Friday, December 2, 2011

Impudent Whelp IPA

So, I've developed a real love for IPA style beers over the past year or two. Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA (which we sadly can't get in Oklahoma) is probably my favorite example of the style, followed closely by Stone's Ruination IPA (which we also can't get in Oklahoma).

Last January I made an attempt at a clone of the 90 Minute, and until the Caramel Cream Ale, I was told by several of my friends that it was my best beer. I loved it as well, but the 9% ABV that it clocked in at kept me from drinking a lot of it.

This summer I took a shot at making a Black IPA. It turned out decently, but I screwed up the hop bill.

This leads us to two weekends ago. Knowing it was going to be turning cold, I seized the opportunity of a 70 degree day in November to have a brew day. I decided that this time I was going to brew the hoppiest beer I could make, while still keeping the alcohol reasonably low.

With those two goals in mind, I formulated a fairly simple recipe: 12 pounds of pilsner malt, 1 pound of Caramel 60 malt. That grain bill would give me a beer between 5-6% (ideally), with a mostly clean grain/malt flavor but with just a bit of residual sweetness and a slight tan color. On top of that, I threw in the three bags of hops you see here:
From left to right:
Bag 1: 1oz Cascade, 1oz Centennial. Added with 5 minutes left in the boil, this should provide a flowery and citrusy aroma, and some flavor notes.
Bag 2: 1oz Cascade, 1.5oz Centennial, 1oz Zeus. Added with 15 minutes left in the boil, this is where the majority of the flavor of this beer will come from. This amount of hops at this stage will contribute a decent amount of bitterness, but a whole heck of a lot of herbal, citrusy, and flowery flavors.
Bag 3: 1 oz of Zeus, added with 90 minutes left in the boil. This contributes almost pure bitterness.

Brew day went well, and I wound up with an Original Gravity of 1.065 - basically, I wound up with enough sugars from the grain to get up to almost 7% alcohol if the yeast can really chew through it. But, due to the Caramel 60 and the fact that I mashed a bit warm, it shouldn't exceed 6% and be left with a residual sweetness.

Based on the calculations used to determine IBUs (International Bittering Units), this beer has exactly 100 IBUs worth of bitterness from the hops. I've heard (but haven't verified) that a beer is incapable of truly absorbing more than 100IBUs of bitterness, so in theory this beer is as hoppy as it possibly can get. Someday I plan to test this hypothesis, but for now I'll be happy with 100 IBU :)

It's now been 11 days since I brewed this beer, and it's done fermenting. I've gone from bitter sugar water to a bitter beer, and it's time to try it. To the left, see the beer in my 'fermentation chamber' - a mini-fridge that I hooked a temperature controller to. This investment was WELL worth the money, as keeping fermentation temps consistent and low helps to create a clean and fresh beer.

This brings me to the third picture. In the background you can see the sample I just pulled from the fermenter. It looks like beer! In the foreground you see a bag filled with green leafy stuff - I'll get to that in a second, I promise.

Drinking a warm, flat, somewhat yeasty sample can sometimes make it difficult to detect what a beer is eventually going to taste like once it's cold, carbonated, and all the yeast is completely out of suspension. But in this case, I really have high hopes for this beer. The aroma is pure fruit - I'd have to say I think grapefruit dominates, but there's hints of pure lemony citrus and even some papaya. The taste is like a punch of bitterness, followed by fruity and flowery flavors - EXACTLY what I wanted from a IPA.

I took this chance to measure my final gravity - how much sugar is still remaining that didn't get turned into alcohol. The number I got was 1.011, which means this beer is actually a 7.1% ABV beer. Oops. That's significantly higher than I was shooting for. I really wanted something I could sip on all winter. I can explain why that occurred, but I'll save that for another post.

Finally, I told you I'd come back to the zip lock baggie of foliage that's in the third picture. That's 1oz each of Cascade and Centennial hops. I plan on adding those to a bag and throwing them directly in the keg of this beer when it's in the kegerator. This will provide extra hop aroma to the beer as it's served from the keg, and really provides that extra punch of hoppiness that's found in a really fresh IPA. I've read online that you don't want to keep a beer 'dry hopped' for more than 14 days, but by keeping the hops in the keg, and keeping the keg at serving temperature (less than 40 degrees), I've never had a problem keeping the hops in there for literally months.

All that remains at this point is to get this beer in a keg, get it carbonated, and drink it! Hopefully I'll have that done within the next few days here, and I'll post a follow-up post on that process (assuming people are interested).

Ladies and Gentlemen... I give you... Impudent Whelp IPA.

Note: I had posted an earlier version of this on my Google+ feed, naming the beer Chuck Norris' Tears.  I decided I liked the name Impudent Whelp better for this beer, hence the change.
Update: killed this keg on 12/27/11, so it only lasted about a month. This is by far the fastest I've ever killed a keg, and that speaks to how happy I was with this beer. I fully intend to take another shot at this beer in the next couple months, but probably with a different hop combination - I do have six ounces of Amarillo sitting around...

Update 1/17/11: Had one of these out of the bottle this weekend, and it's aging decently, but I can start to see it sliding past its prime.  I'm surprised with how quickly this beer went through its 'premier' period - I can't recall another beer I've made changing so dramatically in the space of a couple months.

I can't decide if I want to tweak the recipe to help this beer hold up longer, or tweak the recipe so that it's even better when it's young.

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