Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nelson Nectar - India Amber Ale

Some beer nerds talk as if the only hoppy beers worth drinking are from the West Coast. It is hard to argue that anyone brews better hop focused beers than Russian River, Alpine, Lagunitas, and Ballast Point. However, there are a number of great East Coast beers that are nearly as good. While they are still packed with hop bitterness and aroma, they tend to have a bit more malt flavor than the West Coasters. Recently I got to drink an Alchemist Heady Topper and a Hill Farmstead Edward next to each other. Despite the differential between their alcohol contents, I though both beers had similar balances of bright American hops noses with a subtle bready malt.

Weighing the gypsum and calcium chloride to add to the water.It is also the time of the year for one of the more established East Coast hop bombs, Tröegs Nugget Nectar. As much as I enjoy it fresh, the high finishing gravity (1.018 by my measure) means that Nugget Nectar tends to fall off quicker than drier IPAs. The residual sweetness is in spite of a grist that contains no crystal malt (the color comes from darker base malts - Munich and Vienna). I decided to brew a batch loosely inspired by it, but drier and with a unique hop bill.

When I posted my tips on brewing better hoppy beers a few months ago, Shaun Hill (of Hill Farmstead) chimed in on the blog's Facebook page to suggest that, in addition to sulfate, he thinks using chloride is key to treating the water he uses for hoppy beers. He wouldn’t give me his specific target, but I decided to try increasing the chloride in my water. I never understand why some homebrewers talk about the ratio of sulfate to chloride for water treatment. Having a beer with 10 ppm sulfate and 5 ppm chloride will not have the same character as one with 200 ppm sulfate and 100 ppm chloride, even though both have the same 2:1 ratio. After diluting my tap water to bring down the high level of carbonate, I added 8 g of gypsum and 3 g of calcium chloride. This yielded approximately 145 ppm sulfate and 60 ppm chloride. Don’t treat your water without having a decent idea of what minerals are already in it.

A closeup shot of the HopShot's gooey hop resins and alpha acids.Many breweries (Russian River, Surly etc.) use hop extract to bitter their hoppy beers for both practical and flavor considerations. Hops suck up wort, lowering your efficiency and adding cost (but on a homebrew scale, who cares?). Some brewers also claim to taste the chlorophyll extracted from a large bittering charge contributes a grassy or vegetal off-flavor. I used hop extract in my Pliny the Younger clone, but it was not the sole source of bitterness. Northern Brewer suggests that 1 g of their HopShots, boiled 60 minutes, will contribute about 10 IBUs to five gallons of wort. I decided on 8 g at 60 minutes, with no other hops added until flame out. I'm interested to find out if it contributes a noticeably different character to the beer, and if it tastes as bitter as I expect for 80 IBUs.

The aroma hops were a bit of an experiment. I fell in love with the unique fruity character of Nelson Sauvin in my first attempt at a Micro-IPA. This time, rather than pairing it with Amarillo, I added Ahtanum and Simcoe to see how Nelson works with a bolder citrus hop character. Otherwise the process was very similar to those I’ve used on hoppy beers in the past.

With the huge dose of hops the boiled wort isn't the prettiest sight.Blazing World #1

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 15.34
Anticipated OG: 1.070
Anticipated SRM: 12.2
Anticipated IBU: 80.1
Brewhouse Efficiency: 61 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes

78.2% - 12.00 lbs. French Vienna Malt
16.3% - 2.50 lbs. American Pale Malt
2.4% - 0.38 lbs. Cane Sugar
2.4% - 0.38 lbs. Crystal 120L
0.6% - 0.09 lbs. Pale Chocolate Malt

8.0 ml.     HopShot (Extract) @ 60 min.
1.25 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ 30 min Hop Stand
1.00 oz. Ahtanum (Pellet, 6.00% AA) @ 30 min Hop Stand
0.50 oz. Simcoe (Pellet, 14.00% AA) @ 30 min Hop Stand
1.25 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Start of Chill
1.00 oz. Ahtanum (Pellet, 6.00% AA) @ Start of Chill
0.50 oz. Simcoe (Pellet, 14.00% AA) @ Start of Chill
2.50 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
2.00 oz. Ahtanum (Pellet, 6.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA) @ Dry Hop

0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.

WYeast 1056 American Ale/Chico

Water Profile
Profile: Pliny the Water
Calcium(Ca): 90.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 5.0 ppm
Sodium(Na): 10.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 145.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 60.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 65.0 ppm

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 60 min @ 154 F

3/1/12 Made a 1.2 l starter on the stirplate. Seemed finished after 48 hours, so I allowed it to settle until brewday.

3/4/12 Brewed by myself.

Filtered DC water cut with 50% distilled. Added 8 g of gypsum and 3 g of chloride for the entire 10 gallons of prepared liquor. Aiming for ~90 PPM Calcium, 145 Sulfate, and 60 Chloride.

Batch sparged with 185 F water. Collected a total of 7.25 gallons of 1.058 runnings. Added the sugar to the start of the boil.

8 ml of HopShot extract added to the kettle for bittering.

Half of the flameout added for a 30 minute hop stand. The rest were added at the start of the chill.
Chilled to 64 F stirring constantly. Strained to remove the bulk of the hops. Oxygenated for 60 seconds with pure O2. Topped off with ~.3 gallons of spring water to reach 5 gallons. Pitched the decanted starter.

Left at 63 F ambient to start fermenting. Good activity by 24 hours. Ambient temperature rose slowly to around 70 by the end of the second week.

3/23/12 Bagged and weighted the dry hops, and placed into a keg. Flushed twice with CO2, then racked the beer in. Purged the head space twice, then left at room temperature for dry hopping. At 1.016 (77% AA, 7.1% ABV) the beer was slightly sweeter than I intended, although that may have also been because the bitterness was a bit lighter/smoother than I wanted.

4/19/12 Great tasting hoppy beer. Could use slightly more bitterness, say 10 ml of hopshot, and could be a few shades darker. Otherwise it is just a matter of tweaking the hop profile based on what direction I want to take it.

5/13/12 Brewed a second iteration of this recipe.


Hopwise said...

I'm not sure what you mean by this, "the high finishing gravity (1.018 by my measure) means that Nugget Nectar tends to fall off quicker than drier IPAs."

What aspect of the higher finishing gravity would cause Nugget Nectar to age worse than a hoppy IPA with a lower FG?

Señor Brew™ said...

What Hopwise said.

(I had the exact same question--glad I read the previous comment before posting a redundant one--I also avoided repeating it). :-)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I just find the flavor of sweetness and even slightly old American hops to be very off putting. Some people don't mind slightly aged Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, for example, but I can't stand it until the hops have completely dropped out (around two years). The small amount of dark malt I added should also help the flavor stability by adding some anti-oxidant properties. One of the issues with really hoppy beers is that even if you were able to keep the bottle/keg 100% oxygen free, as the alpha acids break down they can trigger oxidation.

geoff said...

link to the HF comments posted on water treatment?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Here is what Shaun posted back on 9/19/11: "Looks Good! What about Calcium Chloride... We always use both in correlation to one another... CACL and CASO4. Varies from beer to beer, of course... but it has taken many many years to get those numbers where I want them =)"

mc said...

Nice, I guess you did the hopstand-only-for-aroma-and-flavor-during-the-"boil" before I got a chance to do so. I'll be brewing my sometime next week, I'm interested in any early impressions you have of the beer so far...

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I haven't pulled a sample since I brewed it, but I will when I rack it to a keg in the next few days. I'm interested to see how much hop aroma it has pre-dry hopping.

mc said...

I'd love to hear the results on that...it'd help me figure whether or not to double dry hop it (warm + cold).

Will said...

Just curious what type of water profile you're using for standard IPA's? 150ppm sulfate is pretty low compared to the what many people typically use - not that all IPA's need 350ppm!

Andrei said...

Did I read it right that you added the salts to the HLT rather than adding them to the mash and boil, like your all-grain article recommends?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Most American IPAs I keep in the 150-200 ppm sulfate range. I've gone into the 200s and been happy with the results, but too much higher and the beer starts to taste minerally to me (which I enjoy at low levels in English ales, but not Americans).

These days, chalk is the only salt I wait to add to the mash since it doesn't dissolve well at the pH of my tap water. If I was aiming to have much more calcium I probably would have saved some of the salts for the boil since this wasn't a super-pale IPA. I was actually considering adding some acid to get the boil pH down to 5.0, but it made it there without help.

danger said...

nugget nectar has caramunich in it. and another reason it falls off so fast is because of high DO coming out of the filter, much like their other beers.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Where did you hear that it has CaraMunich? Neither their website, nor the interview they gave on The Brewing Network mentioned it.

As always, process, process, process. When it comes to making beers that hold up in the bottle.

Bryan said...

I recently brewed a 100% hop extract American IPA, using both Columbus and Amarillo extracts from Northern Brewer. Specifics aside, I was not happy with the outcome of the beer. There was an extreme citrus and cucumber after taste that dominated.

I'm curious to hear your results of only using real hops at flameout.

jbakajust1 said...

Did I read that correctly? You started with 10 gallons of liquor, ran off 7.25 gallons for the boil, and had to add 3 gallons to the fermenter to get to 5 gallons after a 60 minute boil while suing only 5oz of hops?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Interesting, although not too surprising. As far as I have heard Lagunitas is the only brewer using extract for finishing hop additions, but they extract their own.

I added .3 (3/10) gallon of water to top off the fermentor. Despite starting with 10 gallons of liquor, I think I only used 9 between the mash and sparge. I always like to have a bit extra just in case.

Bryan said...

What kind of bittering contributions do you expect from a 30 min hop stand? It's my understanding that utilization occurs to an unknown extent at temperatures below boiling, but there really isn't a whole lot of information out there. I'd expect your batch to drop to about 180F during that stand?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I expect some additional bitterness, but I’m not sure exactly sure how much. It’ll be pretty bitter already, so I’m not as concerned as if I was brewing something that I was aiming for a moderate level of bitterness. I was still up around 190 F after 30 minutes if I recall correctly. It takes awhile for that much thermal mass to cool off, although not nearly as long a commercial sized batch.

Matt said...

I'll ive interested in hearing your thoughts on how well the NS and simcoe play together. I really like the NS hops, did a saison with them as the only hop (aside from a fwh addition of Willamette) that turned out gorgeous.

BrewerAdam said...

Why does it seem that your efficiency varies so much from batch to batch? On all of my brews, it stays between 70 and 75.

I know lower efficiency is not a problem (so to speak) but I was just wondering why sometimes you have in the 50s and sometimes you have around 80? Does it have to do with the fact you are doing second runnings from your big beers?

Just curious is all.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

A chunk of it is that I have two different mash tuns. The big one (that I used for this batch) has a lot more dead space, and since I also use it for stronger beers my efficiency really tends to suffer. I also switch between batch and fly sparging depending on how worried I am about over-sparging. I'm pretty good at predicting my efficiency, which is what really counts. I don't mind adding a bit of extra grain as long as I'm hitting my target.

damong said...

Exactly what do you mean by hop stand?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Traditional wisdom in the homebrewing community has been that flameout hops should be added and the wort chilled as quickly as possible. The issue is that when commercial breweries add hops at the end of the boil the wort is usually whirlpooled and then chilled with a heat exchanger. This results in the hops sitting in near-boiling wort for 30-90 minutes. Hop standing is just a way to replicate this at home, at flame-out the hops are added and the wort is allowed to sit before you start running the chiller. Imagine making ice tea, you wouldn’t add the tea to the water and then chill it immediately, you’d give the heat time to extract flavor and aroma compounds.

DRoy said...

Man you put a ton of hops in your brews. Makes me feel like I'm doing something right. You see these homebrew recipes with just the measliest hop additions. Bulk hops are pennies, go nuts.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'm amazed when I see IPA recipes that call for only an ounce of hops for flame-out and dry hopping. There is no way you are getting a big beautiful hop nose like that.