Thursday, April 19, 2012

Nelson Nectar IPA Tasting

Hoppy beers are the best type to homebrew since they benefit the most from being served fresh. It is amazing just how quickly a bright fresh hop nose begins to deteriorate, even under the best possible conditions (stored cold in a flushed keg). I made some reasonably good hoppy beers before I started kegging, but during those two to three weeks spent warm bottle conditioning you are missing out on the best hop aroma the batch will have. Force carbonating while the beer is cold and on dry hops, has made a big improvement in the freshness of my hoppy beers.

The folks at Indie Hops summarized an experiment that shows that some of the key hop aromatics peak just a few hours after the dry hops are added, although that was with continuous agitation. At some point I really will have to get a HopRocket and try out the torpedo method of dry hopping that Sierra Nevada uses for their IPA of the same name. In that case, cold crashing the beer first would be the best way to go to remove as much hop-oil-stealing yeast cells as possible.

For Nelson Nectar, despite being in the keg for less than a month, I’ve already noticed the hop nose begin to fade. It has not become off or oxidized, just mellower than the big fresh notes it had two weeks ago. Friends suggested that part of the blame may rest on the Nelson Sauvin hops, they cited the rapid decline of Alpine Nelson. I’ll be interested to see how this batch progresses, although I doubt it will last too much longer.

A glass of homebrewed IPA next to my hop bines.Nelson Nectar IPA

Appearance – In a pint glass the beer occupies a spot right between amber and golden. For the next batch I’ll go slightly darker, to make it a true India Amber Ale. Using a standard ~3.5 L Vienna malt compared to the ~2.5 L MFB version may be all it takes, but I may boost the pale chocolate malt as well. It is a bit hazy, but not surprising given the more than five ounces of hops in the keg. Reasonable head retention, and it leaves beautiful white lacing.

Smell – The aroma has lost the sort of hop nose you can smell from a few feet away, but it still has a wonderful combo of citrus and melon. As it warms I get more of that signature Nelson character, which I find simultaneously fruity and dank.

Taste – Coating, resiny hop flavor. It finishes with a solid, clean bitterness, but it isn’t quite as firm as I wanted for a beer this big. I’ll be going to a full 10 ml of hop extract for bittering next time (two HopShots). The lightly toasted malt is there in support, but this is still a hop bomb. I like the combo of malt and hops, without much sweetness. Super clean fermentation, several people have mistaken it for a hoppy pale ale despite more than 7% ABV.

Mouthfeel – Medium-light body, just what I like in a double IPA. Good carbonation, just slightly prickly.

Drinkability & Notes – I go back and forth on this beer. A few friends who are objective enough to tell me when they don’t like my beer gave it good reviews (abandoning a half bottle of the well rated St. Arnold Endeavor to go back for more of mine). Jacob and I have discussed taking this recipe completely down-under, replacing the Ahtanum and Simcoe with the bright fruity aroma of Australian Galaxy (assuming the pellets are better than the old whole hops I used in my last Double IPA). That would certainly be a unique combination, but it would be fruity with less pine/citrus than hopheads are accustomed to. There are so many great hoppy beers on the West Coast it almost seems mandatory to try a new spin on the hopping.


mc said...

Interesting. I just tried a sip of my mIPA with the extended hop stand...and it's not quite as flavorful as I hoped though the hopstanding. Though the combo of Nelson Sauvin, Amarillo and Galaxy give it a really citrusy tropical fruit thing. I added in some Citra, Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin for this first dry hop addition and it really just highlights the combination. The pineness is there, but it isn't at the same levels as some other hops (i.e. Simcoe). I may add some calcium chloride to help bring out some of the malt that seems to be hidden now...

By the way, that Indie Hop study also highlighted their hop pellets which are processed at a lower temperature than most hops in Yakima so that may also add to the difference in aromatics.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I feel like the hop stand does a good job connecting the bitterness and the big hop aroma, but it will not replace a big dry hop addition for something like an IPA. Citra and Nelson, now there is an idea. I need to dig through my freezer to figure out what else I can throw into an IPA.

True on the Indie Hops pellets, but they mention the same effect time has with whole hops as well.

Dougal said...

Most brewers here in NZ are finding that we get more enduring flavour characteristics from Nelson Sauvin as a late kettle addition than as dry hop. I know exactly what you mean about the decay and have experienced it myself.
Keep an eye out for the new NZ hop, Kohatu, which came out in small volumes last year. It's got a pineapple fruitiness with a hint of NS "sweaty" pungency. I've just made a an APA (well, kind of) with Motueka, Kohatu, and Riwaka- fermented with 3522 Ardennes. The fruit and piney flavours compliment the Ardennes yeast perfectly.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Beer sounds delicious! I'll be on the lookout for Kohatu, thanks for the tip.

Rob said...

Where did you guys find Galaxy hops?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

At the moment Galaxy is pretty much impossible to come by, but the Southern Hemisphere harvest should be available soon. I ordered mine directly from Australia, but I know Hops Direct and Rebel Brewer have both had limited quantities in previous years.

BrewerAdam said...

Northern Brewer has some Australian Galaxy (I think that is the same thing.)

Draconian Libations said...

I can't decide what beer style that I like for Nelson Sauvin. It seems out of place in the Amercian Blonde that I brewed. For my taste, Im thinking Nelson Sauvin belongs in something with more malt backbone or higher alcohol.