Friday, 3 June 2016

Brewing a Trillium Scaled Up clone

Back when I wasn't as picky a beer drinker, I thought that DIPAs were one of the easier styles to brew... you basically just had to throw a lot of hops in! Luckily (?), I'm not that naive anymore... it's just not that simple. I now know exactly the type of DIPA that I love, which means there's now a lot of DIPAs out there that I really don't enjoy. I want my Imperial IPA to be light in colour; an absolutely-huge hop aroma that's big on tropical fruit, citrus, and pine; ditto for the flavour, with a bit of supporting malt character, but no noticeable Crystal/caramel malt, and a moderate bitterness, finishing dry. In short: not dark amber, sweet, and bracingly bitter, which too many DIPAs are (in my opinion).

Now, if all that sounds good to you, and you're looking for a brewery that can provide you with such a beer, let me just say that Trillium Brewing is the place to go. I probably don't need to tell you that; if you're into hoppy beer I'm sure you've at least heard of Trillium. Based in Boston, they opened in 2013, with a second location outside the city, in Canton, opening a few months ago. Check them out on Rate Beer, or Untappd, or any rating-based website, and you'll see that virtually all of their beers are consistently rated extremely highly. I've had several different bottles, and I can attest that this is not simple hype talking... they really are that good, and they're brewing some of the best New England-style (Northeast?) IPAs around. A friend picked me up several beers on a trip last year, and they were all great.

After that, another friend was in Boston and brought back some Trillium to share; one of these was Scaled Up, one of their DIPAs. When people ask me, "What's the best beer you've ever had?", I can never really answer the question. I've had so many great beers, all at different times, different places, different circumstances, that I could never really select one best beer. But now I can say without a doubt that Scaled Up is definitely up there with the best beers I've had, probably in the top 3. I know some people hate using "juicy" as a descriptor for beer (I guess because it's too vague or something?), but Scaled Up is the epitome of juicy. It looked, smelled, and tasted very much like orange juice... but more. Super-hazy, super-fruity and tropical, super-smooth... super-everything. And I wasn't alone in my love for this beer; everyone else in the room agreed it was one of the best DIPAs they'd ever tried.

Naturally, I was curious as to what went into this beer, and I wanted to try cloning it. It's been awhile since I've brewed a clone beer, so just to confirm - I never really expect to brew an exact replica of a commercial beer when I set out to "clone" it, I'm just looking to see if I can brew something close... I guess that's the best way to put it. With this beer, Trillium's website did a pretty good job explaining what went into it, ingredient-wise:

The first Double IPA produced at our Canton brewery. Featuring four powerful aromatic hop varieties, Galaxy, Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, and Columbus, Scaled Up emits dank, spicy aromas that lead into fruity, citrusy flavors of peach and orange on the palate. Lighter in body than most of our other DIPAs, Scaled Up finishes dry and smooth with a pleasant bitterness.

Of course, I reached out to the brewery via email - twice - to see if I could sneak a bit more info out of them, especially regarding the hops and what ratio they were used at. Unfortunately, I never received a reply, which is completely understandable. That didn't deter me, though, so I just got to work putting a recipe together on my own.

Thankfully, the Trillium site also listed the ingredients for the grist: Pilsner, White Wheat, Flaked Wheat, Dextrine, Dextrose, and C-15. I would assume that these were listed in decreasing order, in terms of % used, but of course I couldn't be sure. I ended up putting together something that looked good to me, with several substitutions:
  • 2-row replaced Pilsner (because I found out on brew day I was low on Pilsner... stupid)
  • Carapils replaced Dextrine (all I could get, plus it seems to me they're about the same thing)
  • Flaked Oats replaced Flaked Wheat (all I had on hand)
  • Table sugar replaced Dextrose (I've never felt it was worth it to pay more for Dextrose)
  • CaraRed replaced C-15 (the closest I had; CaraRed is ~20 L)
As you can tell, I certainly didn't put work into planning this too far ahead, for some reason. Plus, I've always had issues with inventory through BeerSmith; I think I'm the only one who has this problem, but it constantly fluctuates despite my keeping up with it. Even when I completely zero out a hop variety, for example, I'll see it pop up again a week later, saying I have 10 oz or something. Weird. Anyway, I still thought the grist looked good. I aimed for a mash temp of 149 F to try to keep the beer dry, and added Acid malt as usual to bring the mash pH into the 5.4 range.

I'm not sure what the IBUs are for Scaled Up; they're not listed on the website, but I really didn't care too much, anyway. I know where I wanted them based on my tastes; I was thinking around 60 would be sufficient. Low for a DIPA, yes, but this beer did not taste overly bitter to me, and in my hoppy-brewing experience lately, aiming in that range for a DIPA works well. I bittered at 60 min with a small amount of Polaris; this hop isn't listed by Trillium, but I don't feel that the bittering variety makes a difference. Columbus (CTZ) is listed, and maybe that's the hop they use for a bittering addition; then again, maybe they don't even add anything before the last part of the boil. In the end, I decided to use CTZ and Mosaic at 10 min, CTZ, Mosaic, and Nelson at flameout for a hop-stand, Galaxy, Nelson and Mosaic when I turned on my chiller, and two dry-hop additions (one in primary, one in my DH keg) of all three. I didn't go for huge amounts in the dry-hop, but a total of 6 oz seems like enough to me, now. In fact, I'm always a bit hesitant going above 3-4 oz in the dry-hop for my beers, after some previous not-great results and from reading about beer pH being increased with larger dry-hop additions. I was hoping 6 oz would be right for this beer.

I don't believe that Trillium makes it perfectly clear on their website which type of yeast strain they use, but based on their beers that I've tried, and the how they smell, taste and look, I immediately thought of using London Ale III (Wyeast 1318). I won't go on about how great this strain is; I've already done that on many of my recent hoppy-beer posts. But if you haven't brewed with it before, I suggest you seek it out. If you don't have access and want to use a neutral, American strain like US-05, I'm sure that you'd still have a very good beer. However, try to get LAIII; I don't think you'll regret it!

So, I seemed to be all set. The brew day went well, targets were mostly hit (OG was a couple of points low), and the wort smelled - as expected - pretty damned amazing after being chilled down to the low 60s F. I aerated with 90 seconds of pure oxygen and pitched the yeast slurry at 64 F; fermentation took off by the next morning and was soon going strong. When I saw signs of it slowing down after a day or two, I added the sugar (boiled and cooled in some water) and it picked up again, continuing actively for about a week. It was around 2 weeks or so that I added the first dry hop charge into primary (I took a final gravity, and it looked, smelled, and tasted just like OJ, which got me totally psyched) when the krausen had finally settled; five days later I racked to my dry hop keg with the second dry hop addition.

I've been drinking this beer for a little over a week now, and it's been on kind of an odd evolution. The first pour from the keg was, while a bit undercarbed, completely delicious. Similar to when I took the FG, it was very orangey, fruity, tropical. I made myself wait a few more days before trying it again, and I couldn't believe how different it now was. While it certainly wasn't as nasty as my experience trying to brew a Dinner clone (Maine Beer Co.'s white whale DIPA), it reminded me of it. The hops were more muted, a bit spicy and onion-y; also, quite dank. A few days later, it had improved slightly, and now it's back to being pretty good again.

Ultimately though, while I enjoy this beer, it's nowhere near as great as Scaled Up. And I'm ok with that; I don't expect miracles to happen. But I'm still a bit disappointed that, considering the hops that were used, the beer didn't come out very tropical or juicy; at least, not to the level I was hoping for. It definitely has a big berry character, and it's plenty dank... but I wasn't really going for dank. I also wonder if on my system, 6 oz total of dry hops is just too much? What would this beer have been like if I hadn't dry-hopped it at all?

So, what would I change? Aside from obviously using Pilsner malt instead of 2-row, I'd try dialling the dry-hop back a bit... say, 1.25 oz of each of the three used, as a single addition. Drop the CTZ from the hop steep, and replace it with Galaxy. I think London Ale III is a good yeast to go with, and the grist seems solid, at least until I can get the hops more where I'd like them to be, and then start adjusting other aspects of the recipe. If you're thinking of trying this recipe, I suggest you go with those changes, and expect a quite-good DIPA, but maybe not the BEST THING YOU'VE EVER TASTED.

In closing, however, I poured another glass of this beer last night for the picture below, and damn if it wasn't tasting even better! It's been on for several weeks now... maybe it really needed some time to settle into its own? If anyone ever has doubt that beer is like a living organism...

UPDATE: Someone on Reddit was kind enough to let me know (shortly after posting) that Trillium has said in the past that the yeast they use is the equivalent of White Labs 007 Dry English Ale; the Wyeast equivalent is 1098 British Ale. So, obviously I also recommend going with either of these two strains, as they would definitely differ from LAIII.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 70% efficiency) OG 1.070, FG ~1.012, IBU ~60, SRM 5.5, ABV ~7.7%

5.3 kg (79.5%) Canadian 2-row
325 g (4.9%) CaraPils
275 g (4.1%) Wheat malt
200 g (3%) CaraRed (20 L)
125 g (1.9%) Acid malt
90 g (1.4%) Flaked Oats
350 g (5.2%) Table sugar (added in primary when fermentation slowed)

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

CTZ - 28 g (10.5% AA) @ 10 min
Mosaic - 28 g (11.9% AA) @ 10 min

CTZ - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)
Mosaic - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)
Nelson Sauvin - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)

Galaxy - 42 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)
Mosaic - 42 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)
Nelson Sauvin - 7 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)

Galaxy - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Mosaic - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Nelson Sauvin - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Galaxy - 28 g dry-hop for 5 more days (in keg)
Mosaic - 28 g dry-hop for 5 more days (in keg)
Nelson Sauvin - 35 g dry-hop for 5 more days (in keg)

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 April 12th, 2016, by myself. 60-minute mash with 18.5 L of strike water; mash temp on target at 149 F. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.051 (target 1.052, before sugar addition). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 gallons; OG a bit low at 1.062 (so, 1.068 with sugar addition). Chilled to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 90 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 64 F.

- Great fermentation by the next morning, and was even showing signs of slowing down a mere 48 hours after pitching. I added the sugar at this point, and activity quickly picked up again and continued for several more days. After close to two weeks (FG 1.011), added the first round of dry hops into primary for 5 days, then racked to the dry-hop keg, added the second dry hops for 5 more days, then transferred via CO2 to the serving keg and began carbing.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white fluffy head; good retention, sticky lacing left on the glass. Body is a very light amber colour, with better-than-expected clarity (although there's definitely still haze present).

Aroma: Lots of berries, basically. A bit dank, and just the slightest hint of alcohol.

Taste: Big hop blast - again, mainly berries and dankness - balanced slightly by the bready malt character; but, ultimately, yeah... hops. Should be more tropical, but it's still very tasty. Medium-high bitterness in the dry finish, more than expected from the ~60 IBUs for a 7.5% ABV beer.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, moderate carbonation.

Overall: Very good; I enjoy it as a DIPA, I like the berry hop character and dryness, but since I was hoping for - if not expecting - a closer version of Scaled Up, I have to admit I'm a touch disappointed.


  1. I'd agree with your mention of dropping CTZ from the steep. CTZ is so powerful and dank that it can easily overpower a beer. I like it a lot, but you have to be careful.

    Secondly, not surprised that much Nelson and Mosaic produced that type of aroma. IMO, those two start to act like CTZ in larger quantities.

    Maybe emphasis on Galaxy would have made it more OJ-like?

    1. I think you're right; it certainly wouldn't hurt to bump the Galaxy a bit, at the very least.

      It really is less dank and more berry-like now, the Mosaic definitely dominates. Nothing wrong with that, but the beer I'm trying to emulate just doesn't come out that way!

  2. Great write-up. thanks for sharing this. I notice you dry hop in the primary. Do you cold crash before racking to keg?

    1. I don't cold crash as much as I'd like, this time of year. Now that my fermentation chamber is a usually-full-of-kegs keezer, I don't have a lot of options. In the colder months, I will move the Better Bottle to my garage to cold crash, especially if it's a particularly-large dry hop addition. Otherwise, I just let it settle before racking.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Great article! One thing I've read or heard about Trillium is that they dry hop while fermentation is still active. That may be part of the key to dialing this recipe in along with getting the hop ratios worked out.

    I've found Mosiac to get out of control if over used. I've never used Nelson but Equinox is like Mosaic to me also. They both get this flavor that is either grassy or dank or metallic. I've never really been clear on what grassy really tastes like as well as dank...a friend says a high dose of Mosaic causes flavors like sucking on a penny or biting into tin foil. These flavors hit the middle and the back of the palette.

    I've found with Galaxy is it's very forgiving and can be used in high quantities without too much worry.

    Good luck on the next go around! You blog is great by the way. I really enjoy checking in for updates.

    1. Since I put up this post, I've read the same thing from comments on Reddit. Sounds like doing a single, large dry-hop 4-5 days after pitching the yeast is the way to go. Definitely worth a shot, at least!

      And thanks, by the way!

  4. Funny I was just going to ask if you had experimented with dry hopping during fermentation as well.