Wednesday 30 March 2016

Brown IPA with CTZ, Galaxy, & Simcoe, fermented with London Ale III

About a year and a half ago, I brewed my first Brown IPA. This was right around the time that the draft of the 2015 BJCP Guidelines had come out, where it was being suggested that Brown IPA become a new category, or more accurately I guess, a sub-category of "Specialty IPA". I won't bore you with the details on how a Brown IPA differs from an American Brown Ale... you can check out the BJCP Guidelines or click on the link for my first brew. In my original beer, I went with a five-malt grist, hopped fairly aggressively with Citra, CTZ and Nugget. I liked it: with a toffee/caramel sweetness, it had a prominent nose of earthy, spicy hops (Nugget made up the majority of the additions), and finished fairly dry with a moderate-high bitterness.

But this is kind of a tough style to brew, simply because I don't think I've had many Brown IPAs. And really, I don't know if I want to. That sounds bad, but there's something about this style that I just can't get excited about. God knows I love hoppy beers, and I'll happily brew and drink any variety of American IPAs, Session IPAs, APAs, etc. I really enjoy a well-crafted Red IPA or Black IPA... so why is it that I can't get excited about a Brown IPA? Is it because I haven't had many, or because it's one of those styles that seems like it was created as an afterthought? Maybe the whole 114 categories of IPA and counting is starting to wear a bit thin? I don't know, and maybe even suggesting such things is blasphemous. But I know how to really test this out... brew another one!

Sure, why the hell not? I was looking to mix things up anyway, so I decided to revisit this recipe. Here's where I made a mistake: because I made the decision to go this route a bit too-close to brew day, I simply used the same grist as with the first beer (but with a little Acid malt added for the mash pH). I should have re-read my post, because that grist gave a beer that was too dark. The style SRM range is 11-19, and the grist I selected brings it in to 23.That's slightly below Black IPA territory, but that's really not a big deal... I'm certainly not using a lot of dark, roasted malts in this beer. It's mostly 2-row, a couple of caramel-type malts, and some Victory and Chocolate malt as well. I also added some Gypsum and calcium chloride as usual, and aimed for a mash temp of 151 F, trying to keep the body medium-light, with a mostly-dry finish.

I wanted to approach the hops differently for this beer. While the first Brown IPA did have some CTZ and Citra - so, you're getting some fruit character - Nugget, as mentioned, made up the majority. I initially went that route because I thought the combination would work well in this style, and it did. But this time around I wanted to go more in the direction of an APA or American IPA; read: fruity, citrusy. I chose three varieties: CTZ again, because I feel it really does work well in this style of beer, and Galaxy and Simcoe, to hopefully really boost the tropical fruit, and maybe add some pine as well. I followed my general schedule: a bit of Polaris at 60 to ~17 IBUs, then an ounce each of CTZ and Simcoe at 10, followed by some Galaxy and Simcoe for a hop steep, CTZ and Simcoe after starting the chiller, and an ounce each of all three in the dry hop (plus a little more Galaxy to use up the rest of that package).

As I've done many times over the last few months, I fermented this beer with London Ale III. The first beer was fermented with US-05, but I've been using LAIII a lot lately, with good results, and honestly, I really wanted to brew a Brown IPA and ferment it with this strain, if only to see how many people would get angry when I posted a pic of the resultant beer, all cloudy and brown. If some people get upset about a beer that looks like orange juice, imagine their reaction if it literally looks like shit!

Ok, I'm kidding. And actually, while I'm on the side of those who get excited when they see an IPA that looks like pulpy juice, there IS something different about seeing a darker beer with the same haze/cloudiness. Juice is one thing. Mud is another. But it wouldn't bother me to the point of not drinking it, that's for sure, especially if it was delicious!

Where was I? Oh, the beer. So, yeah, that's the recipe. When I brewed it I was under my target gravity by 4 points (my efficiency has definitely been lower lately; maybe an issue with my grain mill?), but as usual, I wasn't too bothered. The FG was also higher than expected, at 1.017, so overall the beer did come in at quite a lower ABV than expected. I dry-hopped the beer in primary for 5 days, then kegged it.

While, again, I don't feel like I have a lot of beers to compare this to, I'm pretty happy with how it came out, and I think I like it a little better than my first Brown IPA. Sure, the grist is the same, but I think the hops selected here do work better - there's a nice piney and slightly dank overtone to it, but it's a little more fruity than the first beer. I definitely don't think the Galaxy comes through like it would in a paler beer, but it works. Still too dark, naturally (actually, being such a dark brown prevents it from looking muddy!), but the high breadiness and very light chocolate comes through in the aroma and flavor as I was hoping. The bitterness comes across as in the medium range, with a fairly dry finish. Overall, though, the beer is quite smooth and creamy.

In the end, though, I don't think I'm a big fan of Brown IPAs. While I've definitely embraced Black, Red, White, and Belgian takes on the IPA style, Brown is definitely at the bottom of the list for me. Could be because I haven't had a really great example of one, could be because it's just not for me. I'll continue to try commercial (and other homebrew) versions as they're available to me, but I won't be rushing out to brew one again any time soon.

And no, it's not because it's a cloudy, brown beer!

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.066, FG ~1.013, IBU ~58, SRM 23, ABV ~6.9%

5.1 kg (82.7%) Canadian 2-row
325 g (5.3%) Caramunich II (45 SRM)
265 g (4.3%) Chocolate malt
235 g (3.8%) Victory malt
165 g (2.7%) Crystal 60 L
75 g (1.2%) Acid malt

Polaris - 7 g (19.8% AA) @ 60 min

CTZ - 28 g (13.4% AA) @ 10 min
Simcoe - 28 g (12% AA) @ 10 min

Galaxy - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)
Simcoe - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

CTZ - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)
Simcoe - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)

CTZ - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Galaxy - 37 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Simcoe - 28 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, ~250 billion cells)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 7 g Gypsum and 7 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on January 26th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water; mash temp a bit low at 150 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7.75 L of boiling water to 165 F. Sparged with ~3.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity low at 1.050 (target 1.054). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 gallons; OG low at 1.062. Chilled to 62 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast slurry at 64 F.

- Fermentation was off and pacing by the next morning, going strong over the first few days with the temps staying comfortably in the 67-68 F range. The krausen, as usual for LAIII, was thick and milkshake-like for many days after fermentation signs stopped in the airlock.

- 18/2/16 - Added dry hops into primary, FG 1.017.

- 22/2/16 - Racked into CO2-purged keg, set in keezer to bring temp down and began force carbing the next day.

Appearance - Poured with a medium-sized head that fades after a few minutes to a thin film on top of the beer. Body is a very dark brown colour, and seems virtually opaque when held to the light.

Aroma - Quite balanced, with the toffee-like, chocolatey malt character melding well with the piney, dank, slightly fruity overtones from the hops. Otherwise clean, no flaws.

Taste - Very nice flavour blending here: light chocolate, dark bread, toffee, with similar hop character noted in the aroma. Finishes slightly dry, but balanced well with the sweetness, medium bitterness. Smooth.

Mouthfeel - Medium-bodied, medium carbonation, creamy.

Overall - I enjoy this beer, even if it's far from my favorite IPA style. If I brewed it again, I'd try to drop the color by at least several SRM points, and maybe dial the bitterness back by 5-10 IBUs. I wouldn't mind also switching up the hops again, maybe even dropping the CTZ in favor of another fruity variety, such as Azacca or something similar.

Wednesday 2 March 2016

American Pale Ale with Azacca and Galaxy, fermented with London Ale III

In 2014, I brewed the widely-available clone recipe of Russian River's Row 2, Hill 56, a Simcoe single-hopped American Pale Ale. I had been looking to brew something for my older brother's wedding, and I had heard good things about this beer. Simcoe is a great hop, and despite being used in relatively-small amounts in this recipe (only 4 oz for a batch; compared to a lot of hoppy recipes nowadays - my own included - that's really not that much!), the beer had a great aroma and flavour, and was enjoyed by non-beer-drinkers and beer geeks alike.

Since then, I've always meant to brew that recipe again, except change up the hop(s) used. I know other homebrewers have used that recipe to feature other varieties, continuing the trend of single-hopped beers. But for me, I more just wanted to stick with the grist and go from there. I don't know why the grist seems to work so well, but it does. The combination of Pilsner malt and Maris Otter (instead of just using 2-row, which is pretty common in APAs) works really well at providing enough of a slightly-bready malt character to the beer, topped off with a little bit of light Crystal (~20 L) and Carapils. As usual for my system, Acid malt is also added to bring the mash pH down to the 5.4 region; I've been doing this consistently now, and I've been quite happy with the effect it's having (I fully acknowledge that a blind-tasting has not been done to confirm this!).

So, with the grist already decided, I had a hell of a bunch of hops to pick from. I've made several hop orders since late fall, and along with quite a bit left from last year's crop, there were all sorts of options. I wanted this beer to be REALLY juicy; ever since I was lucky enough to have tried Scaled Up, a DIPA from Trillium Brewing, a month or so ago (have you tried this beer? It's amazing!), I've been craving hops even more than usual. Damn these delicious beers for spoiling me! Luckily, many of the hop varieties I have in my freezer should be more than satisfactory, so, what to pick?

Ultimately, I settled on two varieties, to keep things relatively simple. And I picked two that are becoming two of my favourites as I use them more and more - Azacca and Galaxy. I really don't think you can go wrong with either one, and as I was giving it some thought, I realized that I hadn't actually used them together before. Travesty! But what better beer to showcase how these two blend than a fairly simple APA? And how could these not work together, right? They've definitely got to be two of the more-tropical, fruity, citrusy varieties out there, in a world with one heck of a lot of fruity hop types.

I didn't follow the hopping schedule for R2H56; I went with what I almost always use now for hoppy recipes that I develop on my own: a small bittering charge at 60 minutes (to only 10-15 IBUs; in fact, I'm starting to drop this altogether in some beers), an ounce at 10 minutes, then large WP and post-chilling additions, along with a dry-hop of 3 oz total. I've had good results with this method, and don't usually stray too far. The ratio is skewed slightly towards Galaxy (5.5 oz vs. 3.5 oz of Azacca), but only because I had more Galaxy on hand.

For fermentation, I went once again with London Ale III. I've brewed several different variations on the IPA style with this strain now, and you can count me as yet another believer... it is truly great with hoppy beers. It doesn't attenuate as highly as US-05, usually finishing for me to 1.013-1.014, giving the beer a nice, creamy mouthfeel without tasting under-attenuated. I find the beers I brew with this strain come out very hazy/cloudy in true Hill Farmstead/Trillium fashion, but that's ok with me! I know not everyone is thrilled by a hazy beer, but many of the best hoppy beers I've had have been cloudy, so I kind of expect that, now.

The brew day for this beer was uneventful, everything going smoothly. Fermentation was going strong by the next day - normal for my experience with London Ale III - and after 10 days or so I dry-hopped the beer in primary for about a week, then transferred to a keg and started carbing. I was really looking forward to this beer.

And what a tasty beer this is! I have to say, if Azacca and Galaxy were easier to get, this would be my new house APA. I've made very few beers juicier than this - big blast of tropical fruit and citrus, with maybe just a touch of pine in there. Lately, as the keg is getting down, the beer looks and tastes a lot like OJ, and of course I mean that in a good way. Creamy, smooth body, but it still finishes quite dry with a moderate bitterness. It's definitely been one of the best-received of my homebrews; it's rating on Untappd is the highest of any I've brewed, tied with my Equinox Session IPA.

Ok, so it's no big deal that I've confirmed what we all would have guessed: Azacca and Galaxy work great together, especially when fermented with London Ale III. But hey, I'm still glad I took the time to try it!

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.056, FG ~1.013, IBU ~45, SRM 5.2, ABV ~5.6%

2.9 kg (57.7%) Bohemian Pilsner
1.65 kg (32.8%) Maris Otter
200 g (4%) CaraRed (20 L)
150 g (3%) CaraPils
125 g (2.5%) Acid malt

Polaris - 5 g (19.8% AA) @ 60 min

Galaxy - 28 g (12% AA) @ 10 min

Galaxy - 56 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)
Azacca - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

Galaxy - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)
Azacca - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)

Galaxy - 42 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Azacca - 42 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; 7 g Gypsum and 7 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on January 13th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water; mash temp on target of 151 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7.5 L of boiling water to 166 F. Sparged with ~3.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity 1.044. 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 gallons; OG 1.055. Chilled to 62 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast slurry at 64 F.

- Active fermentation by the next day, continued for 2-3 before settling down. Dry-hopped in primary on January 25th; FG 1.013. Kegged on February 1st.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white creamy head (not normally as large as in that picture) that fades to about 1/2-finger and sticks around. Body is a light-orange colour, and very hazy/cloudy.

Aroma: Big punch of orange juice, along with a tropical fruit character that I unfortunately can't pick apart to actually name which fruit(s). Very little malt character.

Taste: A little more malt presence here - lightly bready, maybe a touch of wheat character? - but still mostly juicy, fruity hops. Bitterness in the finish comes across as medium-light, to me.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, very creamy, moderate carbonation. Smooth.

Overall: A great beer, made great by great hops. Will brew again, and don't think I'd change anything... at least not to a large degree.