer? Optical Air is perfect. It’s an IPA, not a DIPA. Why did I try and beef it up? And why did I think a higher ABV would do anything but knock the whole thing out of whack?

Oh well. You brew and you learn.

I remembered hearing someone once say that they had fixed a muffed Porter by adding coffee. They said it was too sweet and needed something to balance things out. So I tried it, and whaddya know. It worked for me, too.

In fact, it really transformed this beer into something special. Instead of just balancing things out, it completely blew me away.

I have a twice-monthly subscription to Driftaway Coffee, and I alternate my deliveries between a traditional bold roast variety and a very lightly roasted coffee. The two styles are extreme opposites. Whereas bold roasts have a sweeter, richer taste with little complexity, a light roast tends to exhibit a highly complex, almost fruity tanginess with an intense floral aroma.

At the time, I had a fresh bag of Burundi Karinzi fully-washed beans roasted to Driftaway’s fruity profile, which is a lighter roast designed to bring out the ripe fruit, lemon-lime and sweet caramel notes of the coffee.

It sounded like a match made in heaven for a sweet, fruity IPA.

I sanitized a muslin bag and dropped in 2 ounces of whole coffee beans before adding it to the cold keg. I used non-flavored dental floss to tie the bag to the top of the keg to make sure it didn’t sink. After 24 hours, the flavor was perfect, so I removed the beans and celebrated.

Tunnel of Love – Coffee Double IPA

Batch Number: 055
Style: Double IPA
Brewed: June 4, 2016
System: BIAB Electric 240V
Batch Size: 5 gallons
Gravity: OG: 1.070, FG: 1.008, ABV: 8.1%
Bitterness: 67 IBU
Color: 9.7 SRM


Mash: 150°F for 60 mins
Boil: 60 minutes
Ferment: 65°F for 7 days, 70°F for 5 days
Packaging: Keg

Grain Bill

8.5 lbs Belgian Pilsner (58.6%)
2.5 lbs American 2 Row (17.2%)
2 lb American Munich (13.8%)
8 oz Caramel/Crystal 60L (3.4%)

Boil Additions

0.5 oz Apollo 18.5% AA @ 60 mins
1.5 oz Citra 12.7% AA @ Flameout
1.5 oz Centennial 8.5% AA @ Flameout
0.5 oz Galaxy 15.2% AA @ Flameout
1 whirlfloc @ 10 mins
1 tbsp yeast nutrient @ 10 mins
5 g gypsum @ 10 mins

Water and pH

Mash pH: 5.04 pH
Water Volume: 24 quarts (BIAB)
Lactic Acid: 2 tsp in mash


Yeast: Omega Yeast Labs DIPA Ale OYL-052 (1L starter)
Dry Hop: 1.5 oz Citra, 1.5 oz Centennial, 0.5 oz Galaxy for 5 days

Keg Additions

2 oz light-roasted, whole coffee beans @ 24 hours

Here are some photos from brew day: