Not exactly the catchiest of titles, is it?
With my recent stretch of Belgian-inspired beers, it's time for another American IPA! Looking back at every American IPA I've brewed, it hit me that I've used either US-05 or Wyeast 1056 American Ale for fermentation every time. I have absolutely nothing against using a neutral American yeast for any hop-forward beer, but I thought it was time to try something different. Seeing that other homebrewers have had success with fermenting their IPAs "outside the box" - that is, with English yeast - I wanted to try the same. There's also quite a few other excellent commercial breweries that have an English yeast as their house strain: Hill Farmstead, Stone, and Firestone Walker, to name just a few.
Ok, let's work backwards and start with the yeast, then. There's a lot of English strains out there; I've used a few, some in English beers, and some in American hoppy beers (but not IPAs). Wyeast 1968 London ESB Ale is often used in homebrew recipes, including several clones; I can't quite put my finger on why I'm not a huge fan of this yeast, but I'm just not. Any beer I've brewed with it, American or English, has had a certain flavor that I'm not big on. I fully admit this could be due to something else in the recipe, or some mess-up on my part, but I've consistently been disappointed with it in my homebrew history. I've had better luck with Wyeast 1098 British Ale, especially in American beers. Definitely a more neutral strain in the English yeast family, 1098 is often thought to be as close to the Stone house yeast that you can buy commercially; I've heard some sources say 1968 is closer, but I'd definitely go with 1098 if you ever brew a Stone clone.
More homebrewers have been using Wyeast 1318 London Ale III in their hoppy beers lately. Thought to be the Boddington's strain (check out the Wyeast chart from mrmalty.com), I think what's led more and more people to this yeast is the rumor that it's also the same strain that Hill Farmstead uses; and if there's a shortlist somewhere with the top breweries that homebrewers want to emulate, Hill Farmstead is definitely on there. It's been a few years since I've had a HF beer; while I can't remember if Edward was the perfect hoppy beer, I definitely recall this it was extremely delicious. What I remember most, along with the beautiful hoppiness of the beer, is that it was somehow still very creamy and smooth. I don't know if this is due to the yeast strain they use, their water source/treatment, or a combination of both. I imagine it's both, along with proper transfer technique and whatnot (i.e. keep oxygen out of the picture as much as possible). When I read Derek's post (of bearflavored.com) about his experience with 1318, his description of the results having a "saturated, soft mouthfeel" immediately brought to mind my experience with Edward. So, time to finally give this yeast a try.
On to water chemistry. I won't try to get into the intricacies of this subject, here. Many others have written much more than I ever could, and much more eloquently than I could ever hope to do myself. In a nutshell, Shaun Hill has been saying for a few years now that chloride may be more important in water profiles for hoppy beers than most people realize. Certainly, the general consensus for years now has been to bump up your calcium and sulfate in your IPA's water, with no mention at all of chloride. More sulfate usually results in a drier, crisper beer, which is normally synonymous with IPAs; more chloride than sulfate is thought to give a "maltier" beer. But maybe in IPAs, "maltier" really means "smoother", as long as the beer is hopped appropriately (that is, lots of flavor and aroma additions)? I've been adding both calcium chloride and gypsum (calcium sulfate) to my hoppy beers lately; more to help decrease the mash pH than as a flavoring addition, but I was happy to try a different approach. So, with this IPA, I added a large amount of calcium chloride and a bit of gypsum, targeting a chloride level of close to 200, and sulfate at around 70 (based on levels Derek has aimed for).
Something else I've changed in my hoppy beers lately is the way I've dry-hopped and transferred them... sort of. Months ago, I read an excellent write-up (again, from Derek... homebrewer extraordinaire!) on a great method to dry-hop IPAs with no oxygen pickup or clogged kegs (now, that guy knows how to title a blog post!). Check out his post; basically, it involves the use of a "dry-hop keg" featuring two separate stainless steel filters (a small, narrow one that goes over the bottom ~4 inches of the dip tube, and another larger one, also encompassing the entire dip tube), and then transferring the beer afterwards to the "serving keg" by the use of two liquid QDs and some tubing. Pretty simple process once you purchase the equipment needed, and it makes sense that it should definitely minimize oxygen contact with your beer. I've followed this approach the past several batches; since I ferment in a Better Bottle, I still have to use an auto-siphon to transfer the beer to the dry-hop keg, but I'm working on other methods to further decrease oxygen exposure.
Before I continue with the recipe for this IPA, I'll mention briefly that I brewed an American Pale Ale recently that followed all three methods: high-chloride water, London Ale III yeast, and closed transfer when dry-hopping. I didn't post about it because it's a clone recipe (of sorts) that I vowed never to share, but I can say that I was very happy with the results. I had brewed the same beer last year with no water adjustments and with a different English yeast; this more-recent attempt came out much better - the hops popped more, and the bitterness was much smoother in the finish than before.
For the grist, I actually replicated the one used in my Russian River Row 2, Hill 56 clone (an all-Simcoe American Pale Ale). I really enjoyed that beer, and found that the combination of Pilsner malt and Maris Otter gave a nice, bready malt complexity while still allowing the hops to shine through. The only change I made was subbing CaraRed malt (~20 L) for Crystal 15 L, based on what I had on hand. I increased the amounts of each malt to give an OG of 1.062, but otherwise kept the percentages about the same as before.
I decided on three different hop varieties for this IPA; all hops that I've brewed with before, but never specifically used together. Two of them are of the newer, more-popular, and more-expensive varieties: Galaxy (an Australian variety), and Nelson Sauvin (from New Zealand). Nelson remains one of my favorite hops; I love how fruity it is, and at the same time... kind of dank. I've only brewed with Galaxy once, in an all-Galaxy DIPA; that beer kind of disappointed me, but I suspect it wasn't because of the hop variety. It's supposed to be an intensely tropical and fruity hop, and I know from drinking other Galaxy-hopped beers that it lives up to its hype. Stone Enjoy By is hopped with many varieties, but the heavy dry-hop is supposed to be with both Galaxy and Nelson; the few times I've had that beer, I've loved it, so I'm hoping both of these together in this IPA will work well. I also threw in a bit of Columbus at each addition, because... well... I like Columbus, too, and find that it can be a great supporting hop in lots of combinations.
Other than a small bittering addition at the beginning of the boil, with hop extract, I took the route of adding all hops from flame-out on: a 25-minute hop steep, and two dry-hop additions (one in primary, and one in the keg, as described above). I haven't completely given up on 5 or 10-min additions, but I HAVE been experimenting with the approach I've taken here, and can understand why some homebrewers (and professionals) prefer this method. I estimate the IBUs to come in around 70; a 25-min steep with three high-AA varieties comes in at a much higher number in Beersmith, but I suspect that whatever formula is in there is overcompensating?
Overall, the brew day went well... except, I had calculated for a 60-minute boil, and didn't realize until weeks later that I should have boiled for 90 minutes (well, I always do, anyway, when the grist contains pilsner malt). OG was a touch low, likely due to my volume being a bit higher than target, but fermentation took off well and was finished in several days. After 10 days total of dry-hopping, I carbed the beer and was drinking it near the end of February.
I have to admit, that while this beer is quite tasty, I'm slightly disappointed. I think I got my hopes up too much due to: a) the hop varieties I used, and the large amounts, and b) based on how much I enjoyed the APA I had brewed with the same yeast and water adjustment. To be fair, I find this beer has a good bitterness for the style, and remains quite smooth and easy-drinking; the higher chloride seems to provide a different mouthfeel - very creamy - than I'm used to with my IPAs. The Nelson Sauvin, however, appears to be overshadowed; there's nothing wrong with the hop aroma or flavor at all - it's very fruity, citrusy, and a bit dank - but the white wine/gooseberry/whatever-it-is-exactly that Nelson always contributes just isn't there. Not sure if this is because Galaxy is the more dominant hop of the two (not to mention the CTZ in there as well), or because the Galaxy hops I had were the freshest of the three in the recipe. Maybe it's both.
Whatever it is, the beer still came out very nice (other than the appearance... I have no idea why it's so dark and murky!), and I'll continue to make similar water adjustments in most of my hoppy beers. And I'll definitely be using the London Ale III yeast again; I think it's one of the best yeasts I've used in beers that showcase hops. If anyone else has any experience with this English yeast in IPAs, feel free to comment.
Recipe Targets: (4 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.062, FG ~1.013, IBU ~70, SRM 6, ABV ~6.4%
2.05 kg (59.1%) Pilsner
1.3 kg (32%) Maris Otter
160 g (3.9%) CaraRed
120 g (3%) Carapils
80 g (2%) Acid malt
Hop extract - 2 mL @ 60 min (or 11 g of 10% AA hop variety)
Galaxy - 56 g @ 0 min (with a 25 minute hop steep)
Nelson Sauvin - 56 g @ 0 min (with a 25 minute hop steep)
CTZ - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 25 minute hop steep)
Nelson Sauvin - 42 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Galaxy - 14 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
CTZ - 14 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Nelson Sauvin - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in keg)
Galaxy - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in keg)
CTZ - 14 g dry-hop for 5 days (in keg)
Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min
Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III (~3/4 cup slurry)
Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g Gypsum and 10 g calcium chloride added to mash
- Brewed on January 28th, 2015, by myself. 50-minute mash with 11 L of strike water, mashed in at target of 149. Sparged with ~4.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.25 gallons.
- SG low at 1.042 (target 1.044). 60-minute boil (NOTE: recipe should have been calculated for 90-minutes, my typical approach with pilsner malt in the grist). Flameout hops had a 25-minute steep before turning on the chiller. Final volume a bit high at 4.25 gallons; OG a little low at 1.060. Chilled to low-60s F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast slurry at 64 F.
- Fermentation took off strongly by the next morning, with the airlock activity pretty much finished within three days. Temp reached as high as 72 F.
- 5/2/15 - FG reading of 1.011. Added 1st dry hops to primary.
- 10/2/15 - Racked beer to CO2-purged keg, added second dry-hops, purged again and set at room temp. Left for another 5 days, then set in keezer overnight to bring temp down and crash out hops.
- 16/2/15 - Transferred beer to serving keg via closed system. Set in keezer to and hooked up CO2.
Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, off-white head that has pretty good retention. Body is a murky, orangey-brown color, and very hazy. Not a pretty beer.
Aroma: Hop-forward - very fruity (kind of a mix of citrus and tropical) with a bit of dank mixed in. Not a lot of malt character there.
Taste: Again, lots of hops, with a mixture of tropical and citrus notes. The malt comes through more here in the flavor, with a pleasant supporting background without honing in on hop territory. Finished with a firm, moderate-high bitterness, but it’s all quite dry, smooth, and goes down easy.
Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, with moderate carbonation.
Overall: Pretty good beer; I think the Galaxy is the dominant hop here, but being that it’s the freshest of the three, I’m not surprised. I don’t know why the beer is so dark and murky though...? Solid recipe, solid beer, but doesn’t quite impress me as much as I thought it would.