Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ultra Low Alcohol IPA Tasting

I'm shocked by how delicious my first foray into low-alcohol beers, a Nelson and Amarillo hopped micro-IPA, turned out. I was just hoping that this second runnings batch would be quick way to get something hoppy on tap, but it ended up as one of the more interesting things I've brewed in recent memory. For this tasting I was also able to get my hands on a bottle of Mikkeller's Drink'in the Sun (a similar 2.4% Amarillo hopped American wheat) to sample next to mine.

Two hoppy American wheat ales.Nelson Jr. Micro-IPA

Appearance – Looks like a hefeweizen, cloudy-yellow, thanks to all that wheat malt and dry hops. Solid head retention and nice lacing (again credit to those same two factors).

Smell – Pungent, over-the-top, resiny, lemon, berry, spring-time sort of hop nose. Otherwise unremarkable, clean fermentation character, minimal malt, and not surprisingly no alcohol. While there isn't much going on other than the hops, that isn't to say it is simple.

Taste – Firm bitterness, similar balance to a fresh top-shelf IPA/DIPA (it is surprising how bitter 35 IBUs taste in a beer this small). The hop aromatics continue their dominance (orange, strawberry, and pine in particular), but a hint of malt comes through as well. I miss the bigger malt in the middle of the palate where the beer seems to disappear before the bitterness kicks in on the finish.

Mouthfeel – Medium body, very nice considering the low starting gravity. Moderate carbonation (I find that too much or too little carbonation can detract from the body of a beer).

Drinkability & Notes – No one would mistake the flavor for a DIPA or even an IPA, but it could most likely pass for a 3.5-4.0% ABV extra pale ale. This batch was good enough that I'll probably try something similar in a couple months with a more purposefully designed mash (mostly Vienna with a bit of crystal I'm thinking) for more malt character.

In comparison the Mikkeller is thinner (although at 1.010 the final gravity is only a few points lower), highly carbonated, lager-like, and doesn't have nearly the hop character. It is a bit unfair to compare a beer that was brewed less than a month ago in my garage to one that was shipped from Belgium who-knows-when, but when I pay $5 for 11.2 ounces of 2.4% ABV beer I expect better.


Anuj said...

what about diving back into the world of malted/hoppy kombucha?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I just never came around to the vinegar character that Kombucha has. In the same direction though I'm thinking of doing a quick low gravity sour beer (sour-worting technique), 100% Brett C fermentation, with big hop aroma (but minimal bitterness).

Aaron & Hilary said...

Some of the best beers I've done have been <4% abv. I've did a mash-hopped 2.5% beer that came out great. Sorachi Ace in the mash plus a little more just before flameout. Very aromatic, almost no bitterness--but the mash hop added something to keep it interesting. The grist was something like 30% wheat, 70% pale. Mashed super low, I think around 147. Came out a little bit like iced tea, and you could drink it all day.