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  • Writer's pictureLuke Nyswonger

A Journey to Replicate my Favorite Airport Find - The Tornado Alley IPA

I always say, there's something beautiful about the story each beer tells. A story not just of the brew itself, but of the people, places, and experiences that led us to it. Today, I want to share the tale of one such beer - the Tornado Alley IPA from River City Brewing Company in Wichita, Kansas.


It all started a few years ago during a layover at the Wichita Airport. My flight was delayed, and to pass the time, I decided to explore the local brews. I stumbled upon the Tornado Alley IPA, a beer whose name captured my curiosity. This was a great example of an American IPA and far from the Hazy beers many of us have been drinking as of late. From then on, every time I passed through the Wichita airport, the Tornado Alley IPA became a comforting staple.


AI generated artwork of a beer and tornado in Kansas
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Fast forward to the present. With an ever-growing love for homebrewing and the mission to replicate the favorites I've discovered on my travels, the Tornado Alley IPA was naturally high on my list. Here was the challenge - the River City Brewing Company website offered very little detail about the beer. Just a simple description: "7%, 16oz Nonic, Copper colored, resiny, dank." This sparked my curiosity. If I wanted to bring this beer to life in my own brewery, I'd have to dig a little deeper. I could reach out to the brewery to ask or just go from my own experience of tasting, but I wanted to add more data to the research.


I started by going through numerous reviews of this beer on Beer Advocate, trying to piece together a fuller sensory profile of the beer. The community's observations were invaluable, providing nuanced notes of caramel, toast, pine, and citrus hidden within the depths of this IPA. I noticed the recurring mentions of a "dank", resinous quality and a malt-forward profile, contrasted with a robust bitterness and subtle citrus flavors. Armed with my own tasting experiences and the valuable input from the Beer Advocate community, I sought help from ChatGPT! Using the sensory profile built from those collective experiences, I presented ChatGPT with the challenge of creating an all-grain homebrew recipe that could capture the spirit of the Tornado Alley IPA. It suggested a balance of American 2-row, Munich, Crystal, and Biscuit malts, with Columbus, Chinook, and Simcoe hops lending their unique flavors to the brew. ChatGPT even took into consideration my desire to emphasize the "dankness" of the beer, suggesting an increase in the usage of hops like Simcoe and Chinook, renowned for their dank, resinous characteristics.


What resulted was a comprehensive, 5-gallon all-grain recipe, complete with brewing instructions that I could implement in my home brewery. This was not just an automated response. It was a recipe that took into account the data in the foundational LLM, specific sensory notes, my personal preferences, and the unique characteristics that made the Tornado Alley IPA stand out to me in the first place.


I've made a few adjustments to the recipe, enhancing the IBUs and incorporating my preferred yeast selection. For those fortunate enough to have access to Kanook hops from the esteemed Kansas Hop Company, consider using them as a captivating alternative to Chinook. This substitution will impart an intriguing twist to the recipe, showcasing the distinct flavors of the Sunflower State. You can read more about this unique hop variety in my other article, titled "Flavors of the Sunflower State: AI-Driven Brewing Adventures with Kansas Hops and Wheat."


Recipe: Tornado Alley IPA 🌪️


Grains:

  • 10 lbs American 2-row

  • 2 lbs Munich Malt

  • 1 lb Crystal Malt 60L (for the caramel notes)

  • 0.5 lb Biscuit Malt (for the toasted bread flavors)

Hops:

  • 1 oz Columbus @ 60 min (for bitterness)

  • 1 oz Chinook @ 15 min (for the pine and grapefruit flavors)

  • 1 oz Simcoe @ 5 min (for the dank, earthy flavors)

  • 1 oz Simcoe @ Flame out (more dank!)

Yeast:

Additional:

  • 1 tsp Irish Moss @ 15 min (Optional, for clarity)

Instructions:

  1. Mash grains at 152°F (66°C) for 60 minutes.

  2. Rinse grains with 2 gallons of 168°F (76°C) water.

  3. Bring wort to a boil, then start the hop schedule:

    • Add 1 oz Columbus hops and boil for 60 minutes.

    • Add 1 oz Chinook hops and 1 tsp Irish Moss with 15 minutes remaining.

    • Add 1 oz Simcoe hops with 5 minutes remaining.

    • Turn off the heat, add 1 oz Simcoe hops, and let stand for 10-15 minutes before cooling.

  4. Cool the wort rapidly to 68°F (20°C), then transfer to a fermenter.

  5. Pitch the yeast and ferment at 68°F (20°C) for 1-2 weeks, or until fermentation is complete.

  6. Transfer to a secondary fermenter if desired, and let sit for another week to clear up.

  7. Bottle or keg the beer, carbonate to around 2.2-2.5 volumes of CO2 (this will give you a medium level of carbonation).

This should provide a full-bodied IPA with a balance of malty, toasted, and caramel flavors against a backbone of citrusy, piney, and "dank" hops, with a solid bitterness. Adjustments can be made based on your personal taste. The beer should also come in at around 7% ABV. As always, the final product can be refined and tweaked based on tasting notes and personal preferences.


Conclusion

Now, the true test remains in the brewing. But that's the beauty of homebrewing - the process, the experimentation, and the anticipation of that first sip. I look forward to brewing and tasting this recreation of the Tornado Alley IPA, a beer that has accompanied my journey in the world of craft beer and brewing.


Stay tuned for an upcoming post where I'll share my experience of brewing this Wichita classic at home, guided by the collective knowledge of the craft beer community and the power of artificial intelligence.


Until then, happy brewing! 🍻

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