Monday, 20 January 2014

Tasting : English IPA (Reid 1839 IPA clone)

I'm beginning to think that I was never meant to brew English-style beers flawlessly. Let's review my last few attempts:
  • Extra Special Bitter - This was my second attempt at this style (the first was an extract, partial boil beer that really wasn't very bitter); the beer itself tasted pretty good, nicely bitter, good hop presence, but the FG stuck at 1.019, and then the yeast must have got going again at bottling, because after a month or so I had a bunch of gushers on my hands.
  • Southern English Brown - Second time brewing this style as well, my OG was too low and FG too high. Even then, with 35% specialty malt in the grist and a mash temp of 156 F, the beer came out too thin.
  • Standard/Ordinary Bitter - This one came out ok at first, but over time it developed a bit of phenolic character, pointing towards some form of infection (wild yeast, maybe?).
Those are just the most recent English beers, before this English IPA - a Reid 1839 clone - that I brewed last month. It's not that any of my English beers have been TERRIBLE; they just haven't been very good examples of the style, with at least one noticeable flaw in each beer. I've had far better luck brewing American, German, and Belgian beers (crap, did I just jinx myself?).
With this beer, it seemed that everything was going well. Brew day went fine, the recipe looked good - lots of Fuggle hops - etc., etc. I was a little hesitant about using Nottingham dry yeast (based on some opinions on its general neutral flavor I've read about), but figured it wouldn't matter too much, considering the amount of hops in the beer. Aerated with a good amount of pure oxygen, pitched the rehydrated yeast....

And bam, another stuck fermentation, this time at 1.020 (target was 1.014). What the..? I have two theories as to why this possibly happened, but neither is very sound:
  1. The very high mash temp (158 F) produced too many unfermentables, so 1.020 is just the result of low attenuation by the yeast. I dunno, though... I've brewed beers with high mash temps before, and the beer has reached its target FG with no issues.
  2. The beer was fermenting during an extremely cold time of year, and even though my house is, of course, heated, maybe the temp dropped at night, causing the yeast to stall? I doubt it, though, as Nottingham is supposed to work as low as 57 F, and being indoors, I can't see the temperature plummeting THAT much.
On the bright side, so far there haven't been any bottle gushers. And while the FG was 6 points above my target, it's only a couple of points above the high end of the BJCP range. The bitterness of the beer isn't quite as high as I expected, but of course, with a higher FG, that's not unusual. I like the earthiness in the beer from the Fuggles, but if I ever brewed this again I would definitely plan ahead and make sure I had a liquid English yeast to pitch... English beers really do benefit from some yeast character, and I'm not getting much from the Nottingham at all.

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized, long-lasting thick white head. Great retention. Body is golden-colored with pretty good clarity.

Aroma: Some bready malt with a background of earthy hop aroma. Not overly sweet. No diacetyl, no flaws that I can detect.

Taste: Nice bready, biscuity character from the malt, with some earthy and floral flavors from the hops. Medium bitterness in the finish that lasts for a couple of minutes.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, with moderate carbonation.

Overall: Despite the problems with the FG, I do like the beer. Yes, it could definitely be drier and a little less sweet, maybe a bit lighter in the body, but the earthy hop flavor from the Fuggles comes through well. Using a liquid English yeast with more character, and better attenuation, is all I would really change.

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