Monday, 3 November 2014

Brewing a "Kitchen Sink" American IPA

It's inevitable when it comes to homebrewers who love hoppy beers - you will almost always have more hops than you need. I know, at first glance the idea seems completely crazy. But when you start buying one pound at a time of all these new, hot varieties (e.g. Azacca, Galaxy, Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, Falconer's Flight, Belma), while at the same time buying up those tried-and-true varieties that you always want to have on hand (Columbus, Centennial, Citra, Amarillo, Simcoe, etc.)... well, they accumulate quickly.

And now the 2014 harvest is coming out! Trust me, you start to panic a bit, worrying you're going to miss out on Citra, or Mosaic, or whatever. You love these hops, and while you may not have a beer planned in the near future that involves them... what if you DO, eventually? And a lot of those varieties sell-out quickly, and then what are you going to do? Go a whole year without brewing with Nelson Sauvin? Uh-uh, I don't think so.

So, what happens? You start buying less food to store in your freezer, because space is being taken up by hops. However, while proper packaging and storage of hops can definitely extend how long they're good for, aroma and flavor components (not to mention bittering potential) are going to eventually fade over time. I brew a lot of hoppy beers (12 out of this year's first 16 batches had a good amount of hops, the majority of them significantly so), but I can't quite keep up with what's in my freezer. So, I decided to brew a new IPA, trying to make use of leftovers from - I'm ashamed to say - the 2012 harvest.

Before people start firebombing this blog, let me rush to say that these hops have indeed been vacuum-sealed and stored in my freezer, and I've made sure that all of them still look good and smell good. In fact, they smell pretty damned good; I'd never brew with spoiled hops just for the sake of using them up! Right now, brewing a beer like this came at a good time; I actually didn't have a long list of other beers to brew, at least not with yeast I have on hand (I have a couple of Belgian yeasts on special order, but they won't be here for awhile yet), so why not experiment a little?

I guess I should start with the grist. Nothing off the wall, here, I just put something together that would suit - hopefully - what I was looking for... a beer with a complementing malt character, but not a lot of specialty malts, letting the hops stay upfront. Mostly 2-row, some Maris Otter to give a bit more character, some Carapils and Caramunich II, and a portion of Acid malt. Mash at around 150 F to keep the fermentable sugars fairly high. Easy.

Now, the good stuff. Looking through my inventory, I had several varieties of hops from the 2012 harvest (meaning I bought most of them in early 2013, probably). I didn't want to just throw in everything that I had; more hops does not necessarily mean a better beer, and more hop VARIETIES doesn't mean better, either. I've had hops clash in homebrews before, and I've had commercial IPAs that have had so many hop varieties in it that the whole beer came out as a mess. Of course, there are many commercial IPAs available with plenty of different types of hops used in the brew, and they come out great. I guess the important thing is to experiment and try to learn from your mistakes.

So, I settled on four different hop varieties, all used at different parts of the brew for the most part. Just enough Centennial in a first wort hop (FWH) addition to give about 25 IBUs. A large amount of Centennial at 5 minutes and at flameout, for a hop stand; then, some Amarillo after the chiller was turned on and the wort temp dipped below 180 F. Two dry hop additions: one with just Belma, then Belma and Falconer's Flight for the keg-hop. All of this comes to the equivalent of just over a pound of hops for a 5.5-6 gallon batch (I scaled down to 4.5 gallons)... that's quite a lot.

The beer will be fermented with the mostly-neutral US-05, hopefully getting down to the low teens for a final gravity, keeping the beer quite dry. As mentioned, the beer will be kegged; extra-important here, I feel, because in my experience hoppy beers drop off much quicker when bottled. In a beer where the hops are older, I figure this will happen even faster than usual.

All of this is not something I'd jump to recommend. A tasty, hoppy IPA shouldn't really need over a pound of hops for a standard homebrew batch, at least not if the hops are fresh. The APA I brewed with only 4 oz of Simcoe hops (the Russian River Row 2, Hill 56 clone) came out very delicious and very hoppy; a lot of that was probably due to the freshness of the Simcoe. I'm brewing this beer mostly to use up these hops, and as a little experiment to the combination of these varieties. Hopefully the high amounts will help bring out some of their character, but it's possible that even with proper storage that this isn't going to happen. But I currently have a fairly good supply of beer on hand, so I don't mind using a brew day to test this out. These hops are only going to get staler, after all.

Recipe Targets: (4.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.064, FG ~1.012, IBU ~50, SRM 6.5, ABV ~6.9%

3.3 kg (68.3%) Canadian 2-row
1.1 kg (22.8%) Maris Otter
200 g (4.1%) Carapils
150 g (3.1%) Caramunich II 45 L
80 g (1.7%) Acid malt

Centennial - 14 g (8% AA) FWH
Centennial - 60 g @ 5 min

Centennial - 99 g @ 0 min (with a 10 minute hop steep)

Amarillo - 70 g @ 0 min (when wort temp below 180 F)

Belma - 56 g dry-hop for 4 days (in primary)

Belma - 50 g dry-hop for 5 days (keg-hop)
Falconer's Flight - 35 g dry-hop for 5 days (keg-hop)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale, 1 package, rehydrated

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

- Brewed on October 8th, 2014, by myself. 50-minute mash with 14 L of strike water, mashed in at target of 150 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7.5 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~2.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.75 gallons.

- SG a bit low at 1.049 (target 1.051). 60-minute boil. Flameout hops had a 10-minute steep before turning on the chiller; second dry hops added shortly after when wort temp dropped below 180 F. Final volume ~4.5 gallons; OG low at 1.061. Chilled to 65 F, then poured/filtered into Better Bottle. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast.

- Good fermentation activity over the next few days; beer temp got a bit warm, up to 72-74 F. Started slowing after 3-4 days, krausen dropping.

 - 18/10/14 - First dry-hop addition, into primary directly. FG a bit high, 1.015.

- 22/10/14 - Racked into CO2-purged keg (the "dry-hop keg"), added second dry-hops directly into the keg.

- 26/10/14 - Transferred beer to the serving keg after cold-crashing for a day, set in keezer and began carbing.

- 25/11/14 - Yep, hop freshness matters a lot. It came out pretty good, but far from great.


  1. I know your pain all too well. I still have 10+ lbs of 2013 hops in my freezer from last year's bulk buy and the 2014 ones are already coming out. Plus Yakima Valley hops has already released azzaca but no simcoe, and shipping to Canada aint cheap....

    1. Yeah; I'm not as worried about the 2013... yet. But I've also been ordering some 2014 hops lately (Equinox, Mosaic, Galaxy, and Azacca), so I've got to do a better job of planning my brew sessions.

      Luckily, I have a post office box in Maine that isn't far from a family member who is willing to make pick ups, so shipping is a lot cheaper than it would be to here.