Thursday, July 19, 2012

Recipe and Tasting Notes: Nelson Sauvin Single Hop Pale Ale

Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: Pale Ale
Brewed: 5.21.2012
ABV: 4.3%

Appearance: murky amber, could be clearer; fizzy small head
Smell: bright, berry-like hops. rich, vibrant and fruity
Taste: sweet, tangy, berry-like hops. subtle, bright fruit character. clean bitterness
Mouthfeel: mild carbonation, thin body. flowery, delicate; highly drinkable

Well what do you know, it's time for another one of my single-hopped, super-hopped beers featuring an exotic new variety from the far side of the world. This time, it was Nelson Sauvin. And oh what a hop it is.

One of the many nice things about these single-hop pale ales is you can mess around quite a bit with your base recipe, and so long as you throw enough hops at it, you'll almost certainly get a decent beer that really showcases its unique aromas and flavors. I've been messing around with different combinations of grains for my base IPA / pale ale recipe, and here I decided to brew something extremely small and sessionable: this one measures in just above 4.3% ABV. In fact, I should confess that I had actually designed this to be a saison at first — was gonna call it Nelson Sauvin Saison, you know? — but then I realized I don't particularly feel like drinking a saison right now and decided to just convert this into a light pale ale instead. 

So my chief complaint with this beer is that it came out rather thin, with a very clean yet borderline watery mouthfeel, but that's not surprising. I used a light malt base with nothing in the way of body-enhancing grains, and then fermented with Nottingham, a highly attentuative yeast that's of course going to thin out a beer. Carbonation came out a little too low, and again because of the grain bill, there's only a thin bubbly head with very little retention. All that could easily be fixed: this beer just needs more body, and the head needs more staying power. Still, for a light sessionable beer, it's nicely clean and crisp, and extremely drinkable. My issues with the light body are very much eased by how tasty it is.

Back to the hops: they're great. Nelson Sauvin is responsible for that, of course. Honestly, just based on the single-hop beers I've been able to try, Nelson Sauvin might be my new favorite variety. I'm not sure any other single variety can match it for complexity or tastiness. It's probably most similar to Citra, if anything, but with more of a berry-like sweetness than Citra's tropical fruitiness. Nelson Sauvin is interesting all-around. All the descriptions I've read online usually indicate "white wine fruitiness" and "gooseberries." Weird as those sound, I think they're pretty spot-on. The main association I get here is definitely "berries." Sweet, juicy berries, followed by an interestingly tangy, tart character that I wouldn't expect from a hop. I can see how someone would get a white wine grape character out of this, as the complexity of that berry flavor is pretty deep, and there are just a whole bunch of undertones going on. The aroma is fantastic, with a subtler flavor, clean finish, and gentle bitterness. Further proof that IBU measurements are often highly misleading: this is a 4.3% ABV pale ale with a calculated 80 IBUs, and it tastes like... a pale ale. Not a particularly bitter one, I don't think. It's all about the hops you're using, folks. I haven't been very strict with calculating my IBUs according to style for these single-hop beers, because most of the hops I'm using aren't known for their harsh bitterness, and most of the IBUs I'm getting are from first-wort and late hop additions — I'm not overloading on the 60 minute additions. Plus, I'm brewing these specifically to focus on the hops, anyway.

While the body on this beer is too thin, it is a ridiculously easy drinker and packed full of flavor. It's exactly where it should be on the sweet/dry/bitter spectrum too, with no fermentation issues that I can pick out. This is easily one of my favorite batches, flavor-wise, and I give all the credit to Nelson Sauvin. This hop kicks ass. I'm thinking a Nelson Sauvin / Galaxy Imperial IPA is a definite must on my brew schedule later this year.

3.5 Gal., All Grain
Mashed at 154 degrees for 60 minutes
Fermented at 66 degrees
OG: 1.044
FG: 1.011

49.2 % Vienna
49.2 %  Pilsner malt
1.6 % Special B malt

Hop Schedule-
80 IBU
0.5 oz Nelson Sauvin FWH
0.5 oz  Nelson Sauvin @15
1.0 oz  Nelson Sauvin @10
1.0 oz  Nelson Sauvin @5
2.0 oz  Nelson Sauvin dry hop 7 days

Nottingham Dry Ale Yeast


  1. Hey man as a fellow home brewer just letting you know I really enjoy your blog and keep it up.


  2. Thanks! I really appreciate that. Homebrewing is just the best.

  3. Just did a Nelson single hop pale that over-attenuated & morphed into a wonderful tangy fruity IPA. Nelson mixes amazingly with Citra too, in case you haven't tried it yet!

    When somebody asks me what my favorite hop is I say Nelson & Citra. Preferably together. :)

  4. Yeah, that combination sounds awesome. I am definitely planning to do an imperial-ish IPA with Nelson Sauvin later this year, and I was debating on whether to accompany it with Galaxy or Citra... probably whichever is more readily available. But I might have to go with Citra for sure now! Thanks for the recommendation.


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