Monday, 22 September 2014

Tasting : El Dorado Session IPA

Now that I've brewed several one-hop beers (including two Session IPAs and an American Pale Ale), I've confirmed that it is a worthy experiment, especially when we're talking about a new-to-you hop that you really want to get to know. I also feel that when doing this, it's important to strongly consider not brewing a full 5-6 gallon batch... I love hops as much as the next beer geek, but all hop varieties are NOT considered equal, so it pays to play on the safe side of things (especially with a beer style that can fade fairly quickly with time).

Drinking this El Dorado Session IPA over the past several weeks has confirmed this for me. Comparing it to the Mosaic Session IPA I brewed last November, I feel that the change made to the mash temperature (increasing it from 149 F to 153 F) was a smart one - this beer definitely has more body than the Mosaic beer did. However, while I enjoy the hop character in this beer, I don't think that El Dorado can hold a candle to Mosaic, at least not when used in a single-hop setting. While offering a pleasant, fruity character to the beer (I get a lot of orange, myself, as opposed to the regularly-reported Jolly Rancher candy), it's definitely a more-mellow hop than Mosaic.

Keep in mind, I DID fiddle with the hop schedule for this beer, making a single 5-minute addition (instead of at 10 minutes), and a shorter hop steep (10 minutes vs. 15 minutes). This likely explains why I find the beer heavier in hop aroma than flavor. But I think it still stands that El Dorado, while making this a perfectly enjoyable, easy-drinking beer, isn't as strong on its own as some other hop varieties. I think it would work really well when combined with some other hops; maybe some Simcoe and Columbus? Something I'd like to try in the future. In the meantime, I'm still really enjoying hoppy beers under 5% ABV, so look for more one-hop Session IPAs from me soon.

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-large, white, creamy head with very good retention. Body is light gold, with very good clarity.

Aroma: Very fruity and citrusy, with orange coming through greatest, for me. Nice supporting malt character in the background. This sample is obviously a bit too old, but it’s held up pretty well.

Taste: Pleasant orangey-hop character, with a bit of bready malt character supporting it. I’d like to see the hops more upfront, I just think this variety is mild-mannered. Still, this is quite nice, and would be a great intro-hop beer for non-hopheads. Medium to medium-light bitterness in the finish. No flaws.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, medium-light carbonation.

Overall: Very nice, but I don’t think I’ll use El Dorado on its own again in the future. I’d like to try it with another hop variety or two in the future. Still happy with how this came out as a highly sessionable IPA.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Brewing a Modern Times Blazing World clone

A hoppy American Amber (or Red IPA, or India Red Ale, if you prefer), one of my favorite beer styles out there. A bready malt backbone that is supportive to the hops, but still allows the beer to finish dry. And three hop varieties: Nelson Sauvin, Mosaic, and Simcoe, three of my all-time favorite varieties right now, used in hefty quantities. Does this sound like an excellent beer, or what? Not to mention that the three words used to describe this beer (right on the packaging) by the brewery are: "Hoppy. Dank. Amber."

You had me at "Hoppy", but everything else about this beer sounds great. The beer we're talking about is Blazing World, one of the four flagship beers from Modern Times, a brewery in San Diego that opened up a little over a year ago. I was a lucky, lucky man, as I visited San Diego last September and got to try many Modern Times beers during that trip, including Blazing World... right in the tasting room at the newly-opened brewery. And yes, it's pretty much as tasty as you would expect. It's been a while since I've brewed this style of beer (I believe the last one was my Maine Beer Co. Zoe clone, another winner), and I've wanted to tackle this one for awhile, so what better time than the present?

I won't talk much more about Modern Times (I got into more detail last summer when I brewed a clone of their Fortunate Islands, a hoppy American Wheat beer with lots of Citra - which by the way is still one of the best beers I've brewed), but for those of you who didn't follow their start-up progress, all of their flagship beer recipes were developed by Mike Tonsmeire, beer-blogger-extraordinaire, with tastings, recipe tweaks, and the like reported regularly on his blog, The Mad Fermentationist. The final rendition of Blazing World on this blog is the recipe that I went with.

It's a good-looking recipe, you can't deny that. The grist is made up of mostly "Pale Malt" (I used Maris Otter), a healthy amount of Munich, and just a touch each of Roasted Barley and Carafa II. These grains are mashed at a pretty low temp, 149 F; obviously the key here is to still try to get the beer to finish fairly dry. The hopping schedule is pretty fantastic, if a bit pricey - it employs hop extract for bittering, a dose of Simcoe at 25 minutes, and then two large flameout additions, and a large dry-hop as well. Fermented with a clean American yeast, it all makes a very tasty-looking hoppy Amber.

Now, Modern Times also has links to the recipes for their regular-release beers on their website (their Blazing World one is here). These recipes differ from those created by Tonsmeire; no big surprise, really, as they brew on obviously a much bigger system and have undoubtedly made a few changes to suit their brewery. Their grist for Blazing World is listed as 2-Row and Munich, with Pale Chocolate malt replacing the Roasted Barley and Carafa II that Tonsmeire used (oddly, elsewhere on the Modern Times website, Midnight Wheat is listed as an ingredient for this beer). As for the hop schedule, it matches up closely, but with a much smaller flameout addition: 2.2 oz total for a 5 gallon batch, vs. 7 oz in Tonsmeire's recipe. That's a big difference. However, with higher IBU extraction in a larger system, and much longer steeping times due to increased wort-chilling time, it's not a surprise.

I was able to follow Tonsmeire's recipe very closely. The only real difference is I had to cut back slightly (10 g) on the Nelson Sauvin flameout addition; I had more than enough in another vacuum-sealed package, but didn't want to bother opening and re-sealing for 10 grams. I made up the difference with Simcoe; I can't see the beer being hurt by such a small change as this.

In a change from more-recent recipes, I decided not to make any additions in terms of salts to the mash or boil. Fredericton city water is very well-suited to Amber-colored beers; I've made them to this style in the past, but decided this time I would just leave it as-is, see how it turns out.

It goes without saying (because it holds true for pretty much ever brew), but I really have high hopes for this one. Like I said, I'm a big fan of this style and these hops; I'm hoping it'll come out even better than the Zoe clone. I CAN say that when I racked the beer to a keg last week and took a gravity sample, that it smelled amazing... and this is BEFORE the dry-hop addition. Always a good sign!

Recipe targets: (4 gallons, 72% efficiency) OG 1.068, FG ~1.012, IBU ~100, SRM 13.5, ABV ~7.3%

3.8 kg (83.4%) Maris Otter
675 g (14.8%) Munich
50 g (1.1%) Roasted Barley
31 g (0.7%) Carafa II

Hop extract - 5 mL (equivalent to 28 g of 10% AA hop) @ 90 min

Simcoe - 17 g (12.9% AA) @ 25 min

Mosaic - 17 g (12.7% AA) @ 0 min (with a 15-minute steep)
Nelson Sauvin - 52 g (12% AA) @ 0 min (with a 15-minute steep)

Mosaic - 34 g after started chilling, when wort temp below 180 F
Simcoe - 17 g after started chilling, when wort temp below 180 F

Mosaic - 17 g dry-hop for 7 days
Nelson Sauvin - 42 g dry-hop for 7 days
Simcoe - 36 g dry-hop for 7 days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale, rehydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered

- Brewed on August 13th, 2014, with Jill (and a little help from Zoe). 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water, mashed in at target of 149 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7.5 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~2.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.75 gallons.

SG a bit high at 1.049 (target 1.048). 90-minute boil. Flameout hops had a 15-minute steep before turning on the chiller; wort temp was almost immediately below 180 F, where I added the second amount of flameout hops. Final volume ~4 gallons. Chilled down to 66 F, then poured/filtered into Better Bottle. OG high at 1.072. Aerated with 90 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast. Placed BB in laundry sink with some cold water to try to keep temp down.

- By the next morning, airlock activity was present, and quite active by the evening. Continued for 4-5 days before stopping; the beer temp got up to 72 F. 

- 25/8/14 - FG finished a bit high at 1.015. Racked beer to CO2-purged keg and added dry-hops in a weighed-down mesh bag; left keg at room temp.

- 31/8/14 - Removed dry-hops, set keg in keezer to chill down to ~45 F before starting carbing.

- 9/10/14 - Posted the tasting notes, and damn, this is one delicious beer!