Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Perfecting Already-Good Recipes and Rebalancing IPAs - Experiences with London Ale III in American IPAs

Imperial IPA with London Ale III

Beer: Morgan Horse DIPA
Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: Imperial IPA
Brewed: 7.7.14
Kegged On: 7.31.14
ABV: 8%


Appearance: pale golden orange, hazy, ample head, good retention
Smell: grapefruit, citrus, peach, soft mellon fruit, dank, pine
Taste: zesty grapefruit, orange, citrus, soft peach, melon, pine, mild finishing bitterness
Mouthfeel: light body, medium carbonation, soft, crisp finish

You know when you have a goal in mind that you probably couldn't fully describe to anyone but a few of your imaginary friends (they're the only ones that get you, anyway) — you just know that you'll know when you get there? In previous years, I couldn't describe exactly why my IPAs kept falling short of what I wanted them to be. I just knew there was something else I wanted them to be. No matter how good I felt about them after a solid brew-day, or as they went through fermentation, a week or two after bottling, some slight disappointment would creep in. Maybe they were getting closer, but they weren't where I wanted them to be. And I wasn't even sure how to describe where I wanted them!

After much work and brainstorming and espionage, I think now I might be there — or at least, past the point where subsequent refinements will be almost unnoticeable to anyone less anal retentive than myself. I may not have the Ark of the Covenant in my personal possession per se, but at least, at last, I found the convoy of Nazis trying to make off with it, and I'm even reasonably confident I'm riding on the roof of the very truck they have the Ark inside. #metaphors

I don't think anything is ever beyond improvement, believe me. I'm not talking about perfection yet, not by a long shot — ie, a level of purity defying any further improvement. In this case, I'm just talking about meeting certain expectations. Expectations that, a year ago, I wasn't sure I'd ever meet. I was looking to get my IPAs to a certain level, make them drink a certain way, with a certain flavor profile, and not completely dive off a cliff after the first two weeks. Having a very good feeling about this batch from the start, I waited for my first pull off the keg until I was sure the beer would be properly conditioned, resisting the urge to sneak early tastes. I'm glad I did. With that first glass, I had one of those rare moments where, in spite of my overwhelmingly cynical nature compelling me to constantly be disappointed in everything, I found I had hit my goals. After a couple of sips, I burst out laughing.

Of course, I've been pretty happy with all my IPAs this year, to the point where most of the time I'd rather have one of my own than something from the average bar or bottle shop. If that sounds super snobby, or this whole post already sounds pretentious, consider that homebrewers have an advantage in catering things to their specific preferences, not to mention the advantage of freshness (provided you can drink the whole batch fast enough). Realistically, the improvements in these beers have been fairly incremental from batch to batch, and Morgan Horse IPA, an 8% just-imperial using Simcoe and Amarillo with a dash of Columbus, might just be me getting all the small things right, all at once. The batch previous to this (which I never wrote up, so I'm kind of lumping into this post) was pretty close to the best IPA I've brewed previous to this one, though it used hops I enjoy more: Mosaic, Galaxy and Amarillo. I loved the Azacca IPA I did in the spring, also enjoyed the Shrunken Heady I did, and the year's first IPA was also tasty as hell. My IPAs have been getting consistently better with almost every batch. Such a trackable progression gives me a lot of confidence. So what have I been changing?

The first big change I made to my process may still be the most important thing differentiating all these IPAs from previous batches. I started kegging, and immediately fixed up a rather elaborate set-up to better emulate the process a brewery would have. The beer gets transferred into a secondary keg fitted with two stainless steel filter screens over the dip-tube to prevent it from clogging. I'll usually do a first-stage dry-hopping at the end of fermentation in the primary, then transfer to the initial keg about a week and a half after brew-day. The second-stage dry-hops go into this keg, loose (the filters over the dip tube are much more effective than trying to constrain the hops themselves) for about five days. After five days, I'll cold crash in my keezer for another day or two, then do a keg-to-keg transfer into a serving keg. Perhaps I could just drink the beer off the first keg, but I like that this roughly emulates what a brewery would do (very few breweries would package their beers with the hops still in there, and my goal was to go at this from the same playing field). Theoretically, also, this gives me the chance to use the dry-hopping keg as a brite tank and clear the beer a bit more, though they've still been pretty hazy for the first couple weeks. (I used gelatin to clear my IPAs a few times, which helped. Then I sort of forgot about it).

Another recent change I've been trying out: English yeast strains for American IPAs. Conan was my go-to for the last two years, but it's a finicky strain to work with, and up until very recently there was no good source for the yeast other than culturing it up from cans of Heady Topper (itself quite difficult to obtain on a regular basis). Following lead after lead as I chased the secret of the great new-wave IPAs, I heard from a couple sources that one of my favorite Green Mountain state brewers was using the Boddington's strain, which is supposed to be London Ale III. And after hearing this same speculation a number of times, I had to give it a try. WWSHD?

Using English yeast strains in American IPAs isn't a totally novel idea — plenty of awesome breweries are doing it (Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist, Tired Hands, Cigar City, Three Floyds, Surly, Firestone Walker, Stone), and enough of them are brewing IPAs I love that I figured there must be something to it. While I prefer most styles of beer on the dry side, I also like my IPAs to be soft and silky and elegant, in contrast to the usual bitterness-focused West Coast model of the last decade. The logic behind the choices of these brewers makes sense: an English yeast strain might not attenuate as highly, but attenuation can be worked around, and careful management of the yeast will allow for a mild base of fruity esters to accentuate the brightness of the hops, soften the palate, and give an impression of balance without going overboard on the malts.

It especially makes sense when you're going for an IPA that drinks smoother and softer than the usual. I've been calling this ideal profile in my head the "Rebalanced IPA." I hate dividing up styles into sub-styles always, but there are enough breweries out there brewing this new profile of hoppy beer that I think it's worth considering that it may be a novel and separate approach, utilizing new techniques and a new way of looking at the structure that holds an IPA together. The Rebalanced IPA is as distinct to me, at least, as the old East Coast vs. West Coast IPA concepts.

Anyway, London Ale III seems to help with that balance. It also achieves the sort of saturated, soft mouthfeel I've been wanting for my IPAs. But then again, when it's cooperating, so does Conan. Similar somewhat, different somewhat, probably both with their pro's and con's. LAIII is a huge top-cropper, with a krausen persisting on every one of my brews for days after fermentation was over. Despite that, it starts up very quickly, very aggressively, and attenuates well enough. I've been nudging the temperature higher each time, against my original instinct to ferment in the mid-60's — I'm now thinking it likes it around 68 F, maybe even 70 F. But I'll keep playing around, of course. And soon, very soon hopefully, I'd like to do side-by-side batches with London Ale III and Conan. Gotta keep it scientific!

Finally, the mysterious world of water treatment. Undoubtedly hugely important! My take on this too has been evolving dramatically. But water gets so complicated, and to me, somewhat cryptic, perhaps it's an analysis left for vague unpacking some other time. I will say, for now, that a great place to start is deciding whether you agree with Vinnie Cilurzo's tips for brewing better IPAs. That classic treatment is great for a particular breed of IPA, but I'm fairly sure that a lot of the IPA brewers that I prefer are not, regardless of their starting mineral content, just dumping in some gypsum and calling it a day.


Recipe-
5.5 Gal., All Grain
Mashed at 152 degrees for 60 minutes
Fermented at 68 F
OG: 1.073
FG: 1.012
ABV: 8%

Malt-
76.5% [11#] 2-row malt
7% [1#] white wheat malt
7% [1#] Cara-Pils
3.5% [8 oz] Golden Naked Oats
5.2% [12 oz] corn sugar

Hop Schedule-
1 oz CTZ @FWH
2 oz Amarillo hop stand for 45 minutes
2 oz Simcoe hop stand for 45 minutes
1 oz CTZ hop stand for 45 minutes
1 oz Amarillo dry hop for 5 days [primary]
2 oz Simcoe dry hop for 5 days [primary]
1 oz Amarillo dry hop for 5 days [secondary keg]
2 oz Simcoe dry hop for 5 days [secondary keg]

Yeast-
Wyeast London Ale III


38 comments:

  1. Sounds great. What's your base malt, Canadian 2 row? Rahr?
    Also, at 8%, sounds like a double. :)
    AO

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    1. Right now I'm using Rahr 2-row. I might try an IPA soon with pilsner to see what happens.

      Haha, yeah, this one counts as an IIPA!

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  2. Nice post. I had been experimenting with WY1028 London Ale, the Worthington strain, for a while with great results. I recently have had wonderful brews with the new American/English blend from White Labs, WLP200. It makes a nice, smooth body if you mash in the 152ish range with medium attentuation and IMO a perfect balance of English esters.

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    1. Interesting, I haven't seen that strain, but I've debated the merits of perhaps blending Am / Eng strains. Yet another thing to play around with! But cool to hear it works well, thanks!

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  3. Great post! I'm playing around with water chemistry for the first time and am brewing a "Rebalanced IPA" next month. What do you think about 177 Ca, 18 Mg, 25 Na, 321 SO4, and 70 Cl? Too much sulfate or calcium? Too little chloride? Love to get your thoughts. Thanks!

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    1. Hey, I missed your Tweet before, sorry! Especially for a "Rebalanced IPA," definitely lower the sulfate dramatically and raise the CL a bit more! The usual gypsum treatment is good for adding crispness and enhancing the bitterness, but that's not really what this type of IPA is about.

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  4. Awesome post! Any ideas on how you would adjust for using Pilsener as a base malt? Also, would bottling instead of kegging make a huge difference other than dry hopping? Thanks for your thoughts!

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    1. Hey Jason, well... Pilsner should be a pretty easy sub in an IPA. I think I'm going to try that soon actually. I find it's pretty easy to fiddle with these grain bills and still have the beer come out in the general realm of what I'm looking for with just subtle variations that aren't necessarily always straight-up good or bad.

      I do think bottling makes a pretty big difference, there's just so much more opportunity for oxygen to get in there and muck with the hops. Mostly just talking IPAs here, but I think they definitely drop off much faster in the bottle, and the aroma was just never as "clear" to me.

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  5. When I've used 1318, I don't bother with temp control. I just let it go at room temp. It's always super-fruity, never solventy. Granted this has been in English beers, and maybe you'd want a subtler, cleaner effect in an AIPA. But don't be afraid to raise the temps with this one.

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    1. That's definitely the impression I've been getting. Thanks for the reassurance!

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  6. Interesting read. The one time I've used London Ale III I was horrified at the amount of sediment it left behind in my bottles. Careful pouring was an absolute must, and if you got cold feet and didn't pour in one smooth motion, everything left in the bottle was a big yeasty write-off. I've had a lot more success brewing a big, west coast style IPA with London ESB yeast. Big fan of that one. Quick starter, good flavour profile, and very little sediment. I addressed its pretty modest attenuation level by mashing low (65 C) - I got about 83% from it in the end. Give it a try.

    Also, please write more!

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    1. Yeah, I've heard a lot of good things about the London ESB. Been meaning to try it for a while and just ended up diving in with LAIII first. Hopefully I have the chance to do more side-by-sides in the near future! But that definitely sounds very promising.

      Haha thanks, I'll do my best... I've got plenty of posts lined up for the fall, just gotta make the time. Been working on the book a lot, but it'll be a bit before anyone can read that!

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  7. WWSD = What would Shaun Hill do? Yea? Hadn't heard the London Ale rumors!

    Had read that Shaun uses higher levels of chloride than most, what Cl levels did you hit on this one?

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    1. Haha, that would be a good guess.

      And yes, I've heard that too. I don't have my notes on hand, but I believe I'm targeting 200+ ppm.

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    2. What about sulfate? About equal or lower than the Cl?

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    3. I'm curious about the sulfate level too. 50-100....100-200????

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    4. I've tried varying levels of Cl/SO4. From my limited experience, higher ppm of SO4 with minimal ppm of Cl leads to an assertive west coast character bitterness. The last DIPA I brewed was 70ppm each and turned out quite juicy. Recently i've brewed a couple of APAs with 140ppm each and they've turned out pretty good.

      If you are targeting 200ppm+ of Cl, i'd be interested to know what SO4 level you targeted on this beer?

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    5. For SO4, I am targeting around 70 ppm or so.

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  8. Fantastic write-up! Some great tips for those Hop-Heads out there!
    I've seen people using the English type yeasts on IPa's, but unless I've done an english style I've tended to use 001 or US05. Maybe it's time to break the shackles a bit.
    www.beercrusades.blogspot.co.nz

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    1. Thank you! I say go for it... it always pays to experiment, and the results seem promising!

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  9. I've got the Hill Farmstead yeast banked, going to have to pick up London Ale III to confirm it's the same.

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    1. Nice! Would love to hear your results.

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    2. definitely! You are not the only one Derek!

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  10. So in this post I will describe what iPAS 2 is and how you can use it to develop your multilevel promotion or any other company you are trying to develop on the internet. Let's go over what the ipas2 system.

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  11. Wow Derek. I love how you're taking the opposite approach regarding Cl and SO4 levels. I'm very intrigued. I love the mouthfeel on Hill's brews. Been trying to do the same for a while, and I remember Sean saying to not forget about chloride. I too read that he used LAIII, so I gave it a shot, and at first was scared towards the end of fermentation because I was tasting too many esters, but it faded by the time I pulled my first pint. It's nicely balanced now. I'm going to try your mineral levels on my next brew. Now the question is pH....hmmmm. I've been using 5.4 mash pH @ room temps and getting good results, but maybe lowering it a bit to 5.2 wouldn't thin the mouthfeel too much, but bring out the bitterness a touch more?

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    1. Yeah, the pH I'm still not sure about myself either and have been going back and forth. Usually I do aim for 5.4, but based on Kimmich's comments last year, I need to try a few more batches with a lower mash pH.

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    2. If you've been aiming for 5.4 at room temp, based on my understanding, your actual mash temp pH should be 3 points lower, around 5.1 which is the target that John Kimmich mentioned?

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    3. Hmm, I'll have to go back and look at that again. I think there was some ambiguity as to whether he was referring to mash temp or room temp readings.

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    4. He was referring to pH at mash temps, so you should be between 5.4 and 5.6 at room temps. This was referenced on HBT

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  12. One more thing. Derek, did you feel there was enough bitterness there with that low of a Sulfate level? Do you feel it was on par with the level that's found in Hill's Abner or at least appropriate for a DIPA?

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    1. Hey Brian, looks like I missed this... 5 months ago, but for anyone reading this in the future, I think the bitterness level was fine. I don't think you need much gypsum at all to hit it, and you could always dial up the bittering charge if needed.

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  13. This is one of the best articles I've read and descriptions of the "new" "rebalanced" IPA. It's so humorous and tons of good info.! I can't wait to try making this. Why not just mash higher instead of adding the carapils, though? Does the carapils add something you can't get from mashing?

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    1. Thanks Aaron! That's a great question, something that I'm not sure I have a 100% certain answer on. My theory, though, is that you want to mash low so the beer ferments out as dry as possible, while a body-enhancing grain will add some mouthfeel and creaminess back in. Currently I'm preferring wheat or oats for that task, rather than Cara-Pils. Simply mashing higher may work if you can still get the beer to dry out to the extent you would like.

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  14. Derek,

    I just want to say thanks for the blog and this post in particular.

    I just brewed the best beer I've ever made and the first IPA I'd easily choose over most commercial ones. I combined your hop schedule from above with Citra, Amarillo and Columbus. It has a Hill Farmstead and Treehouse sort of thing going on.

    I also started kegging because of you and a few other bloggers who have attested to it being critical for a good hoppy beer.

    Thank you Derek!

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    1. That's seriously great to hear! Cheers!

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  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  16. IPAs are the bane of American brewing.

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