Tuesday, 23 February 2016

100% Citra-hopped Session Red IPA, fermented with London Ale III

For my last homebrew batch of 2015, I didn't have too much trouble coming up with what to brew. I never have problems with ideas, it's more often a case that I can't decide WHICH one to go with. Here, however, I had just brewed a new Imperial IPA for giving away (well, mostly) as Christmas gifts, and I was looking to have a couple of session beers on tap. I actually rebrewed my Equinox Session IPA, but wanted another. Looking back at some of the hoppy, session beers I've brewed, the "Baby Zoe" - a clone of Maine Beer Co. Zoe, but dialled back to a sub-5% ABV - stuck out as one of my favorites.

So, I planned on brewing another Session Red IPA, so to speak. But I didn't want to do the exact same recipe... quite the contrary. I used the idea to come up with one that was completely different in grist, hops and yeast. I've been having mostly good luck with my series of one-hop Session IPAs, and I liked the idea of trying a single hop in a darker grist. Would the hop come through with similar characteristics as in a pale beer? I didn't know; I don't really recall trying many Session Red IPAs at all, let alone a single-hopped one, so I picked a hop that I loved, and was quite familiar with: Citra. Hey, if you're a homebrewer and like hops, you're familiar with Citra.

But first, as always, the grist. My first intention was to simply copy the grist I had used for the Baby Zoe; I liked it, and had used in a couple of other beers. But I remembered that the grist for another Red IPA clone recipe I brewed once - Blazing World, from Modern Times - was also quite good. I have actually been wanting to do a "Baby" recipe of that beer as well, so it made sense to give it a try in this beer, in case I never got around to doing a smaller Blazing Worlds. It's a simpler recipe than what's involved for Zoe: a large portion of Maris Otter for the base, almost 15% Munich for extra breadiness, and then a bit of Roasted Barley and Carafa II to darken. I also added close to 2% Acid malt for mash pH purposes (and some calcium chloride and Gypsum, of course). Pretty straight-forward, giving a calculated SRM around 11.

I took a slightly different approach to the hopping schedule as well. Yes, it's all Citra, of course, but I dropped the 60-minute addition. I've been keeping the IBUs in a lot of my hoppy beers relatively low, with most of them coming from late or whirlpool additions, but I still usually add a little bit of a high-AA hop at the beginning of the boil. This time around, I made no additions until the 10-minute mark, where I threw in 1 oz. Another ounce at 5 minutes, then a steep of 3 oz, and another 3 oz for the dry-hop. That's half a pound of Citra in a ~4.5% ABV beer, which I assumed would be enough. But would it be the super-tropical, sometimes-cat-pee aroma that I was used to?

As for fermenting the beer, normally I'd use something neutral like US-05. But I've been having a lot of fun with London Ale III for my last bunch of hoppy beers, and I wanted to try using it in this one. If I had been really curious as to how a low-ABV, Red IPA with all-Citra would taste, I wouldn't have changed another variable, let alone the yeast. Oh well!

Once fermentation was complete, I left it alone for a few more days before taking a gravity reading and throwing the dry hops into the primary fermentor. After another five days, I kegged the beer and started carbonating. As usual, I started sampling the beer a bit too early; I can't help it, I always have such a hard time waiting for a beer to be "ready", and it doesn't matter what it is! But with this beer, I find it's been tasting virtually the same since I started drinking it in early January.

In a nutshell, I like this beer. I like that it's low-alcohol, but thankfully doesn't come across as too thin (mind you, more body WOULD be preferable; my target mash temp of 155 F was missed by a couple degrees, since I was tackling too many things that morning and got distracted). I enjoy the malt presence - there's some toffee and caramel in there, but it's not too sweet for a Red IPA. I do think I prefer the Zoe clone grist, however, so will likely stick closer to that in future beers of this style. The Citra does come through quite a bit, but definitely not so much as in a pale beer, as I mostly expected. I actually find that it's more dank than fruity; I know others have noticed this in beers heavy in Citra, and since it's a single-hop beer, I shouldn't be surprised. But I brewed a Kern River Citra DIPA clone in 2012 - that single-hop beer had far more fruitiness to it than this one.

My only real complaint is that the head isn't very dense; it disappears soon after pouring the beer. If I brewed it again I may add some wheat malt, but I haven't really had issues with that before. The beer is also very hazy, but I've been getting that a lot with many of my recent heavily-hopped, London Ale III-fermented beers, and I'm ok with it. If you're looking to try something new with your Citra, give this one a go, especially if you're into sessionable Red IPAs.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.014, IBU ~40, SRM 11, ABV ~4.5%

3.5 kg (81.7%) Maris Otter
625 g (14.6%) Munich
75 g (1.8%) Acid malt
45 g (1.1%) Roasted Barley
38 g (0.9%) Carafa II

Citra - 28 g (11.1% AA) @ 10 min
Citra - 28 g @ 5 min

Citra - 84 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

Citra - 84 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III (with a starter, ~200 billion cells)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 4 g Gypsum and 4 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on December 14th, 2015, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water; mash temp low at 153 F (was aiming for 155 F, but got distracted). Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 5 L of boiling water to 163 F. Sparged with ~4.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity a bit high at 1.041 (target 1.039). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.5-5.75 gallons; OG 1.049. Chilled to 62 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast slurry at 64 F.

- Fast and efficient fermentation over the next couple of days. FG on Dec. 26th was 1.014; added dry hops on this date in primary. Racked into CO2-purged keg on January 2nd.

Appearance: Pours with a small-moderate-sized off-white head that fades very quickly, leaving only a thin film on the beer. The body is a dark red color, and quite hazy.

Aroma: Pleasant blend of toffee-sweet malt character and a mixture of fruity and dank from the Citra. The sweetness is there, as expected, but luckily it's well-balanced thanks to the hops.

Taste: That malty sweetness (caramel, toffee) comes up first, surrounded immediately by mostly-dank hops. Some fruit, but I find the taste has the dankness dominate. It finishes slightly sweeter than a paler hopper beer, as expected; moderate bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, moderate carbonation (bordering on moderate-low).

Overall: Enjoyable. Would like to see more body and a denser head, but I enjoy the easy-drinking nature of the beer and the slightly-altered Citra presence. A worthy experiment, and another sessionable beer I could see myself brewing again.

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