Thursday 26 January 2017

Northeast Double IPA (with five hop varieties)

Because five hop varieties is better than four, right?!?

No, of course it isn't, and anyone who reads this blog even semi-regularly probably knows that I don't usually use more than 2-3 hop varieties in any beer, with a few exceptions (namely clone recipes that I put together, where I know that the beer in question contains more than a couple of different hops).

The day after brewing my Experimental Sour entry for the 4th Annual Big Spruce Home Brew Competition - a Gose dry-hopped with Chinook and grapefruit zest - I brewed my entry for the Imperial IPA category. I don't normally do back-to-back brew days, but in this case I didn't have a lot of choice. It's difficult brewing these styles of beers for competitions - you really have to time it well, so that your beer is definitely ready in time to have it entered, but also, you don't want it ready TOO early, when you're talking about a style that is better fresh.

I should say right off that if you're brewing a DIPA for a BJCP-certified competition, brewing it in the style of a Northeast version - pale-coloured, cloudy, low bitterness - probably isn't the best idea, if you're really trying to win. Why enter if you're not trying to really win? Great question, you've got me in a box here. In this case, I guess I just really wanted to brew what I like to drink; with several bottles going to the competition, that's a lot of beer leftover. And I'm just no longer a fan of sweet-tasting, Crystal-laden, extremely-bitter DIPAs. So, I thought I'd brew a beer that I knew I'd like (on paper, anyway), enter it, and see what the judges thought.

The grist you see below is basically an amalgamation of several hoppy recipes I've brewed and enjoyed: 2-row and Pilsner malt, with almost equal amounts of Flaked Oats, Carapils and Wheat malt, plus my usual ~2% of Acid malt for mash pH adjustment purposes. Mashed low at 149 F to keep the beer dry, it is, as you can see, purposefully devoid of any real Crystal malts, resulting in a calculated SRM of just 4.5. The BJCP lists the range for DIPA as 6-14, which is pretty wide. Whenever I pour a new-to-me DIPA and see it on the higher end of that range, I cringe, as I'm usually expecting a Crystal-y, low-hop aroma to follow (which isn't always the case, of course, but...). I also added a good portion of table sugar to help dry out the beer further, which I boiled in a bit of water, cooled, and added to the carboy when primary fermentation showed signs of slowing.

As I mentioned above, I don't normally use more than 2-3 hop varieties in a beer, but I had come up with a combination that I was looking to try. I've been enjoying Chinook lately (which I used in the mentioned Gose and a 100%-Chinook Session IPA), and have always been a fan of Columbus (CTZ), so I decided to throw an ounce of each in at 10 minutes. At flameout, more Chinook for a hop steep, along with one of my favourites, Galaxy. After that steep, and when my immersion chiller began its job, I added two other favourites, Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe. I knew from my own experience and many commercial beers that these hops work together well, so I finally went with a single, fairly-large dry-hop addition of the big three, Galaxy, Nelson and Simcoe. With a small Polaris addition at the beginning of the boil, the total calculated IBUs comes in around 65, at the low end of the BJCP range of 60-120.

It probably comes as no surprise that I fermented this beer with London Ale III, which seems to be the go-to yeast now for many northeast hoppy style beers; I'm no exception, as I think it's a great strain for hoppy beers. Once again, I knew that the resulting cloudiness could easily be a negative factor for the judges, if they were judging strictly by-the-book. However, I also know that a lot of BJCP judges probably enjoy a DIPA that is cloudy and pale... and I've never had any problems with a beer coming out cloudy with LAIII - it's pretty much a guarantee when I ferment with it. Throw in an addition of Flaked Oats, and it's probably going to be even cloudier.

This one was brewed in mid-October, the day after the Gose, and kegged on November 8th (Election Day). I definitely didn't have to leave it this long before kegging, but I was doing my best to time its readiness for the competition. I was, from the start, quite happy with how it turned out - yes, it was cloudy, and yes, the bitterness wasn't extreme, but the beer had a very nice (to me) blend of tropical fruit and pine. Creamy, smooth mouthfeel, slightly warming from the alcohol, but still goes down easy. Was it the best DIPA I've ever brewed? No, but it was far from the worst, too.

Like my Gose, however, this beer did not place in the competition. While it received better scores than the Gose did, the judges commented that the beer's colour was too light, and that it wasn't bitter enough. And they're exactly right, by BJCP standards. So I definitely was not surprised by the results. Luckily, though, I really liked the beer! It hung around on tap for a couple of months before finally kicking just the other day.

So, for a DIPA that I brew for me, this was a good beer. I'd definitely brew another DIPA with the same grist, and maybe play around with the hops a little (of course), and likely dial it back to 3 varieties instead of 5. But if you've got these ones on hand and were looking for a new DIPA to brew, I think I can safely recommend this one.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.074, FG ~1.014, IBU ~65, SRM 4.5, ABV ~8%

Grains & Sugars:
2.8 kg (42.9%) Canadian 2-row
1.8 g (27.6%) Bohemian Pilsner
500 g (7.7%) Flaked Oats
475 g (7.3%) Carapils
475 g (7.3%) Wheat malt
125 g (1.9%) Acid malt
+ 350 g (5.4%) Table sugar (added when fermentation slows)

Polaris - 7 g (17.7% AA) @ 60 min
Chinook - 28 g (13.7% AA) @ 10 min
CTZ - 28 g (10.9% AA) @ 10 min

Chinook & Galaxy - 42 g each @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)

Nelson Sauvin & Simcoe - 28 g each when started chilling

Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Simcoe - 42 g each dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 8 g Gypsum and 10 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on October 18th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water; mash temp on target of 150 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 8.25 L of boiling water to 168 F. Sparged with ~3.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.055. 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.5 gallons; OG 1.074 (taking future sugar additions into account). Chilled to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 90 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 64 F.

- High activity in the airlock the next morning after pitching; unfortunately, it was quite warm outside during this period, and I didn't try to keep the temps down with water, ice, etc., so over the next couple of days the temperature climbed to 75 F - much higher than my usual fermentation. Luckily, it was pitched low and climbed only gradually.

- When fermentation began to show signs of slowing, the sugar was added in two halves (about 12-16 hours apart) after being boiled and cooled in water.

- 31/10/16 - FG 1.015. Dry-hopped in primary the next day.

- 8/11/16 - Kegged and force-carbed for 36 hours at 30 PSI.

Appearance: Pours with a light-golden colour in the body, medium-sized white head, sticky and holds on for awhile before fading. Very hazy.

Aroma: Nice blast of tropical fruit, pine, with some of that Nelson-specific white wine character coming through. No real malt character here, it's all hops, as wanted and expected.

Taste: Again, hops all the way, but I find the malt supports them enough so that it doesn't come across as astringent or overbearing. Lots of fruit, juicy. Medium bitterness in the finish, dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, creamy; medium carbonation.

Overall: I really enjoyed this beer; I'm a big fan of the creamy body yet dry finish, and the hop combo works quite well.

Thursday 12 January 2017

Gose dry-hopped with Chinook and Grapefruit Zest

November, 2016 featured the 4th Annual Big Spruce Home Brew Challenge, a homebrewing competition in the Maritimes held by Big Spruce, a craft brewery out of Nyanza, Nova Scotia. Last year I had entered a beer, Inherit the Red, in the Red IPA category; surprisingly, it won gold, and owner/brewer Jeremy White invited me to Big Spruce to assist in brewing the recipe in February. That beer was launched at the Fredericton Craft Beer Festival that March, under the name Meek Thy Maker (his idea!).

I decided to enter two beers in this year's competition, one in the Experimental Sour category, and one in the Imperial IPA category (the third and final category was Mild). Both beers were brewed back to back over a two day period, with the Sour brewed first. I always have a lot of ideas of different beers to brew (and not enough time... don't we all?), especially in the sour category, but I was particularly interested in brewing a Gose again. The last Gose I brewed, I split the batch and dry-hopped half with Citra, and added lime zest to the other half; both came out quite nice. I had kettle-soured the wort using a starter made from Lactobacillus plantarum capsules, and the method worked out well for me. For more details on the whole process I used, check out that post.

With this new beer, I wanted to take the same approach to kettle-souring the wort - I had plenty of L. plantarum capsules on hand, and the ability of L. plantarum to work at warm room temperatures (not to mention not having to pay strict attention to oxygen ruining your beer, causing aromas of vomit and such) makes it a no-brainer for me to use. I have a heating pad and a heat belt, but no really effective way of keeping wort in the 100 F range, especially this time of year.

In terms of what to do with this Gose, I had quite a few ideas, some of which I regretted not doing soon after I finally settled on one (this is a pretty typical problem with me in homebrewing). As I mentioned, I was happy with both the lime zest and Citra-dry-hopped Gose versions I did before, and started thinking that maybe combining these two approaches would work well. I finally settled on brewing a Gose dry-hopped with both Chinook and grapefruit zest - I usually get grapefruit character when I use Chinook in hoppy beers, and figured that some additional zest would bring this out even more.

For the recipe, I used the exact same as the lime and Citra Gose. A very straight-forward grist (close to 50/50 Pilsner and Wheat malt, with ~4% Acid malt), mash at 150 F, and you've got your wort all ready to be soured! Hopefully. Bring that to a very brief boil to kill off whatever bugs are there already (or even bring it close to 200 F or so and hold it for a few minutes), then cool to 100 F and transfer into your fermentor. At this point, I actually added 5 mL of phosphoric acid (80%) to bring the wort pH down to ~4.6. Aside from giving the Lacto a bit of a head start, this has been shown to help improve head retention, which can often be an issue in sour beers. I tried this with my last kettle-soured beer, a Sour Session IPA, and it definitely made a difference.

I did my best to keep the wort warm, which actually wasn't too difficult, as the heat pad and belt managed to keep the temp at about 90 F. After a couple of days the pH had dropped to 3.23, so I transferred back to the kettle and started a very short, 5 minute boil. A bit of Polaris for a small bittering charge was added, along with the coriander seed and sea salt. I then chilled down to the low 60s F, pitched a full pack of rehydrated yeast, and let it ferment out. The gravity only got down to 1.010, with a pH of 3.48; neither budged after another week, so I racked the beer to my dry-hop keg and threw in the Chinook (loose) and grapefruit zest (in a mesh bag with marbles to weigh it down, dangled in with dental floss). Eight days later, I did an oxygen-free transfer to the serving keg and carbed it up.

Well, I knew when I drank this beer for the first time that while the idea was sound, the resulting product probably wasn't going to win any competitions. It's lightly tart, fruity, with - yes - some nice grapefruit presence... but, the grapefruit isn't where I wanted it to be (despite the dry-hop keg, after empty of beer, absolutely reeking of grapefruit), and the beer isn't sour enough. I'm starting to think that with kettle-soured beers, if the only hops going in are in the dry-hop, you have to be really aggressive to get a lot of hop character. If I brewed this again, I'd go up to 5 oz of Chinook, and maybe even a bit more grapefruit zest.

As for the competition, nope, it didn't win, or place. Both judges thought it should be more sour (for an Experimental Sour beer, anyway; apparently they thought the sourness was ok for a straight Gose), and both also said it was too salty. Personally, I like the salt level in this beer - I definitely don't find it a kick-in-the-head for saltiness.

All this being said, I still enjoy the beer, and at only 3% ABV it's by far the most sessionable thing I have on tap right now! While far from perfect, it doesn't really have any really glaring flaws (to me), and I like the mouthfeel - light, yet creamy. More Chinook character (and a little more grapefruit) would likely improve this beer.

Note: The majority of my readers are in the United States; I don't like to enter political territory on this blog, but I have to note that both of these competition beers were kegged on November 8th (Election Day), which helped with the naming of both. This one? There Gose America.

Recipe Targets: (5.8 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.033, FG ~1.008, IBU ~7, SRM 2.9, ABV ~3.3%

1.4 kg (47.9%) Bohemian Pilsner
1.4 kg (47.9%) Wheat malt
125 g (4.2%) Acid malt
+ 100 g rice hulls

Polaris - 14 g (17.7% AA) @ 5 min

Chinook - 84 g dry-hop for 8 days (in dry-hop keg)

Irish Moss - 1/2 tab @ 5 min
Coriander seed (ground) - 14 g @ 2 min
Sea salt - 25 g @ 2 min
Grapefruit zest - 12 g in dry-hop keg for 8 days

Bacteria/Yeast: Lactobacillus plantarum capsules (6) in a 1 L starter; after souring, wort fermented with 1 pack rehydrated US-05

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 5 g Gypsum and 5 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on October 17th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 9.5 L of strike water; mash temp on target at 150 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 5 L of boiling water to 168 F. Sparged with ~3.75 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.032. Heated to a simmer, then chilled to 100 F. Added 5 mL phosphoric acid to bring wort pH to 4.61. Racked to carboy, pitched Lacto starter, attached heat belt and set carboy on heating pad. Two days later, the pH had dropped to 3.23 with the wort temperature in the range of  80-90 F.

- 19/10/16 - Transferred wort back into kettle, brought to a boil. Started 5 minute boil, added hops, coriander and salt at time above. Chilled down to 62 F and poured into BB. Aerated for 60 seconds and pitched yeast at 64 F.

- 31/10/16 - FG high at 1.010, pH reading 3.48. Racked beer to the dry-hop keg, added Chinook (loose) and grapefruit zest (in sanitized mesh bag with marbles to weigh down, floss to hold in beer).

- 8/11/16 - Pushed via CO2 into serving keg, carbed at 30 PSI for 36 hours, then set at 10 PSI.

Appearance: Very light-golden coloured beer, with a fair amount of haziness. The head is surprisingly moderate-sized (or even a bit larger), white and fluffy, with respectable staying-power; slowly settles to about 1/4-finger size.

Aroma: Fruity and slightly sour; yes, the grapefruit is there, but the hops are not as prevalent as expected from the size of the dry-hop.

Taste: The tartness from the Lacto and fruitiness from the Chinook are there, but I'd like to see more of each. The hop flavours do blend very nicely with the grapefruit zest; bumping it up would only help this beer, I think. Finishes dry on the palate, low bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, moderate carbonation. Could stand to be a bit lighter.

Overall: Tasty, but next time I'd add more Chinook, and bring the pH lower to accentuate the sourness. I'm satisfied with the combination of grapefruit zest and Chinook, however, and would encourage others to try the same.