Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Equinox Single Hop IPA - Recipe & Tasting Notes

Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: IPA
Brewed: 11.08.14
Kegged On: 11.21.14
ABV: 5.8%

Appearance: hazy orange/copper, thick foamy head, lacing for days
Smell: sweet berry fruits, melon, cantaloupe, candy fruit, tropical weirdness, the color green
candy fruit, berry, melon, floral, sweet cantaloupe, sweet green pepper, berrppers
Mouthfeel: light-to-medium body, high carbonation, clean finish, low-med bitterness

Let's be super duper clear about something: beer is and forever will be highly subjective. Gather a group of people in a room — especially a crowd that varies widely in both drinking experience and brewing experience — and ask them to write down tasting notes for a beer without conferring with each other or listening to each other's feedback, and you will receive a dictionary's worth of responses..

Not so with the wide world of hop flavors. Hop flavors — second to nothing but perhaps Brett character — can get real wacky. Watch when a new variety is released, how scatter-shot the tasting notes are. In most cases, this is because the adjectives describing the hop are a literal hodgepodge collected from whatever aroma / flavor notes were tossed out by a sniffing panel. It takes a while to form some sort of widespread consensus on what a hop more-or-less tastes like, and until we've all drank enough of the stuff to reach a consensus, you get flavor-note buckshot. Sometimes, it's a bit weird. Lots of new hops seem to be staking their reputation on being "The _____ Hop."

Alongside the typical tropical and fruity descriptors that normally accompany new hop releases like this, Equinox got a distinctive flavor note with which to mark its fame: green pepper. I was very curious how a flavor note such as green pepper might taste among a smorgasbord of exotic fruitiness, and frankly, figured it'd be another red herring, another weird note some guy picked up and they tossed into the description for the sheer weirdness of it. But lo and behold: my first pour, I could swear I got it. Green pepper...(?) Or something like vaguely like green pepper? Maybe green pepper, if green peppers were a sweet juicy fruit rather than a savory vegetable, if that makes sense. What the hell? This makes no sense. Clearly, the power of suggestion, right? In the past, I have concluded that this is how Mosaic got labeled the 'blueberry' hop, and probably an explanation for those mystical sounding "chocolate coconut" hops going around the other year (which I still haven't gotten to try). And now that I try more and more pours of this beer (all the pours, so good), the more confused I become. What does this goddam hop taste like? Is it green pepper? Papaya? Strawberry? Okay, none of those flavors are remotely similar. This shouldn't be this hard.

And yet every single person who tries this beer has had across-the-board scattered reactions. That's just how this works. We're going to have to spend a lot of time arguing about what these things taste like. Maybe enough people will reach a consensus that the rest of us will be tricked into finding that flavor too, because it's been incepted into us. Maybe we'll have to invent or apply nonsensical new vocabulary words to cover these flavors. Who knows.

One theme that I've managed to parse out, though: whatever kind of fruit or weird vegetable-but-if-it-was-a-fruit this Equinox IPA of mine tastes like, the beer bears a candy-like aura, apparently. That's the most common description I've heard. Candy-like fruit. What the fruit is, of course, varies greatly, a mystery unsolvable as Serial (are you guys listening to Serial?). But okay, candy-like at least gives us a smaller pool of suspects. (What the hell is the deal with Jay, right?) Candy-like-one-of-four-things. We're getting closer: if green pepper was in the berry family of fruits but then someone made a candy to taste like that and then this is a natural recreation of that candy as a hop. Mystery solved.

Underneath the candy-like-green-pepper-berry-fruitness, at other times I can glimpse some earthy sort of character in here. A few people gave variations on 'earthy' as their primary notes, though to me it's barely a minor undertone. Pine was tossed out. So, sure, why not. Maybe this tastes like chocolate coconut? I don't know. I can't tell if Adnan is guilty. He seems so genuine! Ugh. I can't tell what Equinox tastes like. Fuck it, I give up.

No, wait!

Hold up. I got this. I can tell you guys definitively what Equinox tastes like: hops.

Anyway! I really like this one. Right mouthfeel, low/balanced bitterness, all the focus on aromatic and exotic hop flavors. I've been very happy with how my IPAs are coming out this year, particularly with my new dry-hopping process. I realized after the fact that I only gave this batch 12 days from brew to keg, but this rushed timeline (I was trying to have the beer ready in time for a party) didn't seem to hurt it at all. Hell, in retrospect, you probably could make it to the Best Buy parking lot in under 21 minutes with a beer like this.

The real fun with Equinox: what other hops do I want to blend these with?

5.25 Gal., All Grain
Single infusion mash at 148 F
Fermented at 68 F in temp control fridge
OG: 1.054
FG: 1.010
ABV: 5.8%

78.3% [#9] Pilsner malt
8.7% [#1] wheat malt
4.3% [8 oz] Cara-Pils
4.3% [8 oz] corn sugar

Hop Schedule-
5 ml Hop Shot @60
2 oz. Equinox whirlpool @200 F
2 oz. Equinox whirlpool @180 F
4 oz. Equinox dry hop for five days

Safale US-05 American Ale


  1. I'm sitting on 1/2 lb of 2014 Equinox myself, going to brew another one-hop Session IPA with it soon.

    Did you do two dry-hops, with one in primary as you've mentioned, or just the keg-hop?

    1. This time I just did a one-round dry-hop in the keg. All 4 ounces at once. I was short on time, but I can't say it really made a difference, the aroma is just as great as usual.

    2. No issues transferring over? I've tried your method three times so far; worked great twice, but once it left several liters of beer behind. May have been that I didn't cold-crash it long enough, though...

    3. Hmm. The amount of sediment crashed out or not crashed out shouldn't affect how much you can get out of the brite keg, I don't think. It's all just filtering through the screen regardless of whether the gunk is floating or settled. I haven't had issues transferring, but the hardest part there is actually gauging how much beer is left in the keg (versus the gunk at the bottom). Usually you can tell when you aren't going to get any more liquid out because it'll start sputtering angrily and shooting CO2 and foam through the transfer line instead of beer.

  2. I think I can answer your question at the end of this blog. They pair lovely with Galaxy and Summer.

  3. This hop smells fantastic, but using it in a pale ale I wasn't happy with the flavour. To be honest it felt out of place in a pale ale. I think as a stand alone hop it's more suited to use in a Saison. I mixed my single hop Equinox pale ale with a Centennial IIPA and the combination was fantastic. If I was to use this hop again I'd use it as a complimentary spicy hop to add depth of character to a beer (like pepper to a steak).

    1. I do agree that Equinox does seem like it'd work well in a saison, maybe moreso than an IPA. I think there'd be a great blend for it, IPA-wise, but I'll certainly be trying the saison route next.

  4. First I would like to say I'm a big fan of this blog. Keep it up! I have a question about hopping rates, do you adjust oz/gal rates with different hops different AAs precisely or just go for a ballpark amount. I have had awesome results so far with fwh and hopstand additions only (thanks to you) using about 0.7 oz/gal in hopstand. Sven

    1. Thanks! I guess I usually go for a ballpark amount. I'm not overly concerned about AA's most of the time based on how I use the hops -- I'm not trying to get much bitterness from them. I would just pay attention if your whirlpool addition hops are a drastically different AA from what you normally use, and adjust bittering hops according, just slightly. But like you, I typically add the same rate at whirlpool and dry hop based mostly on the style and size of the batch.

  5. Have you ever experienced hop aroma fading much faster when you put hops in the serving keg as opposed to dry hopping in the fermenter only?

    My house pale ale has a 3 oz dry hop that I split over 2 days as fermentation finishes up. This last batch I threw an extra ounce of Citra in the keg, and it smelled freakin amazing for about 2 days then completely dropped off as if no dry hops had been used at all. I'm thinking that hop matter in the keg must have bound to the hop oils or something.


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