English IPA – Homebrew Recipe & Review

English IPA

English IPA – A Balancing Act of Traditional Hops and Toasted Malt Flavors

“Balance” is one of the most overused (and misunderstood) terms used to describe beer. It is a characteristic thrown around by brewers and beer geeks alike as a silver bullet for communicating a positive impression of a beer. It is often cited as the end game which all beers should strive to achieve.

Discussing balance is problematic as the concept is not often understood as a way to describe the interplay between a broad spectrum of flavor, aromatic, and mouthfeel sensations within a given beer. For many beer drinkers, implicit to the concept of balance is the thinking that for each polarizing character a beer may possess there must be a counteracting character of equal stature to achieve “balance”. This neutralizing character is almost always malt character and sweetness. Malt seems to be the agent of neutralization for hop bitterness, roasted bite, sharp acidity, alcoholic heat, overly dry attenuation…the list goes on and on.

I believe that this concept of balance is somewhat limiting. I prefer to use balance as a metric for describing where a beer lands on the continuum of various traits. Parity between divergent traits may mean a beer has equal balance, but a beer can be also be balanced towards any number of traits and still be viewed as equally delicious. A beer can be malt-forward, hop-forward, barrel-forward, acidity-forward, or described in any number of other ways. This allows us to look at the commercial spectrum of highly acidic sour beers, fruit bomb IPAs, and sugary sweet barrel-aged beers, and realize that equal balance is not always the most sought after type of balance in a beer.

That said, this recipe for an English IPA strikes a balance between malt and hops which makes it incredibly enjoyable and sessionable. I’m a huge fan of the floral, and slightly earthy, character a large does of East Kent Goldings gives this beer.

English IPA Recipe

Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 72%
Attenuation: 75%

Original Gravity: 1.057
Terminal Gravity: 1.012
Color: 11.23 SRM
Alcohol: 5.9% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 23 IBU (does not account for significant whirlpool isomerization)

Malt Bill:
5 lbs. (69.0%) Crisp Maris Otter
0.75 lb. (10.3%) Weyermann Vienna Malt
6 oz. (5.2%) Thomas Fawcett Crystal Malt I
6 oz. (4.2%) Torrified Wheat
4 oz. (4.1%) Briess Midnight Wheat

Sugar Additions:
0.75 lb. (10.3%) Corn Sugar (Dextrose)

Mash Profile:
151°F – 60m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
4 g. Gypsum (to mash)
1 g. Calcium Chloride (to mash)

0.5 oz.Target (10% AA) – 60m
1.0 oz. East Kent Goldings (5.7% AA) – Whirlpool 15m
1.5 oz.Target (10% AA) – Whirlpool 15m
1.0 oz. Cascade (5.5% AA) – Whirlpool 15m

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea. Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5 tsp. Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

Wyeast 1968 London ESB Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 12C English IPA

Aroma (12/12):
The beer introduces itself with a very appealing soft, yet sophisticated malt nose featuring a gentle toastiness and very light touch of toffee sweetness. There are some very low fruity esters that are fairly subdued for a British style ale. A very pretty, medium hop aroma complements the malt with elements of marmalade jam paired with a floral, dried rose element. Very nice.

Appearance (3/3):
The beer pours a striking copper with crystal clarity. A tight, frothy head of tan foam caps the glass and persists through the end.

Flavor (18/20):
The malt flavor of this beer is really great. Moderate in intensity, the malt manages to be interesting but not overbearing. Like freshly baked bread, the beer is very inviting and barely wafts just a whisper of caramel sweetness. There is quite a lot of hop flavor showcasing floral elements with a touch of sweet orange flesh. The bitterness is firm, but smooth and does not linger. There is just a touch of mineral sharpness on the finish.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
Medium body with slightly prickly carbonation that is perhaps a touch high. Beer is very crisp and clean.

Overall Impression (9/10):
This is a fantastic beer that showcases the soft nuances of British malt and hops. I love the way that this beer manages to be simple yet sophisticated at the same time. In a world where we frequently chase maximum flavor intensity in beer, we’re reminded that simple beers that showcase quality ingredients and careful craft can be every bit as enjoyable as the most complicated craft-brewed concoctions.

Excellent (45/50)

Belgian Golden Strong Ale – Recipe & Review

Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Belgian Golden Strong – Not My Finest Moment as a Brewer

A natural temptation for any homebrewing blogger is to write only about their greatest achievements. After all, for most of you reading this, your only way of judging my brewing abilities is through the write-ups I share.

Though this approach to sharing would undoubtedly boost my ego, I find it misleading and limiting as we all seek to better ourselves as homebrewers. Sometimes, I brew a beer that simply sucks. Whether through flawed recipe creation, poor technique, fickle yeast, or acts of God, bad beer happens. This is a fact for most homebrewers and one of the truths we can own without facing any real consequences. Sometimes the cost of a batch isn’t worth choking down a sub-par beer. Luckily this isn’t a big deal for us since our costs are low and we’re not driven to sell our creations—something, perhaps, that some commercial brewers could learn from.

Rant aside, this beer was unfortunately a dumper. While the recipe itself is solid, I made two critical mistakes.

First, I rushed the process, crashing the fermenter and bottling the beer way too early. When I crashed the beer, I was left with an overly sweet, under-attenuated malt bomb. This particular strain of yeast likes to take its sweet time to completely attenuate and I simply didn’t allow it to. After I bottled and stored the beer at room temp, fermentation began again, creating dramatically over carbonated beer. Luckily I bottled the beer in very thick Belgian bottles, which prevented any bottle bombs.

My second mistake came when I cold crashed the beer. Hoping to prevent air suck back through the airlock as the beer chilled and lost volume, I decided to bung up the Better Bottle. Unfortunately, some CO2 was still being generated by the ferment, which popped off the bung, and left the carboy open to the atmosphere for about 16 hours. This oxidized the beer and gave the malt a honeyed sweetness that didn’t help what was already a sweet beer.

Needless to say, I learned from these mistakes and hopefully won’t repeat them. If this can prevent even a single beer being dumped by others then my work was worth the effort!

Belgian Golden Strong Ale Recipe

Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 70%
Attenuation: 75% (target was 93%)

Original Gravity: 1.072
Terminal Gravity: 1.018 (target was 1.005)
Color: 4.66 SRM
Alcohol: 7.12% ABV (calculated) (target was 8.69% ABV)
Bitterness: 15.9 IBU

Malt Bill:
7.25 lbs. (81.7%) Dingemans Pilsner Malt
2 oz. (1.4%) Weyermann Acidulated Malt

Sugar Additions:
1.5 lbs. (16.9%) Dextrose (Corn Sugar)

Mash Profile:
122°F – 5m
146°F – 40m
154°F – 20m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
2 g. Gypsum (to mash)
2 g. Calcium Chloride (to mash)

28 g. Styrian Goldings (2.8% AA) – 60m
28 g. Styrian Goldings (2.8% AA) – Whirlpool 15m

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea. Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5 tsp. Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 25C Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Aroma (7/12):
Lots of intense fruit aromas jump from the glass. There is plenty of pear and apple esters as well as just a minute amount of cherry. There is a medium-plus banana or bubblegum ester which I’m particularly sensitive to (and not a huge fan of). There is a hint of peppery phenolic spice that adds a bit of complexity to the fermentation character. While the nose is dominated by fermentation byproducts, the malt comes across as quite bready and sweet with some honey-like undertones. The malt is just a touch oxidized with some prune-like aroma.

Appearance (1/3):
The beer is a very light blond color with some haze. The beer pours with a big white head with cascading bubbles from the ample carbonation. Good retention and lacing.

Flavor (11/20):
The beer has a lot of malt flavor, frankly more than I’d hope to find in this style. There is a honeyed pilsner character that is particular to Belgian pilsner malts that I’ve used in the past. Unfortunately, there is also an undercurrent of light oxidation with some subtle dark fruit notes. There is a bit of low sugary sweetness that is the antithesis of the hallmark of the style. The fruit flavor is high with lots of characterful fermentation elements including fruity pear and apple esters. The high fruitiness blends with the residual sweetness to give an overly sweet impression. Bitterness is very low—a bit more would be welcome.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
High carbonation bursts from the beer giving a very prickly, almost sharp mouthfeel and scrubbing what would otherwise likely have been a somewhat syrupy beer.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This beer is a bit too boisterous in its fruit character compared to the quiet elegance of a beer like Duvel, the quintessential Belgian Golden Strong Ale. Additionally, the overly sweet impression and slight oxidized notes detract from the drinkability that is key to achieving a good Belgian Golden Strong Ale.

Good (28/50)

Bonus: See how judges scored this beer at the 2017 Homebrew Alley competition in NYC.