Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recipe and Tasting Notes: Rakau Single Hop Pale Ale

Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: Pale Ale
Brewed: 3.25.2012
ABV: 5.2%

Appearance: golden orange; creamy thick head
Smell: earthy, floral; bready malts, sulfury yeast; faint hop aroma
Taste: earthy, floral, grassy, spicy. sulfury-yeast, tart. mild bitterness. mellow fruity hops; orange and apricot
Mouthfeel: medium-high carbonation; should be a lot lower. crisp and medium bodied

Well, this is... interesting. I've been more excited to try out these new Rakau hops than probably any other new variety. Descriptions online gave me the impression that Rakau imparts a peach / apricot / passionfruit character. They sounded interesting, and I had pretty great results with Galaxy, another hop from that corner of the world with tropical fruit characteristics.

Yet more than any other batch I've brewed, this one was not what I expected. This doesn't taste like an American pale ale — and since I brewed it, and set out to brew a pale ale, I must have screwed something up along the way — but it does taste like a lot like a pale ale fermented with Belgian yeast. If I told you that this was a Belgian pale ale, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't flinch. But as an American pale ale, you'd be all "where's that spicy phenolic character coming from?" And I have to admit: I'm not really sure. Nothing in this beer, or the way it was fermented, should have produced such flavors.

Oddly enough, when I took my first gravity reading, a few days before bottling, the sample was really promising: clean, tart fruit flavors, like under-ripe apricot with some citrus and orange. That sample had a brighter, crisper fruit character than any IPA I've brewed. Yet strangely, the end result tastes nothing like that sample. Once bottled, it developed a bizarre Belgian-like character: those spicy phenols and a grassy, floral hop character that sticks to the throat. It's not unpleasant, and while it wasn't what I was expecting, it doesn't really come across as an "off-flavor" either. It doesn't taste messed up... it tastes like a Belgian-inspired pale ale.

Partly, I now believe that Rakau hops just weren't what I was expecting. While I have yet to actually encounter another beer featuring Rakau, I've read about a few online. Hill Farmstead (unsurprisingly) did their own single-hop Rakau pale ale, and the descriptions seem more or less in line with what I experienced: grassy, earthy, spicy, with subtle fruit. Rakau doesn't seem to be the fruit-bomb I was hoping for, though it does have a noticeable apricot / orange flavor that comes in late and lingers — tart, dry, and very different from Galaxy or Citra. I can maybe pick out hints of peach in there, but what throws me is how grassy and floral this beer is.

First, there's my water: I hadn't yet gotten a water filter when I brewed this, and I forgot to treat my brew water with a Campden tablet the night before. Whoops. Chlorophenols are very likely a part of the unexpected flavor — they can produce something like the "spicy" character of Belgian beers. Combined with other factors, I think this was a large part of it.

The yeast I used — White Labs Dry English Ale Yeast — shouldn't have produced Belgian-like phenols itself, not under these conditions: I pitched a large, more-than-adequate starter, fermented in the mid/high 60's, within the yeast's boundaries. However: as I noted with my rye porter, I am not a fan of White Labs' WLP007, which in my experience produces an earthy, sulfur-smelling character that never fully clears up. (I've also been having some DMS issues thanks to my new apartment's crappy stove, which I'm guessing enhances this dank character, though I don't think it's a significant factor in this particular beer.) So while I don't understand exactly why I ended up with something that tastes like a hoppy saison, it seems a bunch of random factors (the unexpected earthiness of Rakau, my unfiltered Beacon water, a bit of DMS and dank yeast character) combined to produce this.

And finally, due to the dumped-into-one-big-bag packaging of the hops that I bought online, I decided at the last minute to not dry-hop my Rakau pale ale (I always have with my IPAs and pale ales before) and use those extra two ounces of hops for some hop-bursting at the end of the boil, to see how much of a difference it would make. Conclusion: dry-hopping makes a big difference that late addition hops don't counterbalance.

3 Gal., All Grain
Mashed 60 minutes at 148 degrees
Primary fermentation 68-70 degrees F
OG: 1.050
FG: 1.010

59.4 % Vienna Malt
34.7 % 2-row
5.9 % C-20

Hop Schedule-
88 IBU
0.5 oz Rakau @FWH
0.5 oz Rakau @60 minutes
1.0 oz Rakau @15 minutes 
1.0 oz Rakau @10 minutes  
1.0 oz Rakau @5 minutes
1.0 oz Rakau @1 minute

White Labs Dry English Ale Yeast (WL007)


  1. I was really let down by Rakau as well. So much so that I didn't even brew with them. Half a pound is still in my freezer. All I get is grass from smelling them.

  2. Rakau Pale Ale

    1.5 gallon batch
    90 minute mash @ 152F
    ferment @ 66F
    OG: 1.056
    FG: 1.014

    83.5% Pale malt
    4.3% C-60
    4.3% Munich
    4.3% Vienna
    3.5% carapils/dextrine

    42 IBU's
    30 IBU FWH
    12 IBU 15 min
    .5oz dry hop 5 days

    A nicely balanced pale ale....give these hops another try with the above recipe, I promise you won't be disappointed.

    1. Thanks! I will at some point. I'm pretty sure there were some other flaws happening in my brew that hid the hop's better qualities.

  3. My first and only experience with Rakau was also disappointing. With any hop new to me I like to brew a simple IPA style recipe to try and judge its character. I ended up with a boring, earthy tasting beer which was perfectly drinkable, but didn't inspire me to use Rakau again.


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