Whoops. See how easy it is to ramble when discussing great beer? Anyway, there are a lot of brewers who are driving themselves crazy trying to figure it out: what is Shaun's secret? There's a lot of speculation... is it the well-water on the farm? Something specific with technique, especially minimized oxygen pick-up during beer transfer to really let the hops shine? Does he worship/provide sacrifices to some sort of beer god, and if so, where can we find said god?
Realistically, it's probably a combination of factors (except maybe that last one). However you cut it, he knows what he's doing, he's not known to give out TOO much information regarding his practices/recipes when asked, and no, he's not planning on becoming the next Sierra Nevada or Dogfish Head, production-wise, damnit! The man wants to continue to make great beer while enjoying his family's heritage on land that has passed through generations. Can you blame him?
Despite living in Fredericton, NB, I've been lucky enough to have several Hill Farmstead beers, fresh on tap, from a "ski" trip (ok, a 3-day beer trip with one day of skiing) I took to Vermont a little over two years ago. Spending three days in Montpelier, I was introduced to Hill Farmstead beer at The Three Penny Taproom (still hands-down probably my favorite beer bar in the U.S.) with Edward, a fantastic American Pale Ale. A lot of HF's beers are named after past Hill family members; the next "Ancestral series" beer I had on that trip was James, a Black IPA named after Hill's uncle. Dark, creamy, slightly roasty (but not burnt) and extremely hoppy, this beer was the best Black IPA I had ever had... and may still be to this day, if it was a little more familiar in my mind.
Enough rambling. When I read Mitch Steele's IPA book a few months ago, I was happy to see that one of the recipes included was for a clone of James. Now, I'm not 100% sure where Steele got these recipes from, but I get the impression that at least SOME of the information, if not most/all of it, is straight from the brewers themselves. So, I'm going to assume that Shaun Hill had input into this recipe. Now that I'm finally getting around to brewing it, there were several changes I made, based on ingredients I lacked, or on discrepancies I found in the recipe:
1) The OG - the recipe in Steele's book calls for a target OG of 1.072, and a FG of 1.020, which would give an alcohol level of ~6.8%. On the Hill Farmstead website, however, the gravity is specifically listed as 16 P, or 1.065, and the ABV as 6.6%. Therefore, I decided to aim for an OG of 1.065 and FG of 1.015.
2) The hops - after a small Columbus addition as a FWH, the first bittering charge is listed as Simcoe at 60 minutes. I had two issues with this... the first being that a 60-minute addition really shouldn't add too much to the beer in terms of flavor, and Simcoe is just so hard to find! Being Hill Farmstead, I would be happy to follow their lead; secondly, however, the Hill Farmstead website lists the hops for James as being only Columbus and Centennial. After much deliberation, I decided to sub the 60-minute addition with Columbus, aiming for the same bitterness as the Simcoe would have provided.
3) CO2 extract - I didn't have any, or even ordering access to it anytime soon, so I omitted it. The 60, 45 and 10-minute additions in the book call for the hop used and then "plus CO2 extract". This extract provides bitterness without adding to the hop sludge in the kettle. Sounds great, but not having any, I had no choice but to go with just hop pellets, again adding enough to hit the target IBUs for the beer.
4) The Crystal malts - The book calls for 4% CaraHell (I subbed with Carapils, as close to the 10 L of Carahell as I could get) and 1.5% CaraAroma (subbed with Crystal 150 L). Probably pretty good replacements on my part, or at least, again, as close as I could get.
5) The dark ingredients - 5% Carafa Special III is required... I had almost enough Carafa Special II, and a bit more Carafa Special I (both are just a bit less dark than the III). The recipe also included a small amount (1.1%) of Sinamar extract (adds dark color without burnt flavors), which I can't get, so I simply increased the amount of Carafa Special to compensate.
More changes then I like to make with a clone recipe, but hopefully the resulting beer will be minimally affected. What I DO find odd is that with my recipe, the calculated color of the beer is about 27 SRM. In the book, James is listed as 87 SRM... that's a huge difference! I understand the Carafa Special III is darker, and the Sinamar extract may add to that, but with a combined grist amount of only 6%, I wouldn't think a difference of 60 points would be the result! I didn't change anything as a result, but 27 SRM is really more of a dark brown than black.
Unlike many recipes in Steele's book, there is no mention of water treatment, which is really unfortunate since Hill Farmstead's possible water composition is discussed online more than anything else regarding their beers. Mike Tonsmeire (of The Mad Fermentationist) has said that Shaun Hill suggested that chloride is an important addition for his hoppy beers, in addition to sulfate. Knowing very little, I didn't want to just start throwing in salt additions for the sake of it, so I just went with a small amount of both calcium chloride and calcium sulfate, to bump up the calcium, chloride, and sulfate slightly (since levels are low in my brewing water anyway).
Now, what about the yeast? The book says to use an English Ale yeast... of course, there's quite a few of those available. The hoppy beers I've had from Hill Farmstead don't appear to exhibit a lot of the typical yeast character you expect to see from certain English yeasts, such as the Fuller's strain from Wyeast (1968), so I chose the Wyeast 1098 British Ale strain. I've always liked this strain when used in American-style beers - the attenuation is quite good, and, like the website says, it allows the malt and hop character to dominate.
For the first time in 60 batches of homebrew, I plan to make less than a 5.5 gallon batch. Part of me really hates to do this... you're basically doing almost the same amount of work for a smaller batch, but you end up with less beer. However, I have quite a lot on hand now (yeah, poor me), and I plan on brewing a lot of hoppy beers over the next few months. Since these beers are really all best fresh, I don't want to end up with a stockpile of hoppy beers that are 3, 6, 9 months old. So, I've scaled down this recipe to a 4 gallon batch.
For more info regarding Shaun Hill and his brewery, check out this interview from Embrace the Funk.
3.76 kg (86.5%) Canadian 2-row
239 g (5.4%) Carafa Special II
177 g (4%) Carapils
86 g (2%) Flaked Oats
68 g (1.5%) Crystal 150 L
29 g (0.6%) Carafa Special I
Columbus - 7 g (14.5% AA) FWH
Columbus - 27 g @ 60 min
Centennial - 24 g (9.9% AA) @ 45 min
Centennial - 24 g @ 10 min
Columbus - 57 g @ 0 min
Centennial - 31 g @ 0 min
Columbus & Centennial - 28 g each dry-hop for 7 days
Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min
Yeast: Wyeast 1098 British Ale (production date March 13/13; with a 1.75 L starter)
Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g Gypsum and 3 g calcium chloride added to the mash
- Brewed over two days on April 18th and 19th, 2013, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water, mashed in at target of 152 F. Mashed out for 10 minutes with 6.5 L of boiling water, resulting temp 168 F. Sparged with ~2.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.25 gallons in the kettle (a bit higher than target of 4.9 gallons).
- SG low at 1.048 (target 1.053). 60-minute boil. Chilled to 62 F in about 20 minutes with immersion chiller. Poured/filtered into Better Bottle. OG low at 1.062. Pitched yeast starter, aerated by shaking well for several minutes before and after pitching. Set in laundry room sink, ambient temp about 65 F.
20/4/13 - In AM, temp low at 64 F, but airlock is already bubbling q 1-2 seconds, big krausen. By the afternoon, the temp had crept up to 68 F and airlock activity was very vigorous.
22/4/13 - I returned from being away two days, and the krausen had already settled completely, and no activity was visible in the airlock. Gravity at 1.019. Hopefully it'll drop another few points in the coming weeks.
5/5/13 - Dry-hopped in primary (no secondary fermenters available at the time).
12/5/13 - FG 1.016. Bottled with 67 g table sugar, aiming for 2.2 vol CO2 for 3.5 gallons, with a max temp of 68 F reached.
22/5/13 - Wow, came out really great. The hops are citrusy and dank, with a bit of roasted character coming through - just enough. Tasting notes here.