Friday, 29 January 2016

Meek Celebration 2015: Imperial IPA with Amarillo, Comet and Hallertau Blanc

Well, it's that time of year again! Oh wait, no it isn't, it's over. Ok, so I didn't get this out in time to post before Christmas, but that doesn't mean I can't keep updating... albeit, slowly.

In November of 2014, I decided to brew a beer to give away to fellow homebrewers/craft beer drinkers as a Christmas gift. Ok, I planned on keeping some for myself, too, but only a few bottles! My whole family was spending Christmas in PEI that year as well, and I wanted to brew something specifically to celebrate that gathering (which hadn't happened in years and probably won't happen again). Of course the beer would center around hops; Red IPAs are one of my favorite styles to brew and drink, so I came up with a recipe for a really hoppy one, with Amarillo, Azacca, and Simcoe. I was really happy with how the beer came out (it was one of my favorites of mine of the year), so I pledged to brew a different "Meek Celebration" beer every year for Christmas.
Last year's beer, a Red IPA
When November rolled around again in 2015, I started planning a recipe. I wanted to focus on a hoppy style again (I'm sure most of these beers will be hoppy, but don't be surprised to see a dark, Belgian-style in the future); I've had not-the-best luck with DIPAs that I've brewed recently, so I decided to take another crack at the style. I love a good DIPA, but I've gotten really picky with them lately. I no longer enjoy the darker, maltier ones that are simply high in alcohol but don't have near as much hop aroma and flavour as I want. Give me a really hoppy Session IPA or APA any day - I love to enjoy hops without feeling drunk after one beer! So, my goal was a DIPA that was light in color, had a dry finish but still a creamy body, and a big hop aroma, with plenty of citrusy, fruity hop character to go with it. Minimal to no sweet caramel character, here.

I've brewed DIPAs before, of course, and have been happy with several grists that I've gone with. This time, though, I wanted to try something a little different. I had remembered reading a post from Derek of Bear-Flavored (and now, Kent Falls Brewing) when he was playing around with perfecting hoppy beers; the recipe was for a DIPA, and I liked how the grist looked: majority of 2-row, with ~7% each of Wheat malt and Carapils, some Flaked Oats, and about 5% table sugar to help dry the beer out. I've done similar ones in the past, but not exactly like this. So, I shamefully lifted it! Just kidding, there really is no copying in brewing. Well, mostly not.

Choosing a hop schedule was a little more difficult, as usual. Not because I can't think of hops I'd like to use... because there's too MANY hops that I would like to brew with! And I still have quite an inventory from 2014 on hand (and have picked up some 2015 varieties as well... gulp), so plenty to work with. As I mentioned, I wanted a beer with a big fruity, tropical profile; but I also wanted some dank, resinous character in there, too. I eventually decided on:
  • Amarillo - a no-brainer; it's been around for awhile now, and it consistently delivers. Such a fantastic hop that gives plenty of tropical fruit character to any beer I've used it in, it's still one of my favorites.
  • Comet - a hop that's been around for quite some time, I've actually brewed with it before. I split a pound on a whim with a friend, and sat on it. Then when I read a bit more about it, and saw it described as "intensely dank" and with an "intense wild American grapefruit" character (according to Bear-Flavored's Hop Guide); sounded great to me!
  • Hallertau Blanc - I've brewed with this hop, a fairly new tropical variety from Germany, once before in my first 100% Brett IPA, and I really liked it. It's not just fruity... it kind of has a lightly floral characteristic to it that works really well. I was looking to brew with it again, and thought it would great in a DIPA.
I went with a pretty-typical hopping schedule for me: 10 min, hop steep, chiller-on, and a big dry-hop, with the overall emphasis just slightly on the Amarillo and Hallertau Blanc. By the time the wort was poured into the Better Bottle, it was smelling pretty fantastic.

Normally for a beer of this style, I'd ferment with US-05. However, I've done a few beers with Wyeast 1318 London Ale III recently, and every time I make a starter I overbuild by 80-100 billion cells. I've really been enjoying the beers I've brewed with this yeast strain lately, and I've never done a DIPA with London Ale III, so I decided to give it a try, here. I build up what I had to ~260 billion cells, pitched at 64 F, aerated well with pure O2, and let 'er rip (temperature control is rarely needed this time of year in my house; if anything, when temps get REALLY cold, I have to make sure to keep the beer warm enough so the yeast don't poop out on me).

After 10 days or so in primary, I threw the dry hops into the BB for 7 days, and then bottled the beer. Of course I'd normally keg a beer like this, but since I'm basically giving more than half the batch away, for ASAP consumption, it's easier just to bottle it now. The only problem here is I wasn't thinking when I calculated how much priming sugar to add - I calculated for 2.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, but with all the hop sludge in this beer, I really only ended up with slightly over 4 gallons of beer. This would unfortunately give a carb level of ~2.9 vol. Oops.

I tried sampling the beer after it had been bottled for 5-6 days, and it was already carbonated more than I'd like for a DIPA. I was able to move all the bottles into my cellar, which is a perfect 48-50 F during the winter. Carbonation did increase after a little while, but luckily it's not TOO bad; high, yes, but it's not a Hefeweizen or anything. The other aspects of the beer, I was quite happy with. The aroma is huge, lots of mango and orange, some pine and dank in there, too. The flavour is a bit more restrained, but still a very enjoyable hop presence similar to the aroma; some bready malt character is there to help balance a little, but as I hoped for, no lingering sweetness. A touch of a carbonic bite in the finish (possibly due to the higher carbonation?). The bitterness is about perfect for a DIPA... for me. I'm not big on huge bitterness anymore, and ~60 IBUs works well in a hoppy beer.

Overall, this beer is extremely smooth. Smoother and easier-drinking that most DIPAs I've brewed, so I'm going to attribute that success to the London Ale III, and the changes in water chemistry to bring my mash pH down to 5.4. I've been doing this more and more with my hoppy beers lately, and most of the time it's worked out great (I'm sure the wheat malt and flaked oats helped as well). Aside from being smoother, the hop profiles seem to be... juicier. I'd love to do a Brulosophy-inspired experiment with the same hoppy beer fermented with London Ale III vs. US-05, and another with water chemistry changes vs. none at all. I'll put that on the list, see if it actually happens!

As much as I enjoy this beer, I think I have to tip the Celebration award to last year's Red IPA. I will say that after a month, this current beer is holding its own really well for a hoppy brew. I don't know why I still have a few bottles left; guess I didn't go out of my way to give as many away! Sharing? Bah, humbug! ;)

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.073, FG ~1.010, IBU ~62, SRM 4.5, ABV ~7.7%

4.85 kg (75%) Canadian 2-row
475 g (7.3%) Wheat malt
475 g (7.3%) CaraPils
240 g (3.7%) Flaked Oats
100 g (1.5%) Acid malt
335 g (5.2%) Table sugar

Hop extract - 5 mL @ 60 min (equivalent to 28 g of a 10% AA hop variety)
Amarillo - 28 g (7.4% AA) @ 10 min
Hallertau Blanc - 28 g (8.4% AA) @ 10 min

Amarillo - 56 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)
Comet - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)

Comet - 28 g @ 0 min (when chilling started)
Hallertau Blanc - 56 g @ 0 min (when chilling started)

Amarillo - 39 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Comet - 42 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Hallertau Blanc - 42 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III (with a starter, ~260 billion cells)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 10 g Gypsum and 10 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on November 15th, 2015, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water; mash temp was reading all over the place at first, ranging from 150-158 F. Finally settled at 151 F; still holding at this temp at end of rest. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7.5 L of boiling water to 165 F. Sparged with ~3.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.052 (target 1.054). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.5 gallons; OG low at 1.070 (after sugar calculation). Chilled to 62 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast slurry at 64 F.

- Fermentation took off quickly, going strong by the next morning. After a couple of days it started to slow, so I added the sugar in two separate additions over 12 hours, after boiling and cooling in some water.

- 4/12/15 - FG ~1.010. Threw dry hops in fermentor. Bottled 5 days later, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, but wasn't thinking about loss to trub and hop matter, so only got ~4 gallons. Results in a too-high carbonation of ~2.9 vol.

Please excuse the crappiness of this photo

Appearance: Pours with a medium-large, off-white head that sticks around for quite some time before fading to 1/2-finger (probably at least partially due to the high carbonation). Body is quite hazy, with a light-golden colour. Slightly effervescent.

Aroma: Really big citrus and grapefruit bomb, and a tiny bit dank. All hops.

Taste: Plenty of grapefruit, lots of citrus and tropical fruit upfront, with a bit of dank following behind, as in the aroma. Supporting malt character is minimal, but keeps it in check. Finishes with a moderate bitterness, plenty dry.

Mouthfeel: Moderate-high carbonation, medium-light bodied. Slightly oily mouthfeel, I assume from the combination of the London Ale III and all the hop oils.

Overall: I quite like it. Too heavy on the carbonation, my fault for not thinking ahead. While it isn't as good as last year's Christmas beer, this is definitely the best DIPA I've brewed in a while.