Thursday, March 20, 2014

Citra / Centennial / Apollo IPA - Recipe & Tasting Notes

Citra / Centennial / Apollo IPA


Beer: Troika IPA
Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: American IPA
Brewed: 1.29.14
Kegged On: 2.16.14
ABV: 5.7%

Appearance: orange gold, soft lingering haze, ample head with good retention
Smell: bright citrus hops, orange, tropical fruit, mango, grapefruit, slight dankness
Taste: orange citrus, tropical rich fruit, mango, sweet creamsicle, creamy malts
Mouthfeel: full body, creamy presence, medium carbonation, very soft bitterness

In spite of their ubiquitous presence in craft beer bars and the style's unrelenting popularity, it's actually not all that easy to find a really great IPA — unless you happen to live close to the right breweries. (In my opinion, anyway.) Non-fans are quick to dismiss IPAs as an easy style to brew, because you can just dump a bunch of hops in to cover up flaws. On some level, this is true: it's easier to brew an average / acceptable IPA than with most styles. Still, I maintain that it's incredibly hard to brew a great IPA — as evidenced, in my humble opinion, by the fact that there are so few breweries doing so. The market is littered with thousands of average IPAs.

Not all of this is the fault of brewer's exactly. The dirty secret of IPAs is that packaging and freshness can cripple an otherwise solid IPA just as readily as brewing flaws.

So, needless to say, I'm still chasing the harpoon-studded tail of the Perfect IPA, and likely will be for some time. But I'm getting closer. At the risk of sounding full of myself, let's just say that it's getting harder and harder to go the bar and order an IPA that doesn't leave me feeling disappointed. 

That's not entirely me being a smarmy pretentious beer snob, though: we homebrewers have a few advantages when it comes to brewing IPAs. For starters — and this is a big one — there's no guessing as to how fresh the beer is. No shipping, no sitting in a cellar, no getting neglected at the bottom of a tap list for weeks until someone kills the keg. (Hopefully no dirty taplines, either.) And more importantly, any beer we brew is going to be exactly catered to our own tastes. So long as we have the skill, we can make the beer we want to drink far more specifically than any commercial brewer ever could.

But there are cons, too — significant cons in the case of IPAs. While I think that my IPAs have generally gotten better and better over time, there was always something naggingly not-perfect about the hop character, something in the aroma that didn't jell quite as coherently as I knew it could, and some lack of vibrance that made the beer fall apart far too soon. However good they were for the first week or two, there was something that seemed to 'muddle' the hop character and hold it back from transcendence. I always suspected that that muddling, limiting factor was oxygen. O2 is Kryptonite to hops, and regardless of the CO2 blanket that helpfully protects our beers during and after fermentation, oxygen is going to get into your beer once you start dry-hopping and bottling. 

And this, ultimately, is why I started kegging. Not convenience, not the time-saving, but simply to have more tools to protect my IPAs from oxygen-pickup. 

Troika IPA, a showcase of a three-hop combo that I'm quite fond of, was more of a test batch than anything, and I tried to use up some old-ish hops I had sitting in the freezer just in case I screwed something up and turned my keg into a beer fire hose. Which is not to say that it was a throw-away recipe: the combination of Citra, Centennial and Apollo hops is incredibly appealing to me, and I think one of the many secrets of great IPAs is finding a few complimentary hops that work to enhance each other's best qualities, rather than competing for attention. Citra is a bit funky, Centennial is distinctly New American, and Apollo is extremely dank, but all are very fruit-forward hops with a bent toward orange citrus character. Each adds tropical touches and a juicy character, but together they cohere wonderfully, creating a flavor that's distinct and memorable while also super refreshing. Fermented by Conan yeast and with a decent percentage of wheat in the grain bill to give the brew a creamy mouthfeel, there are definitely shades of Heady Topper in this one — both beers I get a pronounced "creamy orange citrus juice" quality from. The Citra, Centennial and Apollo hop combo is one I will be using again — as far as IPA concepts go, I think "Troika" has been firmly established in my roster.  

Which is not to say it still can't be improved. I would be neglectful if I didn't mention a few shortcomings with this batch that were mostly the result of me being scatterbrained lately. As I mentioned, I dashed this one off quick just to test out my new kegging techniques and equipment, so I was careless with a few things. Intended to be a stronger IPA than it came out, I had meant to add some corn sugar to this after a few days in primary. Not only did I forget that addition, but the reliably-unreliable Conan yeast decided to finish a few points high on this batch. With a terminal gravity of 1.014, it's noticeably fuller than it should be, finishing with a touch of lingering sweetness that the low level of bitterness doesn't tame. I love the soft creamy mouthfeel of the beer, but I need to achieve the same thing with a lower FG and less residual sugar. The wheat is already there to pull off that trick, so it shouldn't be hard to fix most of these issues with the next rebrew.

While I still have a few adjustments to make to my technique (I clogged up four dip-tubes with this batch), my new CO2-blanketed dry-hopping technique is already paying off. There was a noticeable improvement in the hop aroma here, both in coherence, vibrancy and longevity. It's the best put-together IPA I've made so far, and one of my favorite-tasting batches of beer. Perhaps the best indication of its quality: I killed this keg a week before I published this post about it. That marks the first time I've ever finished drinking an entire batch before I could actually blog about it... and that's saying something.


Recipe-
5 Gal., All Grain
Brewed 1.29.2014
Brewhouse Efficiency: 76%
Mashed at 150 degrees for 70 minutes
Fermented at 66 F, let warm slowly to 70 after 3 days
OG: 1.057
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.7%

Malt-
87.8% (9 lbs) 2-row malt
9.8% (1 lb) white wheat malt
2.4% (4 oz) Caramalt

Hop Schedule-
0.25 oz Apollo @FWH
0.75 oz Apollo @0
3 oz Citra @ whirlpool
2 oz Citra dry hop for 6 days
2 oz Centennial dry hop for 6 days

Yeast-
The Alchemist Conan Ale Yeast



27 comments:

  1. This is another one of your posts where with every paragraph I kept saying, "Yes, yes, yes...". My feelings about IPA are probably insufferable to all who'll listen, but I feel the same way: I'm looking for something very specific in an IPA; a hop saturated *flavor* rather than tongue-lashing bitterness. I like that you hit on a lot of the difficulties we have as homebrewers brewing IPA: the lurking oxygen found everywhere. Do you think oats would be a stand-in for the wheat in this one for creamy mouthfeel? Also, is "caramalt" the equivalent of c-pils? Great post!

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    1. Haha, we're definitely on the same page. I actually have been alternating (as you can probably see if for some reason you go looking back through my recipes) between using Golden Naked Oats and just white wheat for the "creamy" mouthfeel factor. I still haven't decided which one I like more — with so many variables I haven't had anything close to an exact comparison. I've seen plenty of breweries like Tired Hands using oats in their IPAs to think it should work just fine.

      Caramalt is actually about 27 Lovibond, so it's probably closer to Caramunich than Cara-pils. As it happens, this is basically the makeup of the Heady Topper grainbill as well... coincidence?

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  2. I put your recipe in Beersmith, which gives me about 17-18 IBUs. If you brew it again, would you add more of a bittering charge earlier?

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    1. Keep in mind, BeerSmith doesn't calculate IBUs for flameout or whirlpool hops. I usually add them in as 5 or 10 minute additions just to get some closer sense of the calculated IBUs, but in general I'm really ballparking it. (IBUs are overrated.) I think this is actually right about where I want it... with the FG a bit higher than I wanted, a little drier body will bring out the soft bitterness a bit more.

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    2. beersmith now has a option for whirlpool hops, not sure yet if it works nicely !

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    3. Oh nice, I hadn't noticed that yet. I'll have to try it out!

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  3. Are you multiple generations in on your cultured Alchemist Conan yeast? If so, have you noticed any drift in the behavior or profile of the yeast. The only version of that yeast that I've used is Al's at ECY, and it was a difficult yeast to work with (poor attenuation and low floculation). I may try another version of it if I can get my hands on it.

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    1. I am, and it's absolutely a pain in the ass yeast to work with. Like I said in the write-up, this batch finished a few points higher than I wanted, though this wasn't a surprise. Conan's attenuation seems to get lower and lower from gen to gen. I've been using this for 2 or 3 generations in-house, but who knows what generation it was when I harvested it from HT. That's also the problem with most of the commercial sources selling Conan now... many of them harvested late-generation Conan, so it's never really going to be "fresh" exactly. There's no way to know if you got an early-generation can, you just gotta get lucky.

      I am curious what sort of experience people have with the Gigayeast and other versions of Conan... hopefully they got luckier than Al did with his.

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    2. If the commercial sources harvested it from HT, then yes, that is a good point about the generation of the yeast. Hill Farmstead used to use Conan (apparently no longer), and The Alchemist still does, so there must be a lab/bank somewhere for the Greg Noonan yeast to be purchased outside of growing it up from a can of HT. I wonder if any of the commercially available options are sourced from somewhere other than Heady Topper?

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    3. I'm fairly sure all the yeast companies selling Conan now have isolated it from cans of Heady. I know that's how Al from ECY got it, and the other operations that I've seen are even newer / smaller than ECY. But I agree with you completely that there's obviously a yeast bank somewhere re-upping the Alchemist with Conan... and this has been bugging me for a while. I'm not an expert on how yeast banks treat proprietary strains, but I'd guess that wherever it is that Kimmich has it banked, no one else has access to it. I wouldn't be surprised if it's simply banked at White Labs and they're just not allowed to sell it to anyone else, at least not that version of it. If they were, it seems the cat would have been out of the bag awhile ago and more established yeast companies would be openly selling versions of it.

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  4. Can you go over your CO2 process? I've been having similar issues with my hops being sooo close, not quite nailing it. Also you have 3/4 apollo @ 0 and then the citra @ Whirlpool. When do you start "whirlpool?" at flameout? or after the temp drops below 200? my next brew I want to try experimenting with multiple whirlpool additions across several temp ranges.

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    1. So what I'm gonna do for IPAs like this: about 1.5 - 2 weeks in, when fermentation is all wrapped up, I'll transfer to a keg, add my dry hops in a filter of some kind, then purge with CO2. Dry hop under CO2 in this keg for 4 - 5 days, cold crash for a day or two, then transfer from that "secondary" keg into a serving keg —once again, no oxygen contact, just CO2 pressure. There are a few other tricks I think brewers can pull to maximum hop aroma, but I feel this is the big one that homebrewers can practically and easily take advantage of. The less chance of any oxygen whatsoever touching your dry-hopped beer, the better.

      The Apollo went in at flameout, while the Citra got added a bit later, when the wort had cooled to around 180 F. Just like you said, adding hops at multi temperature ranges in the hop stand stage helps bring out a bit more variety of character, I think.

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  5. Great writeup! I totally agree about the freshness. I've given up on buying bottled IPA for this reason. Once you get used to fresh homebrew it's hard to go back. I still need to get into kegging though.

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  6. Derek, do you have a keg dedicated as a conditioning tank? I been saying my next purchase will be another keg to dedicate as a conditioning tank that has the dip tube sawed off a few inches up to be able to dry hop without oxygen contact & just in general to get more clear beer before it hits the serving keg. Cheers!

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    1. Exactly. I wasn't even worried about clear beer so much as just clogging the keg, and even after trimming the dip-tube in my conditioning keg, it still clogged. I got a special mesh tube thing to dry-hop in for next time, but most people just use a mesh bag. Either way, I like this setup better than just dry hopping directly in the serving keg. You can control the contact time and still cold-crash off much of the trub, theoretically.

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  7. Hey there Bear-Flavored fellow fermentationist! I've got a question for you re: your aroma hop additions - how do you differentiate between zero-minute and hop stand additions and how do you yourself accomplish this?

    I'll be doing a Cali-Belgique IPA on Sunday to get my Chimay yeast going with this grain bill, just intrigued with how it would turn out. :) But I've been dying to get my hands on Conan - here in Sweden it's virtually impossible, which is very, very unfortunate.

    Another great post - I love how active you've been lately and I've been eager to read them as they come out!

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    1. Basically the zero minute addition goes in right at flameout, and stays in for the duration of the "whirlpool" (hopstand), but depending on how many hops I want to add (such as for this beer), I'll do a second addition once the temp drops down below 180 F. This continues to whirlpool for another 30 minutes or so, before I cool to room temp and transfer to the fermentor. Same setup, just different timings.

      Hopefully now that some other yeast companies are releasing their versions of Conan there will be some opportunities to ship it internationally!

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  8. Hey Derek just started reading your blog and I'm hooked on it. I have started dry hopping in a keg recently and use a pretty nifty item from arborfab.com to filter the hops

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    1. Awesome! I have a similar hop screen filter that I got off another site, but I like all the options they have on arborfab.com. I'll have to bookmark that in case I need some more new toys, thanks!

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  9. That beer looks great! Curious, are you carbing your beers low or is it for a better pic? The reason I ask is because I've noticed Shaun Hill carbs his low and I'm wondering if it has something to do with the soft mouthfeel of his beers...

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    1. Thanks! I would say I aim on the lower side, though there were a few factors with this one. Mainly, as my first kegging experience, I was still getting a feel for things. The first week it poured super foamy until I got the carbonation stuff figured out. When it started to settle, I decided I like to keep the serving pressure low, around 4 - 5 PSI. Not as much head, but I seemed to like the pour and aroma better that way. Finally, after snapping a dozen or so pics to find one I like, it sometimes happens that I end up with a pic from after the head has settled a bit... I believe this was the case here, as there was definitely a nice finger of head after pouring.

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  10. I think the other advantage homebrewers have when brewing IPA's is the availability of hops. Right now I'm on the board of a non-profit brewery in Portland and as a start up, just to get contracted for Mosaic, Simcoe, Citra, and any other popular hop could be 2 or 3 years away! As a homebrewer I can easily order a pound of any of these any day I want them. Breweries are much more restricted. So unfortunately, unless you're an established brewery with preferential hop contracts (or incredible foresight!) or you know someone, you're kind of stuck trying to figure out how to brew a really good IPA with Centennial, Cascade, etc. when the palate of most IPA drinkers are attuned to Nelson, Citra, Mosaic. It's tough to compete with those!

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    1. Good point! It's got be the hardest for small start-up breweries, who really need to make a name for themselves but just don't have the leverage to get the ingredients they could really use.

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  11. I wanted to brew a wheat IPA for the summer and found a recipe online, but I was really interested in not only first wort hopping but also whirlpooling as well. Your excellent blog taught me about the latter, and I'm excited to use this recipe instead because you used both with such great success. However, I'm an extract brewer (no space or money to move to all-grain just yet) so I used a calculation I found online to convert the base malt to extract and a source for the specialty malts. My fermenters are full for the moment (best "problem" I've ever had) but when I get everything together I'll brew it up and post my recipe and results (if you're interested).

    And again, great blog. Thank you for explaining everything so well and sharing so much.

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    1. Yeah this is a pretty simple grain bill, I think you'd have pretty good luck with converting it. I'd personally probably use Extra Light or Pilsen Extract for the base and then some wheat extract to approximate the body.

      Thanks so much for the kind words, it's great to hear it's been helpful. Good luck, would love to hear how it turns out!

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  12. How much C02 pressure do you apply to the keg during your dry hopping procedure?

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  13. So I brewed this up last Sunday. Subbed out Columbus for the Apollo, 90 minute boil and added some Carapils. 30 minute mash, double batch sparged and ended up with 5.5gallons into the fermentor. Pitched some WLP007 from a previous batch and it took off like a rocket. My entire garage smells of Citra :). Cant wait to get this on the dry hops and kegged. Very exciting.

    I also used the higher chloride/lower sulfate water style, targeting about 180ppm of Cl- and SO4-.

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