Wednesday 25 March 2015

Brewing an Equinox One-Hop Session IPA

It's been awhile since my last one-hop Session IPA, and I've really enjoyed how the two I've brewed have turned out. The first attempt, Mosaic Session IPA, was my first time brewing with Mosaic; I loved what that hop brought to the beer - the aromas and flavors were amazing. The beer did come out a bit thin, however, so for my second attempt, El Dorado Session IPA, I increased the mash temperature from 149 F to 153 F, while using the same grist. While El Dorado wasn't quite as "powerful" a hop as Mosaic, it still contributed a really tasty orange-candy characteristic to the beer, and the higher mash temp definitely improved the mouthfeel.

Well, I'm ready for another try, yet again with another new, hot hop: Equinox. This hop really is quite new; I believe it's only been available commercially under the name Equinox for a year or so. I actually stumbled upon it in the fall when I was browsing new hop varieties online, and one of the flavor descriptors jumped out at me: green pepper. Other words used were quite familiar - floral, lemon, lime, tropical - but green pepper? Seriously? I was immediately curious if this was something I would pick up in a beer hopped entirely with Equinox. Granted, I didn't buy a pound of an expensive new hop JUST for this reason; I had read other good things about it, and some commercial beers have already included it both on its own, and combined with other varieties.

For the grist, I've left it exactly the same as the last two Session IPAs: about 70% 2-row, with some Munich, malted Wheat, and Crystal 40 L making up the difference (and some Acid malt for mash pH purposes only). The high percentage of specialty malts is to help give this light-ABV beer some extra body; in fact, this time around I decided to bump the mash temp up even higher, to 156 F. Yes, this seems high for an IPA, but other homebrewers have brewed Session IPAs with even higher mash temps and reported good results, so I thought I'd give it a try. The only other changes I made to the mash involve water chemistry: based on the success from my recent APA and IPA, I added 3 grams of Gypsum and 9 grams of calcium chloride to the mash, giving a final water profile of 153 ppm calcium, 187 chloride, and 74 sulfate. I really liked the creamy body and smoother bitterness in those two beers with these numbers; this is the type of mouthfeel I'm really aiming for in a Session IPA.

As for the hopping, I've settled on the following schedule for this style of beer: a touch of bittering at the beginning of the boil with hop extract (or any high-AA hop variety) to about 20 IBUs, then 20 g of the featured hop at 10 min, 40 g at flameout for a 15-minute steep, and a 60 g dry-hop for 5-7 days. I had moved things around for the El Dorado Session IPA, where the 10-min addition became 5-min, and the steep was shorter; I found this definitely affected the beer slightly - the aroma was great, but the taste was diminished.

Again, this beer was fermented with US-05, in the high 60s F; I'd love to try it with the Wyeast 1318 London Ale III that I'd been using, but alas the slurry from my last batch was gone. I highly recommend trying some other yeasts, though, if you have the chance.

The brew day went off pretty well. I was rushing in the morning, getting my daughter ready for daycare (don't judge; when I brew, I do it in the AM on a day where I don't work until 3 pm... less family time wasted!), and I missed my mash temp by 3 degrees. So, a mash temp of 153 F, just like before... oh well! Everything else went fine. The Equinox hops smelled amazing fresh out of the package, so I had high hopes for how the beer turned out.

And... it turned out pretty damned tasty, if I say so myself. I'm normally quite critical of my beers (I think), but I really enjoy this one. I think the recipe is right where it needs to be, in terms of malt background, hop presence, and mouthfeel (I still think a higher mash temp would make it even better). The Equinox is showcased front and center in this beer, and really lives up to its hype, in my opinion. It is definitely very citrusy and tropical; several beer geeks who have tried it have described it as "green"-tasting, which makes sense when you try it yourself. And yes, there IS a bit of green pepper in the aroma and flavor; would I have picked that out if I didn't know to look for it? Probably not. But I notice it now, and it actually works!

So, is Equinox worth tracking down? Like any new, talked-about hop, it's not easy to find, and it ain't cheap. But I recommend seeking it out; don't be afraid of the green pepper descriptions if you're not into that. I didn't think it would necessarily work, either, but it does, and it's certainly not a dominant flavor/aroma. I had purchased a pound, and split half, so I'm already down to little under 4 oz... but I'm quite curious to use Equinox with another hop variety or two. But...... which one?

Recipe Targets: (4 gallons, 80% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.010, IBU ~50, SRM 6, ABV ~4.6%

2.1 kg (70.6%) Canadian 2-row
330 g (11.1%) Munich
330 g (11.1%) Wheat malt
165 g (5.5%) Crystal 40 L
50 g (1.7%) Acid malt

Hop extract - 2 mL @ 60 min (or 11 g of a 10% AA hop)
Equinox - 20 g (14.5% AA) @ 10 min
Equinox - 40 g @ 0 min (with a 15-min hop steep)
Equinox - 60 g dry-hop for 5-7 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale (about 1/2-3/4 pack, rehydrated)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g Gypsum and 9 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on Feb 10th, 2015, by myself. 50-minute mash with 9 L of strike water, mashed in at 153 F (target 156 F). Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 3.25 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~4 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.25 gallons.

- SG low at 1.036 (target 1.037). 60-minute boil. Flameout hops had a 15-minute steep before turning on the chiller. Final volume a bit high at ~4.15 gallons; OG a little low at 1.046. Chilled to low-60s F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast at 64 F.

- Good fermentation activity by the following afternoon; quite vigorous by the next day, reaching 72 F on the fermometer. Slowed down quickly after that. FG reading of 1.011.

- Dry-hopped directly in primary for 7 days, then racked into CO2-purged keg, set in keezer overnight to bring temp down. Set PSI at 30 for 24 hours, then 10.

When will this season end...
Appearance: Pours with a moderate-large, white, fluffy head; great retention, several minutes later it had barely receded at all. Sticky lacing left on the sides of the glass as it finally diminishes. Body is a burnished-gold color, with very good clarity.

Aroma: Beautiful and distinct aroma; includes citrus, tropical fruit, a touch of floral/spicy character, and a little green pepper. I want to say “green” overall, and others have described it as exactly that.

Taste: Everything translates over to the flavors, and it all blends together perfectly. The grist does a great job of backing up the hops and providing some body, without getting in the way of the Equinox. Finishes with a moderate, smooth bitterness. Very easy-drinking.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, medium carbonation. Again, very smooth.

Overall: Great beer, probably my favorite of the Session IPAs I've brewed so far. I think the recipe is where I want to be, both grist-wise and hop-schedule-wise. Equinox is a very nice hop; interested to see how it will pair with other varieties.


  1. Looks awesome! I might have to try this some time soon. Where do you find the hop extract in Canada?

    1. I actually bought it through Yakima Valley Hops in the U.S., had it shipped to a PO Box in Maine.

      Go ahead and use a little bit of any hop to get you to 20 IBUs, though...

    2. You can actually get it in Canada now.

      100 g is a lot so you might want to split the can with a few friends.

  2. Thanks for that!