Check out the rest of my recipes in the index.
It has been a little while since I have done a proper beer review, opting instead to do previews of the beers I am going to make. I was also in a bit of a rut this summer: heat, extensive travel, and brewing do not make an optimal mix for brews and reviews. Mostly, I was not super pleased with how my last few batches turned out–I will happily blame that on the goofball restrictions for the BrewUnited Challenge 🙂
Well, I am back on track! A new nano brewery/homebrew supply named Bear Roots Brewing Co has opened nearby and is issuing its first homebrew competition, focused solely on IPAs the prize is “bragging rights as the first local home brew recipe on our community tap and will also get their own customized pint glass that will sit above our bar.” As someone who 1) wants to support new and local businesses and 2) loves the idea of having my own customized pint glass above a bar I figure it is worth a shot! Entering more competitions is also the only way I can achieve my ubergoal of winning a best in show ribbon.
Read on and check out my German inspired American IPA: Ain’t No Hallertauer Girl.
(It is B-A-N-A-N-A-S)
Let’s talk IPA strategy for a moment, shall we? First of all, if you have not gone through and read everything from Bertus Brewery go and do so immediately–brother is the gold standard of hop-forward homebrew blogs. Now that you are back, here is what I consider necessary for a successful West Coast (aka best coast) IPA:
- Simple malt bill. You are looking for just enough malt to provide a framework for the hops–the star of the show. Any specialty grain should be kept to ~5% of the malt bill. You can add a mix of other base malts (Maris Otter, Vienna, Munich, etc) for a dash of complexity, but I would keep them under 25% of the grist.
- Clean yeast. You are looking to minimize any esters and alcohol heat that might get in the way of hop character. Fermenting on the low side for the strain will help this too. Some low complementary esters (e.g. peachy Conan) is okay as long as the strain mostly emphasizes hop expression.
- Low final gravity. The drier the beer finishes the more impact the hops will be making. If your IPA is finishing higher than a gravity 1.010 consider mashing lower (~148ºF) and/or replacing up to 10% of your malt with dextrose. This also aids in what the Belgians would call “digestibility,” which we might call “drinkability” here in the states. Think back to the last authentic Tripel you had: sneaks up on you, huh? Easy drinking, FTW.
- Maximize flavor and aroma extraction. A combination of first wort hopping, hop bursting, whirlpooling, and double dry hopping will make the hop character explode into your face. Using a tiny amount of clean bittering hop at the start of the boil is fine, but you should be adding most of your hops in the last 10 minutes and the whirlpool.
- Overload the hops. In a five gallon batch you should be using at least 1/2 pound of hops (and that is just to get your foot in the door). Overloading hops is the only way you are going to get the in-your-face hop character folks expect.
- Sulfate water. High sulfate water will make the hops pop and enhance the bitterness. I shoot for at least 150 ppm of SO4 in a ratio of 3:1 SO4:Cl. Some folks go nutso with their Sulfate additions, but I find generally less is more when it comes to mineral additions so I try not to exceed ~200 ppm or so of any particular ion.
- Serve fresh. Hop aroma is one of the first characteristics of a beer to fade so serve it as fresh as possible to capture the delicate aromatics.
Ain’t No Hallertauer Girl
My goal with this IPA was twofold: 1) try to do something a little bit different than the citrus/piny/tropical IPAs that are super popular in San Diego and 2) experiment with the new German aroma hop varieties. After centuries of shunning non-noble varieties, German hop growers, led by the Hop Research Institute in Hull, have really started to step up their game. I have been hearing some good things and really wanted to check them out for myself.
My original plan was to use Hallertau Blanc (passion fruit, grapefruit, pineapple, grape and lemongrass), Mandarina Bavaria (tangerine and citrus), and Hull Mellon (honeydew melon and strawberry), but Bear Roots was out of Hull Mellon so I called an audible and decided to go with Halltertau Tradition to stay on the theme. I also opted not to go with German malts as the neutral character of American 2-Row is more fitting for showcasing hop character. Ray and Marshall over at Brulosophy have turned me on to using a small amount of honey malt in my IPAs too, I feel it ads a complementary sweetness that enhances fruity hop character.
Otherwise, I just went down my checklist:
- ✓ Simple malt bill. Just a dash of Vienna and Honey malts for a some malt nuance.
- ✓ Clean yeast. WLP090 is a fast, clean yeast with awesome attenuation, 2nd only to Conan for hop forward beers.
- ✓ Low final gravity. Dextrose and mashing low put me down to ~1.008 FG.
- ✓ Maximize flavor and aroma extraction. All the hops were added in the last 20 minutes, with a 15 minute whirlpool to top it off.
- ✓ Overload the hops. In a perfect world I would have added even more hops, but at LHBS prices ($3.00+/oz) I could not bring my self to justify a double dry hopping.
- ✓ Sulfate water. A few grams of gypsum in the mash gets me all the sulfate I need.
- ✓ Serve fresh. I brewed this so it would be ready ~4 days before the competition entry closed. Just enough time for the beer to settle in the keg a few days before pulling a few bottles off.
Follow along with the BJCP guide for American IPA (2015) [PDF].
Moderate/high levels of fruity hop character greet the nose with notes of floral white wine, passionfruit, and tangerine. There is a low complimentary malt sweetness which enhances the sweet fruity hop character. A low grassiness is present, but expected and the beer is other wise clean with no ester or diacetyl character.
A clear (though not crystal) golden/light orange that is lighter than the pictures suggest. Two fingers of fluffy white head with fine bubbles that form a meringue like texture with strong persistence and great lacing. I am not joking when I say I was spooning the head off and eating it like Cool Whip!
Again the hops dominate with moderate/high levels of passionfruit, tangerine, floral white wine, and grassy character. A slightly sweet malt backbone is present with just enough structure to bolster the hops, but otherwise hides in the background. Balance is firmly to the hops and the finish is bitter, but not harsh or lingering–exactly the kind of bitterness I prefer in IPAs. No esters, diacetyl, or astringent off character.
I have heard these noble & derived verities can exhibit excessive grassiness/vegetal when used in large quantities, but I would not say the grassiness is any more or less than other heavily hopped IPAs. In fact, the grassiness is at the levels one would expect in a heavily hopped IPA, so I would not worry about using these new varieties in your hop bills.
For as dry as this beer is (~1.008) it does not feel thin at all, there is a light amount of creamy fullness that stands up to the moderate/high carbonation and feels crisp, but full. Firmly bitter, but not astringent nor does the bitterness linger in an unpleasant way. This is exactly the kind of mouthfeel I love for an IPA–nailed it!
To be honest, this is the first time I have really been pleased with an IPA I have made. I am extra hard on myself because I am in San Diego and the IPA-game is strong here, but this is the first time I really feel like I nailed that heavy lupulin-rich hop-juice character folks expect from the West Coast. A few folks told me I was crazy for attempting an IPA with the German varieties, since they are not considered “IPA hops” and are not as potent as the new US/NZ/AUS varieties. Well, I think I proved the new German varieties are just as good and certainly worth your time!
I am a little disappointed that I did not reach stratospheric levels of hop overload, but my buddy Ryan (from the duo that won the Stone homebrew comp with the R&R Coconut IPA) mentioned he really enjoyed the smooth drinkability (and preferred it over my buddy’s extra-dank IPA that was also entered in the comp). If I were to do it again (able to buy my hops in bulk online) I would swap out the Hallertau Tradition for Hull Mellon 1:1 and go for double dry hop with the same amounts. I really feel like I am on to something here and love the juicy/fruity/floral character of the German varieties.
Check out the rest of my recipes in the index.