Thursday, January 10, 2013

West Coast IPA Tasting

I’m not much for brewing specifically for monthly homebrew club competitions, but when the timing works out I’m game. This Saturday is the first joint meeting of BURP and DC Homebrewers (the two clubs I belong to), and festivities includes an IPA competition. With an IPA on tap, coincidentally, I couldn’t resist entering. I’d been feeling pretty confident about my chances with this West Coast IPA, but after drinking what my friends Erich (Amarillo/Galaxy) and Andrei (Mosaic) are entering earlier tonight, I’m no longer as sure about my chances (update: my IPA won 2nd place of the 42 entries). The IPA style can have so much range, it’ll all come down to what sort of hop character and balance the judges are looking for.

IPA, delicious and pretty!
West Coast IPA

Appearance – Golden-yellow, almost clear, but with a slight blur. Given how flocculent the yeast (WLP007) is, blame falls squarely on the dry hops. The white head is very sticky, but retention is moderate at best.

Smell – Wow! Huge citrus peel (fresh orange), tropical-mango, with some pine. I’d call it classic, but I don’t think a nose like this was possible until the modern high-oil hops started to be released a decade ago. Saturated, complex hoppiness, with just a hint of malt toastiness. The yeast adds to the generally fruity character without being immediately discernible. Can’t imagine a better IPA nose. I like that this beer has the complex essence of the hops, without the green-grassy “nose in a hop-bag” character of some much sought-after hoppy beers.

Taste – The flavor is coated in hops, lingering into the finish. There is a slight sweetness, hard to say whether it is residual sweetness (1.013), or a trick of the fruity hops and yeast. Lots of citrus zest and dank-pine, not as tropical as the nose. Slight maltiness, but it sits on the sideline. Coating grabby bitterness, without being harsh or rough.

Mouthfeel – Slightly fuller than many IPAs, but considering the substantial flavors, I don’t mind it. Solid carbonation mostly stays out of the way.

Drinkability & Notes – It is remarkable how much better this beer is than the DIPA I brewed a week earlier. The nose leaps out of the glass, and the flavor is dripping with hop oils. One of the best two or three hoppy beers I’ve ever brewed, complex, drinkable, beautiful! We’ll see if the judges agree…


EdHill said...

I am psyched to try this on Saturday. Sorry I missed you at the last meeting. I had people taste my IPA (Which is always "off") and they seemed to think my problem is oxidation. They said no matter how much I drown it in hops, the oxidized taste will mask it. I'll bring some with me to get more feedback, even though its frankly not a great beer.

I just recently bought some upgrades that will hopefully fix this. Moving to a full Blichmann boil kettle, and a march pump so I can minimize it coming into contact with the air, and I also will not bother with moving it to a secondary (which is probably where it happens as I always undershoot my final volumes and end up with a lot of headspace in the carboy, plus when I siphon my siphon tube is a little short and not always submerged).

I did have a question on your technique. When you say "hop-stand" do you mean flameout hops? How long do you let them sit? Also, do you think bottling would be a viable option or is kegging crucial to getting that hop flavor? And what is the difference between flameout hops and a hop back? Isn't it getting at the same oils?

Anonymous said...

I was having trouble with my ipa's as well. I'm starting to think that oxidation is the culprit. So I brewed a pale ale and am going to skip the dry hop. And my next ipa I'm going to dry hop in primary. Ive ruled out so many other off flavors I feel like it must be oxidation. It was the same sort of thing... No amount of hops mattered. The off flavor would just mask them and dull the whole profile.

EdHill said...

Same here, I tried every variable I could think off. first I thougth I was using too much carapils, nope. then I thought it was my yeast, nope. THEn i thought maybe it was because iwas doing all pellet and no leaf hops. No again.

They say the off flavor for oxidation is a "cardboard" taste. I dont know if I think the off flavor is that, but i guess it could be.

I wouldn't skip the dry hop. Just dont rack to secondary. once you drop on the dry hops in the primary swirl your carboy a bit to release some of the C02 to "push out" the oxygen you just let in. wait until it bubbles up for a bit and you should be good.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I made some solid IPAs (and other hoppy beers) before I started kegging, but none of them were on the same level with my favorite commercial examples. Being able to flush with CO2 helps to eliminate oxidation post-fermentation. I think the time the beer spends warm while bottle conditioning, after dry hoping is also partly to blame. The time my beer spends force carbonating is cold and on additional keg hops.

The hop-stand is 20-30 minutes (although some people go significantly longer), so a standard flame-out addition, but without forced cooling initially. The longer time compared to a standard homebrew flame-out addition mimics what the pros get from whirlpool additions. To me this replaces the traditional late-boil hops, extracting the heavier hop oils that give you a really saturated hop flavor. The hop-back is at work after that, so the wort is down to ~185 F, combined with the immediate in-line chilling that gets the more delicate/volatile hop aromatics. If you don't have a hop back, what I previously did was to add a second dose of flame-out hops right when I started the chiller. Stir and try to drop the temp as quickly as possible at that stage.

Oxidation on hoppy beers does just mute the hops at first, but also causes off-flavors as it progresses (old hoppy beers are probably my least favorite thing to drink). I'd worry less about the hot-side, and more about the cold. Hot side aeration is a very minor concern compared to secondary/packaging.

It could be that your process is fine, but the hops are old. Buying in bulk right around harvest really helps compared to the standard 1 oz homebrewing store packs. I also smell my hops, figure out which ones smell best for dry hopping.

Fred Brown said...

A question just popped in my head for you as I just finished Steele's IPA book and am now onto "for the love of hops"

dry hoping...pellet v whole...what is ur take? Does one form extract a better hop character than the other?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I use whole hops for dry hopping whenever I can. I think that bagged pellet hops have a tendency to clump and not do as good a job transferring their aromatics to the beer unless you are able to agitate/circulate the wort. I also think pellets, can sometimes give a grassier flavor thanks to the broken cells and exposed chlorophyll. Whole hops are more variable, so all the more reason to buy early in bulk and store them yourself!

Fred Brown said...

Last IPA was ur red rye. I dry hopped with pellets. Ill give this next batch a shot with leaf.

It will be two different beers so it wont be an apples to apples comparison. But I should get the idea!

Pete said...

The nose on this IPA was definitely amazing. Wow.. so much melon. Well balanced too.

EdHill said...

yes, the nose on this blew me away, which for a hoppy IPA, is 2/3ds of the equation, the other third being taste. IT was the best homebrewed IPA ive ever had.

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