Thursday, 5 May 2016

Nelson Sauvin Session IPA

It's been awhile since I've brewed a new entry in my series of one-hop Session IPAs; while I did rebrew the Equinox Session IPA a few months ago, the last new entry was almost a year ago, when I brewed one with Summer hops. While not a bad beer, it was the least enjoyable out of all of them (Mosaic and Equinox were both great, El Dorado was quite good); it was the first and only time I've brewed with Summer, and the hop aroma and flavour was extremely mild compared to the other Session IPAs I've brewed. I always enjoy having a sessionable, hoppy beer on tap, so it was definitely time for me to re-visit this series, and I had a lot of hop varieties I was anxious to try out.

Before choosing a hop, however, I decided to make this a completely different Session IPA from the other four I had brewed. For those, I was happy to have dialled in a grist, mash temp, hop schedule, and yeast that I felt were all where I wanted them to be for a beer like this. The grist was made up of ~70% 2-row, 11% each Munich and Wheat malt, 5.5% Crystal 40 L, and ~2% Acid malt. I mashed high (~155 F) to keep the body up, which is of course always a challenge when you brew beers in the 4-4.5% ABV range (or lower). I fermented all of the Session IPAs with US-05, which I had been using for basically all of my hoppy beers then.

But, I've really been enjoying fermenting hoppy beers with London Ale III; if you follow along with this blog, you can definitely attest to that. My last six hoppy beers have all been fermented with this strain, and I love how it works with the hops I've used, giving a really fruity beer with a fantastic, creamy mouthfeel. I wanted to try using this strain in a Session IPA, of course, but felt that I didn't really need a grist with 30% specialty malt; I was pretty sure a simpler grain bill with the proper mash temp would be sufficient with LAIII.

It was easy for me to decide on a grist after picking out the yeast strain. Even though I've only used it twice now, for a simple, delicious malt bill that pairs great with hops and LAIII, I feel that you can't go wrong with the Row 2, Hill 56 clone: Pilsner and Maris Otter, light Crystal and Carapils, and a bit of Acid malt. I used it recently in an APA with Azacca and Galaxy, and that beer was one of my favourites I've brewed in a while. I scaled down the recipe to an OG of 1.048, and decided to aim for a mash temp of 154 F; while not completely sure, I was pretty confident that it would give enough body in the beer.

There, everything decided! Oh wait, the hops. While I had many varieties on hand that I had never used on their own before, I couldn't help but be drawn back to maybe my favourite variety, Nelson Sauvin. Ah, what a wonderful hop. I know I don't have to tell you that, but I can't help it. It's so delicious. And surprisingly, I had quite a lot of it on hand, so I was really interested in brewing another one-hop beer with it; the first one was a completely different beer, my Prairie 'Merica clone, a SMaSH Saison. I really loved that beer, and it was two and a half years ago that I brewed it, so it was settled - Nelson Sauvin Session IPA it is. I kept the hop schedule for this beer the same as what I had used before: a little bit of a bittering addition at 60 (I used Polaris, and only 4 g, to get ~9 IBUs), then Nelson at 10 minutes (1 oz), at flameout for a 15-min steep (2 oz), and a dry-hop (3 oz). Six ounces total for the batch, definitely nothing crazy, but I've had great results with this method, and Nelson is pretty expressive to say the least.

Aside from fermenting with LAIII, I added some Gypsum and calcium chloride to my mash as I have done for all hoppy beers over the last six months or more. While I may not have everything completely dialled in yet, I feel like I'm getting pretty close, for my tastes anyway. Aiming for a chloride:sulfate ratio of about 1:1, with both numbers in the 100-150 ppm range, seems to work really well. If you haven't tested your water or tracked down a water report, I suggest you do. You don't necessarily have to be a water expert; obviously, the more you know, the easier it is to understand and tweak, but if you're into hoppy beers (and I assume you are if you're reading this), this higher-chloride-than-we-used-to-think-was-a-good-idea approach really does help in brewing some tasty beers.

Well, now that I'm drinking this beer, I definitely have a decision to make about future Session IPAs, because I really like how this turned out. That's easy to say when you're brewing with Nelson, but aside from how well the hop comes through in this beer, I think I may prefer this style with the R2H56 grist and fermenting with LAIII. The beer looks fantastic, pale-gold-coloured and hazy, just like I like it to look; huge tropical aroma (I admit I wouldn't know what a gooseberry smells like, but if this truly is it, then I gotta buy me some gooseberries to string into a necklace so I can wear it all day long); I admit the flavour isn't quite as punchy as I expected from the aroma, but it's still very good. Smooth and creamy, as are so many beers (I've found) when fermenting with LAIII.

I also think that ~6 oz is enough hops for this style of beer; I've had other homebrews that used more hops, and they didn't strike me as hoppier in either aroma or flavour, really. I'm a firm believer now that there is a too-many-hops point for beer; whether this is due to hop-flavour-overload/contrasting, pH changes with increasing dry-hopping, or something else, I don't know, but there it is. If this beer could use any changes at all, the only one I would make would be a longer hop steep, which would likely bump up the flavour intensity a little bit. Otherwise, I'm happy with this, and at the calculated ABV of 4.3%, it's perfectly sessionable, and about right where I want a hoppy beer to be in terms of appearance, aroma and flavour.

It's just too bad that Nelson Sauvin is so damned expensive and hard to get...

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 80% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.013, IBU ~35, SRM 4.5, ABV ~4.5%

2.3 kg (57.1%) Bohemian Pilsner
1.35 kg (33.5%) Maris Otter
160 g (4%) CaraRed (20 L)
120 g (3%) Carapils
100 g (2.5%) Acid malt

Polaris - 4 g (20% AA) @ 60 min
Nelson Sauvin - 28 g (10.5% AA) @ 10 min

Nelson Sauvin - 56 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

Nelson Sauvin - 84 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, ~175 billion cells)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 7 g Gypsum and 7 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on March 21st, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water; mash temp a bit low at 153.5 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 5.5 L of boiling water to 168 F. Sparged with ~4.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.038 (target 1.039). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 gallons; OG a bit low at 1.047. Chilled to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 64 F.

- Good airlock activity by the next morning; 24 hours after that, it had slowed significantly; temp never got higher than 68 F.

- 4/4/16 - FG 1.013. Added dry hops into primary.

- 10/4/16 - Racked beer to keg, set in keezer overnight to bring temp down, then force-carbed at 30 PSI for 36 hours before dropping down to 10 PSI.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white fluffy head that shows good retention, eventually fading to 1/4-finger or so. Beautiful, light-golden colour for the body, quite hazy.

Aroma: Yeah, that's Nelson alright! Tons of fruit, very berry-like, maybe just a touch of dank. It's basically all hops in the aroma, and I'm ok with that.

Taste: Same; lots of berry fruitiness, very juicy, as expected. Finishes with a medium bitterness, dry and refreshing. Nice supporting malt character, just a light breadiness that works perfectly.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, moderate carbonation. Very smooth and creamy.

Overall: I don't use the word crushable, but if I did, I'd certainly use it here. Up there with the Equinox for my favourite Session IPAs I've brewed so far.