Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Brewing an English IPA (Reid 1839 clone)

Well, looks like I'm able to squeeze in one more brew for 2013, and another hoppy clone at that! For those of you keeping score, that makes 10 hoppy beers this year (if you don't count the California Common) and 8 clone recipes, out of a total of 15 beers brewed. I can see where my homebrewing career is now leaning...

I've never brewed an English IPA, but it's a beer style I've always wanted to tackle. I've had a few English IPAs over the years, but most of them were American versions (e.g. Brooklyn East India Pale Ale, Goose Island IPA); I've also had a couple of great ones from England (one standout to me is Thornbridge Jaipur IPA) and some homebrewed ones that were quite good. Like an American IPA, today's English IPAs exhibit a good amount of hop character and bitterness, but generally showcase more fruitiness due to the use of English yeast. Where they generally differ from American IPAs, however, is that their hop character and bitterness are less pronounced; the hops are definitely there, but there's more of a malt presence in the beer's qualities compared to the American take on the style.

Notice that I said "today's" English IPAs. Some people have put in a lot of research around English IPAs of the past (especially Ron Pattinson over at his blog, Shut Up About Barclay Perkins); it's definitely a fascinating topic when you start doing a bit of reading. Many of these beers were much hoppier and more bitter back in the day where shipping beer took a lot longer; Mitch Steele's book IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale has an extensive section on the history of this topic. And in the recipe section of that book, he includes several recipes for recreations of historic IPAs.

Like I said, I've been meaning to brew an English IPA for awhile, and I've also been interested in brewing another SMaSH (single malt and single hop) beer, too. One of the recipes in Steele's book - which, coincidentally, was provided by Ron Pattinson - that caught my eye was for Reid's 1839 IPA. Reid was a brewery based in London in the 19th century; they eventually merged with the Watney brewery in 1898. The recipe calls for 100% Maris Otter, a British pale malt known for giving lots of biscuity flavors in beer, more-so than your typical North American 2-row base malt. The recipe also involves several large additions of the Fuggle hop, an English aroma hop that exhibits grassy and floral aromas. Luckily, I had a very large amount of Fuggles on hand from last year's crop, so this seemed like a perfect English IPA to brew!

As I mentioned, the beer is 100% Maris Otter. Not uncommon for an English IPA, especially one from the 19th century. What DOES strike me a bit odd is the mash temp for this beer... 158 F! That's pretty high; I'm not sure that I've ever brewed a beer with such a high mash temp. Thinking about it, though, I can't say I'm TOO surprised; I assume this high mash temp is to leave behind some unfermentable sugars to give the beer a higher FG so that it doesn't come out too dry, and to provide a bit of character in a beer that doesn't have any specialty malts. I actually DID add some acid malt to the mash, but not to provide character. I recently began using the EZ Water Calculator, which is an excellent site that helps you estimate your mash pH based on the actual ingredients and amounts in your recipe. I added enough acid malt (about 4%) to bring my mash pH hopefully down to a better number, around 5.4.

Lots of hops for an English IPA
So, if you look at the hopping schedule below, you're probably thinking, "That's a lot of hops for an English IPA", and you're right. This recipe involves much more hops than your typical English IPA recipe, and more than a lot of American IPAs out there. What's interesting is that almost all of the 10 ounces are added from the beginning of the boil down to 15 minutes... with a small dry-hop addition. Contrast that to most American IPA recipes, where the bulk of the hops are now added from 10 minutes on, or even just at flameout and in the dry-hop.

Still, I expect that this beer will have a very decent hop aroma and flavor... and a heck of a lot of bitterness. My calculated IBUs came to 93 when the hops were adjusted for age, but the recipe in Steele's book actually calls for about 120 IBUs. I could have upped my amounts to get to that target, but I figured 93 IBUs was enough... that's an IBU/OG ratio of 1.63, which is really high.
When discussing fermentation for this beer, the book's recipe calls for Wyeast 1028 London Ale or its White Lab equivalent (WLP013), or Danstar's Nottingham Dry Ale Yeast. I would have much preferred to use Wyeast's liquid yeast, here. I'm not being liquid yeast-snotty, but Nottingham is usually considered to give a fairly clean profile, compared to this description for Wyeast 1028: "A rich mineral profile that is bold and crisp with some fruitiness." But, living in Fredericton and wanting to brew on the fly, your options are severely limited... it would have taken a minimum of 3 weeks to get the 1028, so Nottingham it is. Luckily, a beer this well-hopped probably wouldn't allow a lot of yeast character to shine through, anyway. We'll see.

As for the water, the recipe didn't specify any targets to hit, or specific adjustments to make. On reflection, I should have tried to emulate the water profile of London, where the brewery was originally based, but I just ended up adding 8 grams of gypsum to the mash, to increase the calcium and sulfate numbers and hopefully provide a bit more hop bite to the beer.

Should be an interesting beer if it turns out; at the very least, a good way to showcase the Fuggle hop. I'll likely dry-hop directly in primary since it's a single addition, so hopefully I'll be drinking this beer
early in 2014.

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.057, FG ~1.014, IBU ~93, SRM 5.1, ABV ~5.7%

Grains & Other:
4.86 kg (96%) Maris Otter

200 g (4%) Acid malt

Fuggles - 80 g (4.3% AA) @ 75 min

Fuggles - 80 g @ 30 min
Fuggles - 78 g @ 15 min
Fuggles - 35 g dry-hop for 5 days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Danstar Nottingham, 1 package, rehydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 8 grams gypsum in the mash

- Brewed on December 10th, 2013, by myself. 60-minute mash with 18.5 L of strike water, mashed in at target temp of 158 F. Mashed-out with 5.5 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~3.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7 gallons.

- SG 1.045, just above target of 1.044. 75-minute boil. Final volume 5.5 gallons. Chilled down to 64 F, then poured/filtered (lots of hop sludge, of course) into Better Bottle. OG on target at 1.057. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast. Placed BB in laundry room, ambient temp about 66 F.

- 11/12/13 - Airlock bubbling almost every second in the morning, temp 66 F. In PM, same activity, temp up to 68 F.

- 12/12/13 - Temp 70 F, airlock slowing down a bit, bubbling every 2 seconds.

- 13/12/13 - Airlock activity already seems to have stopped, temp dropped down to 65 F. I have a hard time keeping the temp up this time of year in this area of the house; probably should have moved the fermentor to a warmer room when activity visibly slowed.

- 22/12/13 - Took gravity reading of 1.020... crap! I assume this is due to the yeast conking out a bit early due to temperature?

- 23/12/13 - Added dry hops directly into primary fermentor.

- 30/12/13 - Bottled with 76 g table sugar, aiming for 2 vol CO2 for 4.5 gallons, max temp of 70 F reached. Crossing my fingers and hoping for no gushers/bottle bombs.

- 20/1/14 - Tasting notes... not bad at all, despite the high FG, but the body is a bit too full, and the beer definitely would have benefited from being fermented with a more characterful yeast.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Tasting : 'Merica vs. 'Anada

Ok, I apologize right now for these tasting notes taking as long as they have, because when I originally posted my brew notes for this Prairie Artisan Ales 'Merica clone, the post had a lot of attention. Seems like a lot of homebrewers out there love this beer, and would like to try cloning it themselves.

As mentioned in the original post, I decided against bottling this beer with two strains of Brett, as Prairie does. Instead, I dry-hopped and bottled half the beer "plain", and added Brett bottle dregs (from some commercial beers) to the other half in secondary; after the FG got down to 1.001, I dry-hopped and bottled that half. This is why I've waited to post the tasting notes - I wanted to compare both beers to each other, and to the actual 'Merica itself.

Well, in a nutshell, the beer came out pretty fantastic. Even though my hopping schedule was off (Prairie corrected me AFTER I had brewed the beer and posted the recipe), with the dry-hop being only half of what it should have been, the beer has a HUGE Nelson Sauvin presence, in both aroma and flavor. Wow. I just wanted to shove my nose in this beer and keep it there all day... such a massive blast of tropical berries, with a bit of dank. Nelson may now be my new favorite hop variety.

Now that most of the plain beers are gone, I just started drinking the Bretted version, and honestly there's not a huge difference. I didn't get a lot of Brett character from 'Merica when I first had it, so I'm not too surprised, even though I took a different approach. I actually prefer the non-Brett half, because all that time in secondary diminished the Nelson a bit. Still a great beer, but if you brew this recipe, I encourage you to drop the Brett addition if it means more trouble/money for you.

So, the comparison you see in the picture is with the Bretted version of my homebrew, vs. 'Merica. Below are my notes on my beer, compared to the real deal...

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-large, fluffy white head that has very good retention (despite the picture). Body is a light orange color, and very hazy. The two beers look basically identical; I'd say my homebrew is just a hair darker and hazier.

Aroma: Intensely-fruity, with a strong berry component. Like sticking your nose into a big bowl of tropical fruit, with a touch of dank thrown in. Wonderful-smelling, one of the best-smelling beers I’ve ever brewed. The 'Merica is very similar, but has less fruit/hops and a bit more dankness/funkiness to it... it's hard to place (my wife mentioned "like feet").

Taste: Big berry flavor as well, with just a touch of spiciness - I assume from the yeast - to complement. It’s pretty much all-Nelson for the most part, although I’m sure the fruity character from the yeast is combining with the hop component. Medium-low bitterness, with a dry finish. Again, the 'Merica is very similar, but has less hops and more of that dank/funky character that I can't quite put my finger on.

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied, medium-high carbonation... yet, smooth, and not too prickly. Pretty much bang-on with the 'Merica.

Overall/Final Thoughts: This homebrew came out fantastic... it'd probably be up there in my top 3 or 5 beers I've brewed. I find it very similar to 'Merica, but with a bit more hop presence. However, I can't tell when the bottle of 'Merica I had was bottled, and I purchased it 2 months ago, so it could be an age thing. I also have no idea what yeast strain 'Merica uses; if they bottle condition this beer, it may help to actually culture some yeast from a bottle. However, I'm completely happy with the "clone" the way it came out; I don't even think it'd be necessary to double the dry-hop to match up with Prairie's recipe.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Tasting : Raspberry Zombie Printemps

Now, I'm not really sure WHY it took me so long to post the tasting notes for this beer. I mean, look at the picture - I took the damn thing in the summer, for crying out loud!

This was my first time brewing a Saison. A "Super Saison" with a high-ABV I brewed it in August of 2012, and bottled half of it a few weeks later (tasting notes for that portion here). The other half I tried to get a bit creative, aging it on raspberries for over four months. I also pitched the bottle dregs from a delicious Fantome Saison, just to see if I could coax a bit of funkiness into it.

Well, as you can see from the picture, the raspberries definitely came through in the color. I'm pleased to say they came through in the aroma and flavor as well, without making the beer too syrupy or cough medicine-like. I really don't think the Fantome dregs added anything, though, but this doesn't surprised me - the beer's FG was already at 1.004 at that point, and it only dropped a couple points more to 1.002. There just wasn't a lot of sugars left for the dregs to work on, even with the raspberries present.

Still, the beer is pretty tasty, and is shockingly drinkable at 8.9% ABV. It definitely encourages me to work with fruit in a Saison again in the future; and maybe add some Fantome yeast before fermentation has completely finished.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white head that begins to fade very quickly, before settling in at 1/2 cm or so. The body is hazy and bright red; very pretty-looking.

Aroma: The raspberries definitely come through, here... the first few bottles smelled a little too-much like some raspberry-flavored cold syrup, but luckily after a bit of time it mellowed out a bit, so it's now not sickening at all. There's a hint of spiciness from the yeast as well. No hop aroma.

Flavor: Again, raspberries. Quite refreshing, even with the high ABV. A bit of alcohol warmth on the way down, but it's not hot at all, and is pretty easy-drinking. Moderate-low bitterness in the extremely dry finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, with high carbonation. Spritzy.

Overall: This beer wouldn't be for everyone; I guess you could call it a fruit Saison if you had to call it something. I like it; again, no need really to pitch the Fantome dregs, but I tried. Next time, pitch the dregs before the fermentable sugars are mostly gone.