Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Faux-IPA (India Pale Gruit) Tasting

Many of the flavor compounds residing in Reinheitsgebot-approved beers are found elsewhere in nature. A few example: isoamyl acetate in hefeweizen (and bananas), linalool in hops (and coriander), and citronellol in Citra (and lemongrass). While these compounds can have several sources, each imparts additions flavor compounds (as a result, adding lemongrass to your Cascade IPA isn’t a cheap substitute for Citra).

It is a fun way to get ideas though, and for this batch I went high concept. What if I replaced the standard flavors of American hops with spruce tips and grapefruit zest? Knowing that the balance would be different, but still wondering what the result would be! While I am calling this beer a gruit, it bears little resemblance to the medieval European beers flavor with a secret blend of bitter herbs and spices (part seasoning, part tax). It is a gruit only in so much as it does not contain hops.

Spruce-Grapefruit IPG

Appearance – Looks like an IPA. Check! Pale gold, slight haze, with a creamy white head. The foam isn’t as lasting or sticky though, I miss the hops already!

Smell – Smells more soda-pop than IPA. Sweet candied citrus peel and Christmas tree needles. So much so that I'm struggling to pick-up much else. Lacks the deeper herbal, dank, resiny flavors that even “piney” and “citrusy” hops provide. The aromatics are so bright and clean though, unlike any other beer I've tried.

Taste – The grapefruit comes in at the front, morphing into spruce as it crosses the palate. There is certainly some bitterness, the equivalent of maybe 15-20 IBUs. Despite the lack of preservative hops it is very clean, score one for my sanitation process! Mildly toasty malt pokes through occasionally. It also tastes remarkably fresh compared to how a five month old IPA would by this stage.

Mouthfeel – Smooth medium body. It has solid carbonation, firmly effervescent. No tannins or other harshness to distract from the holiday spirit.

Drinkability & Notes – One of the weirder and more exciting beers I’ve brewed recently. I won’t say that I love it, or that I’m planning another iteration anytime soon, but I enjoy this faux-IPA more than I expected to! It would be more drinkable if the spruce and grapefruit were dialed back ~25%, but where would be the fun in that? Next time I’d add 30 IBUs of bittering hops, and maybe a few ounces towards the end of the boil to give it some backbone and depth.

13 comments:

MaxCloutier said...

Sounds like it would be great in addition to a basic hopping like you mentionned...

Another one on the "to try" list ;o)

Brewitt said...

The Gruut Stadsbrouwerij in Ghent, Belgium makes gruit beers to replicate the old pre-hop Belgian tradition. I remember those beers as having fruity and sweet spiced flavors with relatively little bitterness. This one sounds even more interesting.

robertjallaway said...

It's before eleven and now I want a beer (sorry, gruit).

I wonder if the spruce provides antimicrobial compounds?

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17504300

Shockerengr said...

From the pic in the recipe, it looked like the spruce tips were mature blue spruce? (i.e. not new growth) The resin will give some bitterness as you've noted, but blue spruce is more subdued in flavor than regular spruce - something to keep in mind if redoing.
I brew a spruce pale ale roughly annually asssuming the trees put off new growth, if picked prior to the sap going into them, they don't add bitterness but a subtle pine/citrus flavor and some complex sugars - def worth trying out if you give it another go! (with hops of course)

TimT said...

Consider omitting the hops and making it with a dark ale base - the dark toasty flavours might work very well with the spruce. There are always alternative bittering sources to hops - eg, dandelion root. Juniper berries might work too, but every time I've used them the results are fearsomely tart.

TimT said...

My recipe for a small batch of spruce witbier - with hops - can be found here. It seemed to work quite well.

TimT said...

I note it's summer here, which means it's winter there.... not the best time for harvesting spruce tips. (They're best in early spring, when the new green tips sprout and have plenty of vitamin C and fresh citrus flavours). Though maybe you had a source for fresh spruce tips (an online supplier?)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I did omit hops, this beer was spiced with nothing but spruce and citrus. The spruce was new growth, but it may have been slightly older than ideal. They were harvested last spring by a company in Colorado. I'd suggest checking out the recipe post from a few days prior.

TimT said...

Sorry, I should have clarified my comment - it is clear in this post that you omitted hops from your current recipe. I mean, consider omitting hops from your planned recipe next time and instead tweaking to add spruce to a dark ale base.

One possible way to brew with spruce when it's not in season is to pick the tips in spring, and make a kind of essence that you can then use while you're brewing. I think some HBS do sell spruce essence. You can then use either when mashing, or boiling, or whenever. The taste itself seems to me to be fairly strong and resilient - ie, it doesn't matter when you add it during the boil. However my wife tells me that vitamin C - which contributes some of the citrussy zing and freshness to spruce in spring - is pretty volatile and can be lost quickly in a boil, so maybe bear that in mind.

J. Karanka said...

"Lacks the deeper herbal, dank, resiny flavors"

You are trying to describe hop flavour! It's a bit like when a friend was asking me what Challenger hops where like. Well, they're just proper hoppy. None of that fruit, grapefruit, onion or lime peel. Just proper hop flavoured hops, resiny, herbal, somewhat floral.

Hardly surprising that grapefruit and spruce couldn't replicate those basic hop flavours of beer!

J Brandon Tarr said...

Be interesting to try a beer with a bittering addition of hops with this recipe as well as a complex blend of spices to try and match more of the aromatic compounds found in hops. There are so many and hops are so dense with oils. Always fun to experiment with flavors. Maybe an alcohol extraction could get some different compounds from the ingredients too.

Lee Morgan said...

An addition of gentian could help to increase bitterness and round out some of the missing herbal flavor.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

At first glance I couldn't figure out why you'd suggest gelatin... I'll keep gentian in mind for my next try at something similar! Any suggestions for an amount or timing?

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