Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hoppy Red Rye Tasting

Over the last decade, hops varieties seem to be getting trendier. For a long time Cascade was the go-to hop for American beers, then Centennial made a run, the combination of Amarillo ad Simcoe is a modern classic, and now everyone wants Citra. There are dozens of new varieties being bred, and one of them will be the next big hit. It is hard not to get swept up in these new varieties when they impart bold new flavors heretofore not possible in hoppy beers. However, with so many other varieties out there finding new combinations of existing varieties is another way to create unique flavors.

Hop quality is a bigger deal than most homebrewers give it credit. It is of enough importance that many larger craft breweries send someone to the Yakima Valley and Hallertau to evaluate the harvest each year. As homebrewers we are often left with what remains, unable to evaluate the product until we open the package on brew day. There are some brewers who think of hop varieties like a commodity (Simcoe is Simcoe), when in fact you might get a more exciting hop character in an IPA from terrific Centennial rather than poor quality Citra.

Rather than relying on the supply chain to take care of the hops from the time they are harvested in the fall until when I am brewing, I’d rather buy the varieties I know I’ll use in bulk as soon as they are released, and store them myself. Doing this also saves money and avoids situations where those prized varieties disappear six months before the new harvest.

The Cascade for this Hoppy Red Rye was from Indie Hops, hopefully part of a wave of suppliers catering to craft brewers (and hopefully homebrewers) - who appreciate hops for more than just their level of alpha acids. I paired it with Sterling, originally bred as an American grown replacement for Saaz, but it is more powerfully aromatic and brings some fruitiness to compliment the spice.

A glass of RED Rye IPA.Hoppy Red Rye

Appearance – When I first brewed this beer I was sure it was too dark. When I poured the first sample from the tap it looked too light. Luckily after the yeast settled it ended up a beautiful garnet red. The head is dense, sticky, off-white, and gorgeous.

Smell – The nose is multifaceted, toasted malt, citrusy hops, and red berries. The hops smell fresh, sticky, grapefruity, but they aren’t over-the-top pungent. The berry-malt is wonderfully aromatic.

Taste – Solid bitterness at first, with some residual sweetness, and then lingering hops. Well balanced, although I tend to like my hoppy beers somewhat drier. The toasted-caramel malt comes through, not doughy or bready. Hops meld with the malt, citrus, hay, herbal; they need to be more intense to market as an IPA variant. Slight ethanol note on the finish.

Mouthfeel – Medium-heavy body for a moderate alcohol beer. Solid carbonation, about right.

Drinkability & Notes – Of all of our “first attempts” at Modern Times recipes, this may be the most successful. However, it doesn’t have the special something that makes Founders Red’s Rye such a perfect beer. Dialing back on the malt, and up on the hop aromatics will get us there though I suspect.


Micah said...

I couldn't help but notice that you comment on the importance of good quality hoops for the unique flavours they contribute.... and then you add HopShot to your beer. I am bewildered.

Micah said...

*hops. Sorry. And I don't mean any offense but I am genuinely weirded out by your use of HopShot. Your posts actually inspired me to brew a Flemish Red Ale (based on you BlackBerry Flemish Red recipe) and a sour ginger oatmeal stout (which I am currently drinking). The Flemish Red is still aging. The sour stout was fermented entirely with yeast I grew from Jolly Pumpkin bottle dregs.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

If you can taste distinct hop nuances from a 60 minute bittering addition passed 3.5 oz of hops at flame-out and 4.5 oz of dry hops, then you have a better palate than mine. If hop extract is good enough for Russian River and Hill Farmstead, it is good enough for me!

Micah said...

If only my palate were that refined. No, my point isn't so much about the flavour as it is about the ingredients. I feel as though the point of craft brewing is to brew excellent beer from raw ingredients.

To state it bluntly - if I wanted root beer I'd either pour something from a bottle, or mix something up from concentrate. If I wanted to brew my own root beer, I'd go buy sassafras bark, sarsaparilla root, licorice root, ginger, etc. Furthermore, if I wanted to add vanilla - I could add some flavouring, or I could throw in an actual bean or two.

My point is that "extract" or "concentrate" doesn't exude "craft". I know that Russian River and Hill Farmstead have great reputations as craft breweries. I haven't done my research to know what their ingredients are. I'm slightly shocked they'd use a bittering agent in place of traditional ingredients. Is the use of bittering hops a big cost factor?

While I have a conversation going with you, I actually live just up in Baltimore. I can't claim that my beer is anywhere near as good as yours; I just started brewing early this year. That said, if you ever want to exchange a bottle or two (or take a Three Floyd's Dark Lord) as compensation for one of your favourite sours I'd be interested.

FelipBorncois said...

Interested to know your final gravity since you preferred a drier beer. I got knocked for slight astringency in my most recent competition entry due to being overly dry (1.010) with an imperial red..

A Disolusioned Brewer said...

"Craft" is a truly worthless word in the beer industry. A marketing gimmic. What does it really mean? Breweries make beer to make money and somewhere along the line they find a balance between integrity, profit, and keeping their patrons happy. Therefore, who cares about hopshot. If it works as well as regular hops and still makes good beer while saving money, all the better. Now, I'm not saying it should be used in those styles where you want hop character from your bittering charge, but for a hop bomb, what's the problem?

Nick Kiest said...

Before you start throwing accusations around, do a little research.

Wonderful commercial brewers (Russian River included) use hop extract in Double IPAs and other hoppy beers for two valuable reasons:
1) Trub: When you already have pounds per barrel going in for late additions, the extra material added with the buttering hops can lose lots of beer to sediment, and clog the hardware of (normally) german designed systems that can't handle that hop load.
2) Greenery: Such large quantity of bittering hops can add a vegetal note to beers, which is not normally the goal. This is different, and less pleasant than dry hoppy grassiness (although related).

For both of these reasons, as well as cost, are good reasons to use hop extracts. At one point in time, many had a similar reaction as yours to pellet hops, but in time we learned how, when well processed, they can enhance beers, and likely made super hoppy beers possible.

Also, do you malt your own barley? Do you dry and pelletize your own hops? Brewing, although an art, is also an industrial process, that has evolved and improved with time. It is up to use to use these techniques for improving flavor, and not just making cheaper lager.

Micah said...

Nick: That's a great answer and I appreciate the feedback. I still think it's odd, but I'll have to consider it and challenge what I was taught(, and challenge my brewing mentor to reconsider the strong opinions he imbued in me). Maybe I'll try it out myself sometime :).

Mike: I love the red color of your Hoppy Red Rye. Do any spicy rye flavours come through from the rye grain?

Ed said...

How did you get your hands on some Indie Hops? I've heard great things about them and how they pelletize at a lower temperature keeping more oils intact.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

This one finished at 1.014 (78% AA). Astringency can come from things besides a low FG. You may have had some tannins, or overly harsh hopping?

Agree with it or not, commercially speaking "Craft Brewing" is actually a defined word:

Although you can certainly conform to the rules and still make junky beer. Not to mention that this clause: "Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor." seems to mean breweries like Russian River that brew IPAs with sugar aren't actual craft brewers, technically.

Micah, come to a DC Homebrewers meeting sometime and you'll get to try my beers and I'd be happy to give yours a taste (I'd prefer that over the Dark Lord...). Not much rye character in this one (despite three types), I find rye gives a subtle bready flavor that is hard to identify in complex beers.

The Indie Hops were a sample Modern Times got, but they are available from a homebrew store (linked on the recipe post).

Justin said...

thanks for the discussion on hop quality. could you recommend a few suppliers of consistently excellent hops?

i was planning to buy in bulk from hopsdirect for the first time when they pelletize this year's harvest, but i'd like to hear your recommendations, first.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

HopsDirect and Freshops both tend to have excellent hops compared to buying pre-packaged one ounce products at the homebrew store, but not always. No matter who you buy from there is always a risk that you’ll receive iffy hops. Always smell your hops, learn what recently-harvested, well handled hops smell like. Hopefully you have a vacuum sealer and a freezer to store what you buy. Hope that helps!

HolzBrew said...

I can't speak to the taste, but the brew certainly looks beautiful. I'm guessing it tastes pretty darn good as well.

Anonymous said...

You can add Deschutes and Lagunitas to craft breweries that use hop extract as well.

Mike said...

Mike....I made this recipe recently and wanted to comment on how well this came out. Based on your tasting notes, I changed the recipe by upping the rye to 20% and used Cascade as bittering with Amarillo for flavor/aroma. I mashed low and used WL007. The end result was a pronounced rye bread character that stood out but did not overwhelm. Amarillo complemented the rye perfectly and the beer finished dry. The color was spot on to your picture. I have made many IPA’s and this one truly stands out. This is one of those rare occasions where if I make this again (and I plan to do so), I would not change a thing.

Very nice recipe!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

That is terrific to hear! I’m coming around to another attempt on this one in the next month or so. The grain bill will be very similar, but changing the hopping to Simcoe/Horizon/Motueka. I’m hoping for bolder hop aromatics that still don’t obscure the maltiness.