Saturday, 15 August 2015

Brewing a Summer One-Hop Session IPA

Several months ago, when I was putting together my next bunch of brew days for my six week build-up towards summer inventory, adding a new one-hop Session IPA to the list was basically a no-brainer. I had really enjoyed all three of my former attempts (featuring Mosaic, El Dorado, and Equinox varieties), with the most-recent batch featuring Equinox being the definite winner of the bunch. With this beer, I wasn't simply extremely impressed by Equinox (which I definitely was!), I also felt like I had dialled in an overall recipe I was happy with for a hoppy and sessionable IPA.

But with my fourth Session IPA scheduled, which hop should be featured this time? I still had quite a few varieties on hand, and after a bit of thought, I decided to focus on yet another one that I hadn't used before. While hop characteristics definitely change when they're blended with other varieties, I always enjoy these one-hop experiments; I feel they really help give me a basic understanding of what one variety is all about. And if you can use this "research" to get a better idea on how to use the hop in future beers, with other varieties, even better!

One of the few varieties I had on hand that I hadn't used yet was Summer. A dual-purpose, low alpha-acid Australian hop, it appears to have been around since the late 1990s, although I get the impression that it's really only started seeing higher usage in North America over the last few years. I bought half a pound on a whim a few months ago and wasn't really sure what to do with it. While the descriptions you see online sound appealing - citrus, melon, apricot - it seemed upon further reading that this was more of a "mellow" variety. Nothing wrong with that in the right circumstances, but after brewing so many hoppy beers with prominent hops such as Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra, Galaxy, Mosaic, etc., I didn't want to combine it in a beer with other varieties that could simply over-power it. With the summer season fitfully approaching, at the time it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try the hop out: in a single-hop Session IPA that would - hopefully - let its characteristics become prevalent.

The recipe was extremely easy, since I took basically the exact same recipe for my most-recent Session IPA - Equinox - and simply scaled it up to 5.5 gallons and substituted in Summer. As mentioned above, I've been happy with the grist for this recipe. Keeping in a good majority of specialty malts, while not overdoing it with Crystal, keeps the body from being too thin, while at the same time avoiding too much sweetness. I increased the mash temp a little more this time to 156 F to boost the body even more; I had aimed to do this with my last Session IPA, but still only managed to hit 153 F, then.

Although the AA% is much lower for Summer than Equinox, I didn't change the quantities at all in this go-around; the bittering addition is with hop extract, and I was ok with the rest of the bitterness coming in a bit lower. While it's not exactly a hop monster, 6 oz in a 1.048 beer is a pretty healthy amount, in my opinion. I've had excellent results with these quantities, so I assumed that since these hops were fresh, 6 oz would be more than enough to provide a hoppy beer.

The brew day went fine; the mash temp came in on target, and the OG just slightly higher than what I had aimed for, at 1.049. I aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched some rehydrated US-05, and let fermentation go at room temperature, since it still wasn't very hot out (what a crappy June). Once fermentation was complete, I waited a few more days and then tossed the dry hops into the primary fermentor. Five days or so later, I racked the beer to a keg and started carbing.

Well. The first pull from the tap was quite disappointing. And subsequent pulls. This isn't a bad beer, per se, but I don't consider it to be a great Session IPA, by any means. The problem? It's really not that hoppy. I get a little citrus in the aroma, and maybe even less than that in the taste. If I didn't know better, I'd think it was a Blonde Ale that had been hopped slightly more than usual for the style.

I knew going into this that Summer was supposed to be subtle, but I think I was still expecting more. I don't mean to bad mouth it, I just wanted it to... come out a little more. Unless I got a bad batch from a bad crop, I feel like if you used this hop with something stronger, that it would just be steamrolled over and there wouldn't have even been a point in using it. That being said, I know lots of commercial breweries feature Summer in some really great beers; I'm thinking specifically of Whirlpool from Night Shift Brewing. This is one excellent APA (one of the best I've ever had), and apparently it is hopped with Mosaic and Summer. I'm not sure if that's equal amounts of each, but obviously these guys are putting it to good use. So, maybe it's me? Maybe this particular recipe doesn't work well with Summer... perhaps less specialty malts? If I used it again, I think I'd try it in an APA or even a lower-ABV IPA. Bump up the gravity, cut back on the Munich and Crystal, lower the mash temp a few degrees. I likely won't be rushing out to buy it again, though; I've already got a lot of other varieties that I love brewing with. Another thing about Summer - it ain't cheap.

In the meantime, I have an easy-drinking beer for the rest of the season, that is just a bit underhopped for the style. If you've had similar - or completely different - results with Summer, please post in the comments! I'm really interested to hear if this is an isolated incident.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 80% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.013, IBU ~35, SRM 6.3, ABV ~4.6%

2.9 kg (70.8%) Canadian 2-row
450 g (11%) Munich
450 g (11%) Wheat malt
225 g (5.5%) Crystal 40 L
70 g (1.7%) Acid malt

Hop extract - 2.5 mL @ 60 min (or 14 g of a 10% AA hop variety)

Summer - 28 g (5.5% AA) @ 10 min
Summer - 56 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

Summer - 84 g dry-hop for 5-7 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale (1 package, rehydrated)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 4 g Gypsum and 8 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on June 9th, 2015, by myself. 50-minute mash with 12 L of strike water, mashed in at target of 156 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 4.5 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- SG high at 1.042 (target 1.039). 60-minute boil. Final volume on target of 5.5 gallons; OG a bit high at 1.049. Chilled to low-60s F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast at 64 F.

- Good fermentation over the next few days, airlock bubbling strong by the first morning. Temp reached as high as 70 F.

- 15/6/15 - Added dry hops into primary fermentor.

- 21/6/15 - Racked to CO2-purged keg, set in keezer to chill down. Started carbing the next morning.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white fluffy head that shows surprisingly good retention. Body is a burnished gold color, with very good clarity.

Aroma: Biscuity, bready malt, about evenly-balanced with a mild, citrusy hop presence. I suppose the apricot I read about is there... but I don't think I would have picked up on it if I wasn't already looking for it.

Taste: Ditto for the taste of this beer; the malt character is quite pleasant, but the hop flavors are far too low, in my opinion. Medium-low bitterness in the fairly dry finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, moderate carbonation.

Overall: A tasty beer, but not what I would consider a strong Session IPA; more of a slightly-hoppy Blonde Ale. Maybe I should have used more hops here, but I really don't think that would have changed much. If brewed again, I'd change the recipe's grist a little, make it a bit drier, but I've found this grist works very well for other varieties.