Apr 25 2012

What are the Latest Trends in Brewing?

In the coming months, I’m planning to do a mini-presentation for my homebrew club about what is hot and trendy in brewing. This seems a natural fit for me, as I have restlessly yet to brew the same beer twice, and homebrewers are on the cutting edge of brewing. Sure, the majority of beer drinkers might find out about the latest trend from a commercial example, but it was likely that a homebrewer did it first since he or she can afford to pour out 5 gallons of beer if the elements and process go horribly and undrinkably wrong.

So I’m crowd sourcing now. Leave a comment at the end of this post and tell me what you are seeing as the latest trend in brewing. Are Black IPAs still a hot trend, or have they faded? We all talk about session beers becoming the next big thing, but they haven’t yet. At least not like sours or oak aging have. Using rye in beers became popular for a time, but is that a trend? Using New Zealand and Australian hops has been a fun experiment for many brewers, too, lately.

And I am straying from the word “new” in this post because I’m not sure there is truly anything “new” in the brewing world.  The Gose has made a comeback, but it probably would be better described as a rediscovery than anything new. But I definitely encourage the return of older, or simply forgotten, styles to popularity.

Frankly, brewing has become very easy with our highly modified grains, and high alpha hops, and highly efficient brewing equipment.  Perhaps the latest trend is making beer difficult to make again. Decoctions and turbid mashes don’t make your brew days any easier or shorter. We are bringing back the bacteria and wild yeasts that brewers worked so hard to eliminate over the years with a vengeance, too.

What say you? What are the current trends in beer? What will they be tomorrow? Leave a comment please, and thanks.


Apr 20 2012

American IPA Homebrew – Citra Ass Down

Like many homebrewers, my favorite style when I first started brewing was the American IPA (AIPA), and I’ve probably brewed more of them than any other style. But where once they were every third batch, nowadays I might only brew them once or twice a year.

Despite spending less and less time making AIPAs, I think I’ve gotten better at brewing the style. I’m sure that has everything to do with brewing other styles of beer that require a bit more finesse. More balance.

And, to have an adult moment, AIPAs are not the hardest beer style to brew. They are very, very forgiving and the amount of hops that go into what is now considered a standard AIPA will cover up a lot of flaws. Sure, late additions and dry-hopping won’t cover up a sanitation issue, but they will cover some obvious malt imbalance issues that might leave your beer too sweet or without a bready, toasty backbone at all.

So, if you have the AIPA dialed-in, congrats. I don’t want to diminish that accomplishment. Brewing a great beer is hard and that is a great desert island choice. But the brewing of this style of beer has become impractical beast created with blunt instruments.

The inspiration for this AIPA was a Citra APA that I made last year. I love the citra hop, but it has become increasingly hard to get. It is a high alpha, low cohumulone hop that throws amazing mango and pineapple aromas and flavors.

I loved the American pale ale (APA) I made with it, but the final beer straddled the line between an APA and an AIPA. I figured I would go ahead and make a full-fledged AIPA from the hop the next time it came my way. And I did.

This one is a strange in that the malt bill is really just a double pale ale. I wanted to see if an AIPA could work without crystal malts, but it wasn’t that big of a test, since Imperial IPAs use a similar malt bill. After having a few commercial, and homebrewed, examples of AIPAs lately where the beers ran over into Amber territory (which I love, as well, but that is a different style), I wanted to reign it in and make a clean, hoppy beer that wasn’t too heavy and sweet.

I was very happy with the final beer. As the years go by, I’m less interested in deeply bitter beers that only leave you wanting something different next for the next round. My citra AIPA left me thirsty for more, not full of the palate fatigue that I get from commercial examples that seem like they were designed around a dare.

 Citra Ass Down – American IPA

Starting Gravity: 1.071 (12/26/11) 68º F  -> 72º F
Final Gravity:  1.014 (1/13/12)
7.6% alcohol (by volume)
Apparent Attenuation:  79.3%
Real Attenuation: 65%

Mash (65 minutes ~152º)                           

12.00 lbs Maris Otter (2-row)
1.0 lb Victory Malt
0.75 lb Munich Malt
0.75 lb Wheat Malt

Boil(6o minutes)   

1.20 oz. Magnum Leaves 14.0% AA (60 min.)
1.0 oz. Citra Pellets 13.4% AA (10 min)
1.0 oz. Amarillo Pellets 8.2% AA (10 min)
1.0 oz. Citra Pellets 13.4% AA (0 min.)
2.0 oz. Citra Pellets 13.4% AA (Dry Hop) on 1/1/12

1 tablet Whirlfloc (Boil – 15 min.)
½ tsp Brewer’s Choice Wyeast Nutrient Blend (Boil – 10 min.)

Primary (68º F)  

Safale 05 – 1 packet (No Starter – Rehydrated in 90° wort)