Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Tasting : Hop Swamp (American IPA)

I feel it's important to take two different approaches in brewing...

1) Spend some time re-brewing batches that you really loved, so that you can enjoy them again, but more importantly, gain practice at nailing down a few styles with limited (if any) batch variability;

2) Experiment.

Obviously, "experiment" can refer to any number of ingredients, techniques, etc. in brewing. It all applies; it doesn't matter if you're brand-spanking new to the hobby, or if you've been doing it for 20 years, or if you're Shaun Hill. Experimenting will make you a better brewer. And isn't becoming a better brewer ultimately what this hobby is all about (to those of us who aren't just doing it for cheaper beer, that is)?

Well, in early October I experimented with an American IPA that I referred to as a "Kitchen Sink" IPA... that is, I added four hop varieties (Amarillo, Belma, Centennial and Falconer's Flight) that were from the 2012 hop harvest. To be honest, it was just as much about trying to use up older hops as it was about experimenting with this hop mixture, but I was truly curious as to just how hoppy a beer brewed with 2012 hops would be. Keeping in mind they were stored properly (vacuum-sealed, in the freezer), and weren't visibly too old (brownish-yellow color, for example), the hops even smelled pretty good... but you could tell they weren't as potent as fresh hops.

All that being said, the beer came out about what I expected... tasty, and hoppy, but nowhere near as hoppy as it SHOULD be with such a large amount of hops. Obviously other factors can come into play, but I feel that hop age was the deciding element, here. The beer smelled terrific after I removed the dry-hops, and tasted pretty darned good once it was carbed... but it fell off quickly (much faster than other hoppy beers have since I started kegging). Now, it's in the "good but not great" category of IPAs.

So, unfortunately I can't really say yay or nay for this beer's recipe; I don't think it's a safe representation of how these hops work together. Let this little experiment be a lesson, kids: use your hops while they're fresh. Try your best not to over-order.

But, really, who are we kidding?

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, off-white head, creamy, good retention. Body is a light orange color, and very hazy.

Aroma: Kind of a muddled hop aroma (citrus, orangey) with a supporting malty sweet backbone. I would prefer to have the hops more upfront. No real flaws, just a bit...

Taste: Ditto with the flavor. It’s not a bad IPA at all, I just feel that the hops aren’t potent enough, especially considering how many were added in this beer. A combination of citrusy and sweet, it’s a little TOO balanced. Medium bitterness in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, with moderate carbonation.

Overall: A very decent IPA, but not a great one. I suspect the hop age is the most contributing factor to this.

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