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.
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.