Aug 16 2016

Acidulous Hop Trip – Tart IPA with Devils Backbone

Months ago, I had mentioned my plan to homebrew a tart IPA to Jason Oliver, the brewmaster at Devils Backbone Brewing. I had heard about a few commercial breweries making this kind of beer and the challenge of making hoppy and sour work together was really interesting to me. To Jason’s credit, he was interested/foolhardy enough to suggest that I come out to his pilot brewery and make it there.

The game plan I had for the homebrew version was to sour an unhopped wort in a carboy for a few days to lactobacillus, and then to boil the wort for a few minutes to pasteurize the lacto. Then crash down the beer to do big, citrus hopstands and dry hopping in order to keep the bitterness very low to ensure that it doesn’t clash the sourness. There would need to be adjustments for the DBB system, but the process would essentially be the same.

My standard malt bill for IPAs is a mix of Maris Otter and American 2-Row with some wheat or oats thrown in for proteins and intangibles. For the most part, we stuck to the base malts with some acidulated malt to create a good pH environment for the kettle souring.

Malt Bill:

52% Maris Otter
38% Superior Pils (Canadian)
7% Acidulated Malt
3% Pale Crystal

Mashing In

The Mash

The batch would be 8.5 bbls and the goal original gravity was 15 Plato (1.060), which we hit. We mashed at 154F for 30 minutes, then raised the mash to 162F for 30 minutes, and then mashing out at 167F. We then brought the unhopped beer up to a 5 minute boil before crashing it down to 105F and pushing CO2 into the wort before the lacto pitch.

One of the biggest question marks for me was the size of the lacto starter for the beer. On the homebrew level, a 1000 or 2000ml starter is enough to sour 6 gallons of wort. But the right pitch for ~260 gallons was not a guess I was ready to make without doing my homework. Since I was using the Omega Yeast Labs Lactobacillus Blend (OYL-605), I made a quick call to them and they assured me that I could take my existing 2000ml starter and ramp it up to 3 gallons the day before and that would be sufficient.

3 Gallon Lacto Starter

3 Gallon Lacto Starter

When it came time to pitch the lacto starter, I let Jason do the honor. I feel pretty good about my ability to handle glass carboys, but if someone is going to invert a carboy into hot wort, I’m going to give that responsibility to the person who runs the brewery 99 out of 100 times.

Pitching Lacto

Pitching Lacto, Better Him Than Me

The wort was held at 105F for 2.5 days and the final pH was 3.3. It was then brought up to a 45 minute boil, and 3.5# of Citra, 3.5# of Comet and 1.75# Hallertau Blanc pellets were added to the whirlpool. The use of Comet was suggested by Jason and it seemed like a cool audible for the batch. Comet hops are not a new, but it sounds like one that had gone out of fashion in the 80s in favor of high alpha hops. It seems to be making a comeback now, and it is described as having a “wild American” aroma. (No, I still don’t know exactly what that means, but I think I might have to brew a clean, hoppy beer in the future featuring Comet to better understand it.)

 

Kettle and Hose

Kettle and, of course, the Hose

We fermented it with Chico yeast which dropped the beer down to a 1.013 final gravity, and a 6.4% ABV. It was finally dry-hopped with Citra, Comet and Nelson Sauvin for a few days before carbonating and packaging.

 

 

On The Menu

On The Menu

 

 

Acidulous Hop Trip

Acidulous Hop Trip

Tasting:
I’m really, really pleased with the final beer. There’s a profound sourness to it, but there’s no real bitterness for it to clash with, and the mix of hops kept it juicy and full of life. The hops were bright and citrusy with aromas and flavors of orange and lime peels. I feel like the Nelson Sauvin enhanced the perceived dryness of the beer, as well. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a few local breweries over the years, and this beer is the most like my wild, experimental side. The most like what I do at home. For that reason alone, it is a success.

 

This might seem counter intuitive to some brewers, but I really don’t have a ton of experience with kettle souring beers. I’ve been brewing sours for about 8 years at this point and the majority of my sourings have come from co-pitching lacto with the yeast, or using pedio for long term souring. So the only thing that I’d change if I could would be to get a more complex sourness like I’m used to in my pedio beers, but that takes a very long time and, honestly, the current sourness makes it perfect for the heat that Virginia is currently experiencing.

 

Unfortunately, you might need to be in Virginia to try this one, but check out Acidulous Hop Trip if you see it around. It is currently on draft at the DBB Basecamp taproom and will be part of the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest this weekend (8/20/2016).

 

The Top Secret Batch:
For a twist on this one, I left the 3 gallon carboy I had used for the lacto starter and asked the guys to fill it with wort before the pitching the yeast. I brought that home and pitched the Yeast Bay Amalgamation Super Brett Blend upon it. I’ve dry hopped that batch, although I could not obtain Comet, and I plan to package that tonight. I’m interested to compare the two beers soon.

 

Thank you to Jason, Aaron and Erik for turning this crazy idea into a beer and playing loose with your brewing system for a few days. You guys rock.

 

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Aug 11 2016

Upcoming Collaborative Beer Releases with Some Local Breweries

I have a couple of beers that I’ve worked on with local breweries that are getting released in the coming weeks, and I wanted to give everyone a little heads-up. (My apologies in advance if this only applies to beer lovers around Virginia in neighboring states.)

Virginia Craft Brewers Fest 2016

Virginia Craft Brewers Fest – Acidulous Hop Trip with Devils Backbone Brewing (8/20/16)

The 5th Annual Virginia Craft Brewers Fest will happen on Saturday, August 20th, at the Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub. At last count, 85 Virginia breweries will be pouring their beers, and there will 3 bands and 9 food trucks to help you pace your day.

During the Fest, the Tart IPA that I made with Brewmaster Jason Oliver from Devils Backbone will debut under the Hoopla tent and at the outdoor bar. This beer is called Acidulous Hop Trip, and it brings together the disparate aspects of a hoppy IPAs and a sour ales. We kettle soured the unhopped beer with the Omega Yeast Lactobacillus Blend(OYL-605) and let that drop to a 3.3 pH over several days. The beer was then brought up to a short boil to kill the lacto, and then it was heavily whirlpool hopped with Citra, Comet and Hallertau Blanc. After fermenting with Chico, it got a heavy dry hop dose of Citra, Comet and Nelson Sauvin hops. The result is a tart, juice bomb that I’m looking forward to trying next weekend.

As an added experiment, I brought home 3 gallons of the unfermented wort and pitched some Yeast Bay Amalgamation Brett Super Blend on that for comparison.

I will do a full write-up for this blog once I’ve sampled the DBB version and my own brett version. I am working to get the Acidulous Hop Trip at a few local watering holes, as well, like Beer Run, and Kardinal Hall.

Hoopla

Hoopla Music and Beer Festival – Oud Bruin with Three Notch’d Brewing (10/1/16)

On the weekend of September 29th to October 2nd, the Hoopla Festival will happen at Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub. It is big event where you can camp, see great bands like the Old 97s and the Revivalists, and there’s lots of activities for the kids, too.

On that Saturday, October 1st, there will be a Rare Beer Festival from 12-3pm, and the Oud Bruin/Flanders Brown that I helped Three Notch’d Brewing with will be there to be enjoyed. This one hasn’t been formally named yet, but act surprised if somehow incorporates a bear, or a bear constellation, into its name. This beer has been aged for over a year in a wine barrel and then mixed fermented with a Scottish ale yeast, the ECY Dirty Dozen Brett strains and Yeast Bay’s Mélange.

What I’ve tasted, flat and straight from the barrel, was very malty, silky smooth and with a subdued sourness that defines the style. I happily took a backseat to 3N’s Levi in the creation of this one, and I was happy to help give a little advice and curate the bugs that went into this sour. I’m excited to taste the beer once it is carbonated and ready to share. More details are to come with this beer, as well, and I’m sure it will appear at the Three Notch’d Taproom in Charlottesville, too. 

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Jul 7 2016

American IPA – Hoppy McHopface

I made an American IPA for the Starr Hill competition and, in the interest of sharing my recipes and current processes, here is the quick story:

A local brewery was throwing a IPA homebrew competition and I decided that it was and good time to play around with a new hop and yeast. I had found some Idaho 7 hops, which it seems has subsequently been renamed 007: The Golden Hop, and I wanted to play with them as they reportedly had a orange/apricot/herbal flavor with hints of black tea.

Coincidentally, I had seen a tweet from Nathan Smith about a week before my brew day where he mentioned that he was enjoying a new IPA from Heretic Brewing:

 

Luck was not on my side as I had come across some Cashmere hops a few months before from PH Farms and had made a nice APA with them, but had none left for this brew. After a quick side conversation with Nathan, he mentioned that Cashmere is its own beast in terms of flavor components, but that it is a cross between Northern Brewer and Cascade, so using a mix of those hops might be worth a try.

In the interest of deviating from my standard IPA malt bill, which is usually a 50/50 base malt mix of American 2-row and Maris Otter, I followed the Heretic model and swung towards more American 2-row and added some crystal 40L.

The new yeast was the Wyeast London Ale III, which wasn’t a new yeast to me, but it was the first time I was planning to use it in an IPA rather than an English ale. The commercial and homebrewed London III IPAs that I had tried, the yeast did an extremely good job of accentuating the malts in the beer, but it can come at the cost of a beer that never truly clarifies and stays murky in the tradition of the New England IPA. (Which isn’t to say that this yeast strain is the primary reason that those IPAs remain cloudy and, as I call them, “some pulp.”)

The brew day was straightforward and easy. There’s little excitement in IPA brew days. (The process and recipe are at the bottom of this post.)

Finished beer:

In terms of hop contribution to the beer, this one ended up very mild. Despite adding 6 ounces of the Idaho 7/Golden Hop from whirlpool to dry hop, there were only a small amounts of the citrus fruits I expected and a light background of the black tea. Perhaps I got an abused bunch of the hops, and as homebrewers we always get the worst hand-me-downs, but I was underwhelmed by their flavor and aroma presence. If you are wondering if this might be the next hot IPA hop, I’ll tell you “no” from this first experience. I think it would be great in a Belgian pale ale, a saison, or a pale lager base. I may have named this Hoppy McHopface, but it was not, indeed, hoppy.

And from these pictures you can tell that tell that the London III did not leave behind a clear beer. I did not expect it to be a pretty glass, but I added whirlfloc to the boil, Clarity Ferm to the ferment, and I cold conditioned the beer at packaging. So I gave the beer every chance to achieve some sort of clarity, but it was having none of that.

Hoppy McHopface

Hoppy McHopface

 

Murky McMurkface

More Like Murky McMurkface

Despite the murkiness, the yeast did its job in terms of giving me a soft and more rounded beer, although it didn’t drag the malts to the forefront like it has done in the past for English ales.

 

Brew Day: 5/8/16
OG: 1.068
FG: 1.014

Bottled: 5/22/16

12 lbs 2-Row
2 lbs Maris Otter
0.5 lb Crystal 40L

Mash: 150F for 60 minutes

1.0 oz Simcoe pellets 12.9% AA (60 min)
0.5 oz Cascade pellets 6.9% AA (10 min)
0.5 oz N. Brewer pellets 9.6% AA (10 min)
1.0 oz Idaho 7 pellets 14.1% AA (10 min)
0.5 oz Cascade pellets 6.9% AA (whirlpool)
0.5 oz N. Brewer pellets 9.6% AA (whirlpool)
3.0 oz Idaho 7 pellets 14.1% AA (whirlpool)

60 minute boil
Wyeast yeast nutrient (15)
Whirlfloc (15)

15 minute whirlpool at 170F

Ferment: 68F with Wyeast 1318: London III (2000ml Starter made)
ClarityFerm

5/20/16
0.5 oz Cascade pellets 6.9% AA (dry hop)*
0.5 oz N. Brewer pellets 9.6% AA (dry hop)*
3.0 oz Idaho 7 pellets 14.1% AA (dry hop)*
*Mixed together, then added as two different dry hop charges

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Jun 29 2016

The Starr Hill IPA Jambeeree, and the Freedom in IPA Meaninglessness

Throw shade towards the IPA “style” as much as you want, it has already conquered craft beer.

It is the flagship for most American breweries, and not having an IPA in your year-round portfolio seemingly borders on insubordination. And to further the sprawl and creep from this style, it isn’t limited to merely American and Imperial IPAs. There are red, black, white, brown, Belgian, rye, fruit, fruit peel, and session IPAs, as well. Tart IPAs are beginning to surface now, as well. (In full disclosure, I am brewing a tart IPA with a local brewery in the coming weeks so, yeah, I’m part of the problem, too.)

When any base style, or color I suppose, can be turned into an IPA, is anything an IPA anymore?

Given that rather nihilistic introduction, you’ll understand why I wasn’t immediately excited about an all IPA festival. The yearly “holiday” of IPA Day that occurs each summer only furthers the notion that history is written by the victors. I’m not a conspiracy guy and IPAs, which I really do enjoy, are not a virus leeching diversity from rows of tap handles, but their growth over the years is something that I have watched with some concern.

And if you are a west coast coaster reading this, you might scoff at an east coast IPA festival, and you have a point. Although after spending a week in San Diego last year, I was left a little underwhelmed by the state of IPAs there. While the finest IPAs do come out of the west coast, the number of unbalanced and Chinook-the-throat-destroyer beers that composed much of the rest of the west coast scene was saddening.

While IPAs have become the vanguard of experimentation for a lot of the American brewing scene, I think the first casualty is drinkability.

“What? Cool, you’ve added a new fruit/hop/grain/yeast to an IPA. No, I don’t want another pint. Honestly, I’m going to struggle to finish this one.” – Me

Starr Hill IPA Jambeeree

Starr Hill IPA Jambeeree

So, Saturday, June 25th, was Starr Hill’s IPA Jambeeree, which was a beer festival focusing solely on IPAs. Including Starr Hill, there were 16 Virginia breweries pouring at least two IPAs each. This netted out to over 50 IPAs with 33 from other breweries and 21 from Starr Hill alone.

The gig was broken into two events for me, as there was a homebrew component the night before, and then the festival the next day:

 

Homebrew Jambeeree

The Homebrew Jambeeree was a Pro-Am Competition for Starr Hill and homebrewers were asked to make IPAs which could be English, American, Speciality, or Double versions. The top 25 entries would be invited to the brewery for a private tour, and the best of show winner would brew their beer with Starr Hill for this year’s GABF.

I made the top 25, which is honestly not much of bragging point, but the thrust of the tour and gig was about celebrating the spirit of homebrewing, the backstory to many a pro brewer, and letting that group geek down with the pros and industrial equipment. I had done a Pro-Am with Starr Hill back in 2010, too, so I wasn’t really worried about the actual competition and I was happy to see someone else get a chance.

Starr Hill Hops Cooler

Starr Hill Hops Cooler/Cavern

Starr Hill Brew Deck

Starr Hill Brew Deck

 

Starr Hill Bottling Line

Starr Hill Bottling Line – Yeah, You Like That

 

The tour was great and the brewmaster, Robbie, and QA Manager, Jason, were energetic and happy to answer any questions that the group had. Starr Hill has gone through lot of changes in the last few years and as the previous brewmaster left, they’ve spent a lot of time reformulating old recipes and upping their quality control game. The hard work shows, and the multiple beers I had during that afternoon were crisp and without flaws. These guys care and they are doing right by themselves and their consumers.

Starr Hill Tasting Room

Starr Hill Tasting Room

In the end, I was not one of the top 3 brewers for the competition, but I knew that would be the result as the beer I brewed had been an experiment with Idaho 7 (now “The Golden Hop”?) hops and the London III yeast strain. That one came out mysteriously mild, but I’ve run through the process and recipe in the subsequent Hoppy McHopface blog post.

 

Starr Hill IPA Jambeeree

Cutting to the chase, I was on the fence about attending the IPA Jambeeree, but it was definitely worth my time. Since it was, metaphorically, in my backyard, I knew a lot of the people and brewers there, and it was fun to talk shop and shit (mostly shit) with those friends. The weather was perfect, and there was a far amount of variety in beer from the participating breweries.

Starr Hill's IPA Jambeeree

Starr Hill’s IPA Jambeeree

The only disappointment for the day was the number of breweries that kicked their kegs very early in the event. I showed up late at 3pm (2 hours after it started, 3 after the VIPs got in), and three or four major players in Virginia brewing were already out of all of their beers and many of the other breweries had already pulled tap handles. Perhaps they misjudged the demand, or maybe they were truly slammed with drinkers, but it would have been nice to see everyone get a chance to try those beers.

I think my ability to enjoy the event was due to the meaninglessness of the term IPA. Taking a deep dive with a style is helpful if you are trying to wrap your head around the parameters of the category and improve your evaluation skills. That could have been done to a degree here, but the diversity of IPA types was impressive. There were double and triple IPAs, but also the Belgian and Black IPAs that you’d traditionally expect, beside fruit and rye IPAs, that many breweries are adding to their quivers.

In a strained parallel, the assumption is that Belgian brewers don’t set out to brew a double, or a tripel, or a quad. They just make beer. Some are pale, and some are dark. Some are dry and phenolic, while others gravitate towards malt and dark fruits. There’s a huge variability on the ABV side, as well. I think styles are important to guide some expectations, and they equip us with a language to evaluate and enjoy beer, but I don’t think a brewer needs to have a style in mind. Just a vision of what he or she wants to create. 

Given the diversity of the IPA category and the fact that its tie to India is more than debatable,”IPA” doesn’t mean anything anymore. And, to me, that feels good. Isn’t there some freedom in that? If a brewer wants to use “IPA” as a placeholder to brew whatever beer he or she wants, then they are serving their creativity and I’ll always respect that drive as long as they have the technical ability to construct that vision. Let’s embrace the ingenuity of American breweries and concentrate on taste rather than extremity that only, in the end, creates similarity. 

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