Friday, 15 August 2014

Brewing an El Dorado One-Hop Session IPA

Ever since my first foray into brewing a single-hop Mosaic Session IPA last November, I've really been anxious to try it all again, but with another hop variety. I really enjoyed what Mosaic brought to the table (such a fantastic hop), I liked how brewing solely with that hop really helped me identify what aroma and flavor characteristics it added to the beer, and on top of all that, I love a well-brewed Session IPA. I'm a huge fan of having a big hop presence without big alcohol... as long as it's done well. I've had some fantastic Session IPAs over the last year (it definitely seems to be one of the popular "styles" now for an increasing number of breweries), but I've had some disappointing ones, too. My only major complaint about my attempt with Mosaic was that the beer did come out a bit thin, so I hope to remedy that with another try... this time, featuring another fairly-new hop variety - El Dorado.

El Dorado became commercially available in 2010. Developed at CLS Farms in Washington state, it's a high alpha acid aroma/flavor hop variety that doesn't seem to have garnered as much popularity as some of the really big new hops, such as Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, and Azacca. However, I had read some positive homebrewer notes about it online, with descriptions of tropical, citrus, and stone fruit, along with pear and, oddly enough, cherry or watermelon Jolly Ranchers (and this is from many sources). I had the opportunity a few months ago to buy a half-pound from the late-2013 crop, and couldn't resist (I'm very weak when it comes to buying hops). It looks like some breweries have tried brewing some beers with all El Dorado, such as Flying Dog, with an Imperial IPA in their Single-Hop series. Unfortunately, I have not tried any of these beers (aside: am I the only one that really despises Flying Dog's labels?).

Like I said, brewing a single-hop beer is a great way to feel out a new hop variety, but something you have to keep in mind is that brewing with one hop does not necessarily work out better than when you combine multiple hop varieties. I'm a big believer that adding too many hop varieties in one beer can easily result in a muddled mess, but there are plenty of beers out there that combine 2 or 3 varieties with better results than a similar beer with just one of the hops. But in this case, I really wanted to continue this experiment, and didn't have any other plans to use El Dorado in the near future, so I went with it. Just wanted to make clear that I understand the risk that comes with this... that is, brewing a beer solely with a hop that sometimes resembles Jolly Rancher candy.

For this recipe, I virtually duplicated the malt bill, but scaled it down to a 4-gallon batch. I thought this grist worked very well for the Mosaic Session IPA; it provided enough specialty malts to help bolster the body slightly, yet the beer didn't come out too malty or sweet. It had just enough malt character... mind you, yes, the beer was a bit too thin, so this time I went with a target mash temp of 153 F, compared to 149 F last time.

As for the hopping, with the Mosaic Session IPA I was worried after brewing it that maybe I had hopped it too-heavily, but I didn't find that to be the case when I finally tasted it. There was no heavy grassiness to the aroma or flavor at all; lots of hops, yes, but it was exactly what I was aiming for in that department. I made only a couple of slight changes this time around: same amounts, but I moved the 10-minute addition to 5 minutes, and steeped the flame-out hops for a shorter amount of time (10 minutes compared to 15 minutes). No real reason for these changes, I just wanted to try moving the hops a bit later, and felt a 10-minute steep would be enough for such a low-ABV beer (since you still get some bitterness when wort temp is above ~180 F).

Everything else is the same as well. Same yeast (US-05, going for neutral character here), same water adjustments (a bit of gypsum and calcium chloride added to the mash). The only big difference involves packaging; now that I have a kegging setup, I'm definitely going that route compared to bottling (as with the Mosaic Session IPA). Hopefully the keg-hopping and minimalized oxygen exposure to the hops (although to be honest, I still don't feel like I've perfected the procedure) will result in a really hop-fresh beer. Since I've started kegging, I haven't necessarily noticed a huge difference in this quality, but the hop freshness does last a lot longer compared to bottling.

If you happen to look up the recipe for my Mosaic Session IPA and compare it to the one below, note that this current batch is for 4 gallons, vs. the 5.5 gallons I typically have brewed in the past. This beer is currently carbing, so look for the tasting notes to follow soon. And once again, forgive me the lack of pictures in this post; summer is a distracting season, you know!

Second from the left in all that mess... that's the one!

Recipe targets: (4 gallons, 80% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.011, IBU ~50, SRM 6.2, ABV ~4.9%

2.145 kg (72.2%) Canadian 2-row
330 g (11.1%) Munich
330 g (11.1%) Wheat malt
165 g (5.6%) Crystal 40 L 

Hop extract - 2.5 mL (equivalent to 14 g of 10% AA hop) @ 60 min
El Dorado - 20 g (13.8% AA) @ 5 min
El Dorado - 40 g @ 0 min (with a 10-minute steep)
El Dorado - 60 g dry-hop for 7 days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale, rehydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g Gypsum and 2 g calcium chloride added to the mash

- Brewed on July 21st, 2014, by myself. 50-minute mash with 9 L of strike water, mashed in at 152 F, slightly below target temp of 153 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 4 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~3.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.25 gallons.
- SG on target at 1.037. 60-minute boil. Flameout hops had a 10-minute steep before turning on the chiller. Final volume ~4 gallons. Chilled down to 68 F, then poured/filtered into Better Bottle. OG on target at 1.048. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast. Placed BB in laundry sink with some cold water to try to keep temp down.

- Vigorous airlock activity over the next few days; temp got as high as 72 F before finally settling down when active fermentation did.

- 30/7/14 - Racked to a CO2-purged keg, added dry-hops in a mesh bag and left at room temp.

- 6/8/14 - Removed dry-hops, set keg in keezer to bring temp down to the mid-40s before beginning to carb.

- 21/9/14 - Posted the tasting notes. Strong orange character to me; a very tasty Session IPA, but not a hop I would rush to use on its own again in the future.


  1. Interesting read. I like the idea of using a single hop variety for a change. I can see how this would help someone become more familiar with the characteristics of a certain hop. Jealous of the keezer! I can't wait to get to kegging.

  2. I did a smaller "Micro-Ipa" with just El Dorado and I liked the hop character a lot. I think it would pair well with a resinous/piney American hop and will try such a combination out if I can source more next year. Looking forward to seeing your tasting notes and ideas on this one, thanks for the blog!

    1. That's a good looking recipe you have there... hope I'm as happy with my results as you were with yours! Thanks for the comment.