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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Homebrew - Almost Tasty

I often hear people say: "anyone can throw a load of hops into a beer, it's balance that requires skill". Whilst I'm inclined to agree, I also think that achieving a bright, clean, pronounced hop flavour in a pale beer is far from easy. I know, I've tried and failed many times.

Increasing hop additions and delaying until the end of the boil hasn't made any real difference. I closely control fermentation temperature, use a clean, neutral strain and get beers without any yeast character; so it's not that the hop flavour is being masked.

The next variable is water. London water is hard. Almost as hard as understanding water chemistry for brewing. In simple terms, water contains minerals, the amount of these minerals in the water will depend on geographical location. London water is hard because it has lots of minerals in it. Two of the ions in these minerals are Chloride and Sulphate. I want to change the balance of ions such that there's a lot more Sulphate than there is Chloride. For reasons I won't go into*, a skew towards sulphate will accentuate hops, whereas the reverse will favour malt. To achieve this, I will add Calcium Sulphate (Gypsum) to my mash and Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salt) to my boil. Done.

When it comes to hop additions, large and late is the name of the game. Standard.

Here's my recipe:

Grain: Pale malt (61.6%) and pilsner malt (23.1%) for the base, carapils (7.7%) and flaked barley (3.8%) for body, pale crystal (3.8%) for some sweetness and complexity.

Hops: Centennial, Simcoe and Amarillo (all pellets). 3g addition of each variety at 10, 7, 5, 3 and 1 minute from flame out.

Other: Batch size 7 litres, original gravity 1.059, mash temperature 68c.

I missed the original gravity by a point and got 1.058; happy with that. I did lose A LOT of wort to hop material though, only ended up with around 4 litres. Instead of throwing away the dirty wort, I racked it into a second vessel and pitched some yeast. What's the worst that could happen?

I've named this one 'Almost Tasty', on account of the inspiration I took from Mike McDole's 'Tasty APA' recipe.

* mainly because I don't understand them.


Tim said...

Nice! Did you use any bittering hops in addition to the above, or just the additions from -10mins on?

Tim said...

Ooh, also - how much gypsum / MgSO4 do you add, and do you use CRS or similar to knock carbonates out of the liquor first?

I'm going to have a crack at a NZ pale ale this weekend, so this is a very timely post!



Mark said...

Nope, no bittering hops at all, just the additions from 10 mins. All the IBUs (around 38) come from late hops.

I use bottled mineral water that's very soft, so no need to knock out carbonates first. I can just build my water up to the desired profile. This is one of the advantages of brewing such small batches. The Gypsum and Epsom additions are based on the starting profile of your water. You can use calculators like the one linked to below to help. I based my target water on Randy Mosher's ideal pale ale water profile (link below).



dredpenguin said...

Interesting again Mark. I too have struggled to get clean IPA's. By clean I mean the kind of flavour Evin gets.

I can get clean lagers, wheat beers and pale ales but not IPAs.

My latest a single hop citra IPA is the closest yet (at taste on bottling) and it is the one I have put by far the most dry hopping into it (50g for 23L). Interestingly the whole flower hops are from the most recent harvest perhaps this also makes a difference.

I do use water chemistry but have struggled with determining source mineral content. The stuff I can find on the waterboard website is patchy and has only got ppm for a few of the brewing minerals.

Brother Logic said...

I know people do it but is there any real benefit to the staggered late hop additions? I would be tempted to dump in at 10 minutes and flame out, 20 minute steep and then a dry hop - maybe 10-20g for a 5L batch? I guess with more than one hop variety you'd have to balance out the different types but I've never really understood that one.

Mark said...

DP: Clean in terms of fermentation is something I'm OK with. It's more about that clean, bright, distinct hop flavour. I think the Brewdog IPA is Dead series was a real lesson in how that kind of flavour is achieved. Excellent showcases for the hops in questions, that's what I'm aiming at.

Getting hold of information on your water profile isn't easy. You've also got the problem that your water is constantly changing!

BL: That's a very good point. Something I'd like to test out once I've got the flavour right. For now though, I don't want to change too many things at once. A side by side with lots of close additions vs 2 big additions would be interesting.

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