Wednesday, January 12, 2011

10 Factors to Making Better Hoppy Beers

I bumbled upon this info as an image inside a PDF file. Hopefully the text format will make it a bit more accessible. Vinnie has produced some fantastic IPAs, so his suggestions are worth more than a casual glance. A couple of his beers are cited as "Commercial Examples" in the BJCP Style Guidelines for India Pale Ale.

There's one item I don't get, the suggestion for yeast removal. "The more yeast you remove, the more beer surface are you'll have exposed to the dry hops." Can somebody explain that to me?

10 Factors to Making Better Hoppy Beers
by Vinnie Cilurzo
Brewer/Owner Russian River Brewing Company

Consider using some gypsum to add some sulfate- this will bring out more hop character. Also consider using some lactic or phosphoric acid- you can trade out a little bitterness for acidity.

Crystal Malt
Crystal Malt and American hops (those found in IPA's) do not mix. At the most, use 5% crystal (45 lov.) malt in an IPA or Double IPA- I prefer 3.50% - 4.00%.

Dextrin Malt
A modest amount of unfermentable sugar is your friend when making a hoppy beer. These dextrin sugars will allow you to add more hops. Remember though, too much dextrin malt and you'll have too high of a finishing gravity. Also, some brewing equipment will make more (or less) dextrin malt, thus, you may need to experiment.

Mash Temperature
Don't mash at too warm of a temperature. Too many unfermentables due to a high temperature will yield a sweet beer that doesn't meld well with the hops.

Yeast Strain
Pick a yeast strain that finishes dry, doesn't flocculate too fast, yet, will fall out if a cold temperature is applied. English yeast stains do not work well in American IPA or Double IPA.

Yeast Pitch Rate
Your pitch rate is one of the most critical factors when brewing an IPA or Double IPA. Too much yeast and you could end up with less bitterness due to the fact that the yeast takes up bitterness from the beer.

Gravity (Original and Terminal)
Consider lowering your original gravity a little, this will yield a lower terminal gravity, thus, creating a drier, more drinkable beer. Remember, drinkability and balance are two different things! Finish your hoppy brews at 1.012, that is the highest finishing gravity for an IPA or Double IPA. Anything above that, and you'll have too much sugar competing with the hops. With your double IPA's consider using some dextrose (corn) sugar to give the yeast something simple to work on.

Yeast Removal
The more yeast you remove, the more beer surface are you'll have exposed to the dry hops.

Post Fermentation Oxygen Pick-up

Purge everything with CO2 that your beer comes in contact with- buckets, hoses, bottles, kegs, etc... Oxidized hops is a terrible flavor.

Relax, Don't Worry, Have a Homebrew
After all these years, Charlie's words still ring true. At the end of the day, remember, it is just beer, and you will get another chance to make a batch of beer- just be thankful that you are not a winemaker who only gets one chance a year.

My list of factors to making better hoppy beers is somewhat shorter:
  • Yeast   Use the Chico yeast strain. (i.e.: White Labs California Ale, Wyeast American Ale, Safale US-05)
  • Hops   It's not just about the IBUs so make your hop additions appropriately. Along with the standard flavor and aroma additions, think about adding hops to the first wort, and at flameout. Some guys seem to prefer dancing around the kettle and tossing in hops every five minutes... I haven't tried that yet.
  • Malt   Don't worry about adding malts that promote head. With all those hops it's gonna happen. And don't over-think your character malts. You want just a little something to work with the hops. But really, a bit of crystal is going to be OK.
  • Water Treatment   Add a tablespoon of gypsum to the boil unless the sulfates in your water are already like the water at Burton-on-Trent. The difference in perceived bitterness will be like night and day.
  • Adjuncts   If your finishing gravity is turning out too high, or if your tastebuds are saying the beer needs to be drier, mash at lower temps or substitute a pound or more of corn sugar for some of your base malt.
  • Recipe Formulation   In general, look at the BJCP Style Guidelines for India Pale Ale and try to be in the middle of the allowable range of values for OG, SRM; try to be on the low side of FG; but be on the high side of IBU. (I don't trust ANY of the hop calculations for uber-hoppy beers.)
Above all, drink them young because the best hop flavors and aromas are not long-lived. This is somewhat ironic because the original IPAs were brewed to survive a long sea voyage. Back then the extra hops were viewed as a necessary preservative, not a special aroma and flavor component.

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