Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Tasting : Hicken 2.0 (Hill Farmstead James clone)

Homebrewing is a wonderful hobby; the day I decided to start homebrewing will always stand out as a very happy day for me. Yes, marriage days and baby birth days are important days too... but, come on. Beer!

I'll stop before I get myself in trouble. What I was getting at was that homebrewing can also be frustrating. In many, many ways. Without getting into all of these ways, wouldn't you expect that re-brewing a recipe for a hoppy beer, with very few changes, and then KEGGING the beer instead of bottling it - and therefore presumably introducing less oxygen - would result in a BETTER beer, instead of a... less better beer?

Well, I'm sorry to say, that's what happened with my second attempt at brewing a Hill Farmstead James clone, a Black IPA. The only real change was that the beer was fermented with a different yeast than before. It was still an English yeast, but a different strain. The beer fermented fairly clean (it was a few points about its target FG), and everything from brew day to keg-hopping seemed to go off without a hitch, but the beer is less hoppy than my first try. And I would think that keg-hopping, what with a system flushed with CO2, would result in a hoppier beer. Sadly, it did not.

The beer is still tasty, no question. It has some chocolate character without being really roasty, with some pleasant dank-citrusy hop notes. But, my first attempt really impressed me with how extremely hoppy it was, along with the chocolate flavors. I can't see the change in yeast strains being the cause, here. What do I feel is the culprit? I'm going to go with hop freshness. All of my hops are stored vacuum-sealed and in the freezer, but this is only so effective at retaining flavors and aromas. Both the Columbus and Centennial used in this beer are from last year's hop harvest; don't get me wrong, they weren't brown and cheesy smelling. In fact, they still smelled pretty darn good, or I wouldn't have used them. But I think that it goes to show that you should order hops accordingly, and try to use what you've got. Hop hoarding is easily done - you never know if a certain variety is going to be readily available next year, more expensive, etc., but it's in your best interest to use the freshest hops you can.

Oh well, what's done is done. Like I mentioned, this is not a bad beer. It's actually really good, in my opinion. But it suffers from not exhibiting the greatness of Hicken 1.0. On the bright side, the hop character hasn't faded as fast with this beer, which I assume is due to the beer being kegged.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out the new keezer...

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized, light tan head that is creamy and sticky, with great retention. Body appears black and opaque, but when held to the light shows good clarity, with a very dark brown color.

Aroma: Chocolatey aroma, no real roasted or burnt characters. Dank (and slightly spicy?) hop character in the background; not quite as strong or up-front as Hicken 1.0, but it’s still there. No flaws.

Taste: Like the aroma, a nice meld of chocolate and hop flavors. The chocolate hits first, followed quickly by the dank/spicy hops; finishes with a very firm bitterness that lasts.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, creamy, moderate carbonation.

Overall: I like it, but I admit I’m slightly disappointed. The hop character in Hicken 1.0 was higher, despite the hopping schedule being the same, and this batch being keg-hopped. However, the hop character is definitely lasting longer with this batch, which is a real plus.


  1. Having read this, I really wouldn't rule out the yeast (pitching rate, etc). There is so many factors at play, unless you have the tightest controls on everything, there is always going to be some mystery. Sorry it wasn't as good as batch one, I hate taking steps back.

    1. Yeah, I considered that, and you're right, it would be next to impossible to really know for sure on a homebrewing level. Unless I start counting my yeast, I have no idea if my more recent starter had healthier yeast, or...?

      Another thing I just though of, with Hicken 1.0, I aerated by shaking the fermentor, as opposed to 2.0, where I used pure O2. Maybe healthier yeast therefore took up more aromatic hop compounds? Who knows.