Thursday, September 20, 2012

Recipe and Tasting Notes: Killshot IPA (ver. 2)

Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: American IPA
Brewed: 7.29.2012
ABV: 7.8%

Appearance: dark amber, a bit murky, perfect amount of head, good retention
Smell: orange, peach, apricot, tropical fruit hops
Taste: resinous, slick hops, tropical fruit, orange, peach, citrus, biscuity malt
Mouthfeel: a bit sticky, almost creamy, clean finish for an IPA

When I set out to create a new recipe, I usually have a couple objectives in mind. I want to experiment, develop recipes unique to Bear Flavored — and, I have to confess, there's a part of my mind urging me to craft recipes as if I might someday have a professional brewery. What does that mean? Well, it seems like a fools-errand to think I can just tweak the same usual ingredients, the same hop profiles found in a dozen A-grade IPAs, and brew something better than the best brewers already do. So, at least for now, I'm trying to throw a few underdog hop varieties into my IPA; change things up from the standard C-hops and Simcoe combinations. Which is not to say I'm avoiding those hops: they're popular (and scarce) for a reason. But I'll get to them next time.

This incarnation of Killshot IPA — the name I'll give my 'house' IPA recipe — relies heavily on Apollo and Summit hops, two varieties rarely given credit for their flavor contributions, and which are thus fairly easy to obtain and inexpensive. Apollo and Summit are both super-high alpha acid varieties developed for bittering, but when people describe their flavor, "orange" and "tangerine" are usually mentioned, as well as "dank." An IPA with big orange, citrus and dank flavors, with smooth bitterness from ample late-hop additions — sounds good to me.

The other thing I was trying with this one: after I had this recipe planned out and ready to go, I read about Conan, the private yeast strain that John Kimmich developed over the years at The Alchemist. Heady Topper is my favorite IPA, mostly for its huge, juicy hop aroma. Kimmich attributes part of that fruity, juicy aroma to Conan, his proprietary yeast strain, which gives off flavors of apricot and peach. Obviously, I had to try this, so I cultured Conan from a few cans of Heady Topper and used it to ferment this entire batch. It was not my goal to 'clone' Heady Topper, but to utilize a new tool in perfecting my own unique IPA. There are so many breweries making so many different IPAs these days, you kind of need to throw in a curveball of some kind to set yourself apart. A house yeast strain wold be an ideal way to accomplish this — if you can find a yeast strain that benefits the hoppy character of the beer.

The results? Well, Conan the Yeast is a champ, for one thing. Killshot IPA is definitely one of my best batches to date, and probably my personal favorite. Conan pulls its weight, providing a big peachy aroma that acts as a sort of backbone for the dry hops — and I did throw a ton of dry hops at this one, the most I've used in any batch so far. The total batch size here was 3.5 gallons, and I used 8 ounces of hops total, 4 ounces just for dry hopping. Excessive? Probably.

The initial flavor coming from fridge-temp is rich and almost kind of harsh, as if all the hop flavor, maltiness, sweetness and booze hits in one compact punch. It's enough to throw you off for the first few sips, like this is an even bigger beer than it actually is, but as it warms and mellows, Killshot becomes extremely pleasant. Once the beer opens up, each character takes on its own strong presence. There's a biscuity malt flavor in the finish that's pretty fleeting, and an overall richness that I think is more from the resinous, sticky hops than any malt. Apollo and Summit are both described as dank, resiny and orange-y, and that's a lot how I would describe Killshot, though there are many more complex fruit flavors going on than just that. The Citra dry-hop contributes more tropical interpretations of the flavor, while Amarillo hops work with the Conan yeast to add a pleasant peach character that's downright tender compared to the rougher resin flavors.

If I were to drink this blind, I would probably note that it tastes sweet in some interesting ways, which it does. But having created the beer, I think most of the suggestions of sweetness come from factors other than actual residual sugar. The hops are juicy and resinous, slick, and I could swear they seem to even add to the mouthfeel. Conan, too, seems to add its own sort of sweetness, a more delicate flavor that's closely tied to the fruit associations. And of course, there's enough booze here that Killshot is already on the richer side.

This thing is really drinkable once it opens up, pleasantly hoppy without being harsh, and just as I was hoping for, hoppy in ways that differ from your typical American IPA. The meld of hop characters work together as well as I could have hoped for, and stack up to something really interesting and tasty. This is probably my first batch that I would rather drink over a good percentage of its commercial siblings — a milestone which I've been looking forward to crossing for a while (and which doesn't really say all that much, since I am brewing for my own specific tastes.) Of course there are still many superior IPAs out there — what do I look like, a wizard? — but there are even more that I'm disappointed or underwhelmed by, and I can humbly say that I'd rather drink a Killshot than a lot of them.

So would I change anything? Certainly; there's plenty of room for improvement. I was surprised how dark this came out, since my grain bill, as you can see below, looks pretty light. In future iterations of this, I'll scratch the Munich and Carared altogether, maybe trying a small percentage of wheat and rye instead for the added body and head retention without the murky amber color. The ABV can be dialed down — I had no idea what sort of attentuation Conan might be capable of, so that was a big variable this time. The ABV and the thick oily impression given by such a huge dose make this maybe a little too "rich," and I'd like to "lighten" it some. With a lower FG and lighter body, I think the hops can even be scaled down too — never thought I'd hear myself saying that — but so many high AA varieties coating the beer give it more stickiness than it needs.

And now... I already can't wait to brew my next IPA.

3.5 Gal., All Grain
6.3 SRM
Mashed at 152 degrees for 70 minutes
Fermented at 65 degrees (let warm to 66 after 2 days, 68 after 4 days)
OG: 1.074
FG: 1.015

93.4 % Canada Malting Pale Malt
4.3 % Munich malt
2.3 % Carared

Hop Schedule-
118 IBU
0.5 oz Summit FWH
1.5 oz Summit @15-5
1.0 oz Apollo @ 15-5
1.0 oz Amarillo @ 15-5
2.0 oz Citra dry hop 7 days
2.0 oz  Apollo dry hop 7 days

Conan (Alchemist proprietary strain)


  1. Man, I wish I could've tried this! You could probably keep the munich--so long as it was light--& drop the Carared (obviously) & get a nice rich golden color. I was curious how a summit/apollo combo in an IPA might work (late additions/dry-hopping), so thanks for posting this.

  2. so question about your hop schedge...15-5??? What does that mean?


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