Tropical Corn IPA – Recipe and Review

Tropical to the max, not so sexy in the glass.

Tropical to the max, not so sexy in the glass.

If you’ve followed the various IPA recipe posts on this site, you’ll know that my IPA preferences lean towards increasingly lower levels of malt while pushing hop flavor and aromatics towards absurdity. A big part of this rational is that I honestly believe IPA is at its best when it becomes a pure expression of hops. “Balance”, an often proselytized descriptor among beer geeks, is becoming increasingly meaningless to me, especially when applied to contemporary American IPAs. At the risk of sounding irreverent, finding “balance” in a beer, often defined as the counterbalance between competing forces (malt sweetness vs. hop bitterness vs. acidity, etc.) should not be sought in IPA. Instead, creating as light of a body as possible while providing enough sneaky alcohol to both extract the hop goodness and leave you feeling immersed in a hop halo is a priority. While hop choices and technique are fundamental (and often the focus of recipe creation), providing the right malt canvas for alcohol creation should be equally as important.

It is in the realm of creating minimally flavored alcoholic liquids that I think we can learn from our distant brewing cousins from the world of industrial lager. Frequently, corn or rice is used as a medium for creating highly fermentable worts with very little residual body or sweetness. Craft brewers often use refined dextrose in their beers. For this beer, I thought it would be fun to introduce both the refined product (dextrose) and its pre-gelatinized source material (flaked corn) into an IPA recipe and see if I could push further, the lean body I am looking for.

Tropical Corn IPA Recipe

Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 77%
Attenuation: 82.7%

Original Gravity: 1.060
Terminal Gravity: 1.010
Color: 3.15 SRM
Alcohol: 6.56% ABV
Bitterness: 50.7 IBUs

Malt Bill:
5 lbs (70.8%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
1.25 lbs (17.7%) Briess Flaked Corn
13 oz. (11.5%) Corn Sugar

Mash Profile:
149°F – 60m
170°F – 5m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
4g Gypsum (to mash)
2g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

15g Warrior (17.9% AA) – 90m

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

Whirlpool Hopping:
34g El Dorado (13.2% AA) – 20m
68g Galaxy (16.1% AA) – 20m

Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Dry Hopping:
34g Azacca (10.3% AA) – 2 Days
100g Galaxy (16.1% AA) – 2 Days

Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 21A American IPA

Aroma (8/12):
Bright tangerine, ripe mango, honeydew melon, and pineapple leap from the glass accompanied by a touch of lemon, grapefruit pith, and light pine resin. Fruit salad in a glass. There is a very subtle, bready malt note hiding somewhere in the background. There is almost no malt at all—just a lot of punchy hops. As it warms, some ethanol heat is apparent.

Appearance (1/3):
Very hazy, bordering on murky. Big white head with awesome, super clingy white foam that persists.

Flavor (13/20):
Super juicy hop punch flavor. Lots of tropical aromatics—mango, melon, pineapple, and some grass. The beer has a firm hop bitterness that I find refreshing in comparison to many underbittered, nouveau IPAs. There is a pretty obvious alcoholic heat that is not pleasant. The beer is very dry, but there is some implied sweetness derived from the mind’s association between the fruity hop flavors and their real world counterparts. Malt really has no role in the flavor composition, except perhaps in lending just a deft touch of soft breadiness to the finish.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
Medium to medium-low body. Carbonation is slightly low. The body has a softness that I often associate with heavily hopped beers packed with hop oils.

Overall Impression (7/10):
This beer is an excellent showcase for newer tropical hop varieties. Time will tell whether these flavors stand on their own merits or if they’re simply novel. I think it’s the latter. The hops are allowed to shine in this almost austere beer; although, finding a way to temper the alcoholic heat is vital for this to really be a fantastic beer.

Very Good (32/50)

Sun Shower Saison Review

Sun Shower Saison

After much planning and some apprehension, The Pour Report homebrew wife finally brewed her very first beer this summer. While the brew day itself went quite well, the final product, christened Sun Shower Saison, wasn’t quite what I had hoped for. Conceived as a refreshing, low-alcohol “tart, crisp, and slightly fruity beer” for the dog days of summer, Sun Shower was able to live up to most of what I’ve just described. The most disappointing characteristic was the flavors contributed by the saison yeast, specifically the peppery spiciness. While I’ve always considered myself a fan of saisons, I’m finding that my palette interprets the peppery spiciness as more of a distraction than a complement to the beer. On the flip side, I have discovered that there is no such thing as “too tart” when it comes to my palette and I wish Sun Shower had a little more tartness to it. As a result, I find myself very much disliking this beer and already have plans to rebrew this recipe with a different yeast. Stay tuned to see how Version 2 turns out…

Tasting Notes:

Jessie’s Review:

Judged against my original intent to brew a “refreshing, low-alcohol tart, crisp, and slightly fruity beer”

Aroma (8/12):
Peppery with a hint of ham (reminiscent of the carved ham station at King’s Table Buffet). When fresh, the Galaxy hops bring a nice melon (mainly cantaloupe) flavor.

Appearance (2/3):
Yellow-to-gold range (if there are any designers reading this, think PMS 7405). Relatively clear, but with very poor head retention.

Flavor (10/20):
Peppery spiciness with melon and a touch of salt. A subtle hint of barnyard funk and tartness.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
Very light body with seltzer-like qualities. Could afford to be more carbonated.

Overall Impression (5/10):

If I had set out to brew non-alcoholic water, I’d be ecstatic! But as it stands, I’m satisfied that my first beer came out without any major flaws.

Good (28/50)


Nick’s Review:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 34C Experimental Beer

Beer Description: Ultra low alcohol (3.0%) saison. Minimal malt, light fruity hop character, soft lacto sourness. Dry, crisp, effervescent, quenching.

Aroma (7/12):

A whisper of sulfury egg hits the nose first, but blows off quickly and is followed by a fairly prominent Belgian yeast note featuring some light peppery phenol, a touch of clove, and a subdued generic fruitiness. There is a touch of yogurt-like lacto and some soft hop aromatics reminiscent of mango, citrus, and perhaps a touch of pineapple and honeydew melon. The nose is subtle, but nuanced.

Appearance (1/3):
Pale gold with a light haze. A low white head forms, but quickly dissipates under a crackle of soda pop like fizziness. No retention whatsoever.

Flavor (14/20):
There is a soft bready malt flavor that is quickly underscored by a fairly expressive peppery yeast character. The beer is somewhat tart, although much less so than I would have expected given the pH tested at 3.14 prior to pitching Saccharomyces. The beer is bone dry. The hop flavor is generally fruity and citrusy, which plays nice with the acidity in the beer. There is no hop bitterness. The beer gives an impression of mineral water with an almost seltzer-like finish.

Mouthfeel (2/5):
Extremely low-bodied with spritzy carbonation. There is a slightly astringent tannin present. The beer is very quenching, although perhaps a bit watery.

Overall Impression (7/10):
This is a nice refreshing beer. I think to be on target with the recipe’s design intent it needs a bit more tartness and residual body to make it more sessionable and expressive.

Very Good (31/50)

American Red Ale (IPA) – Recipe and Review

American Red AleAmerican Red Ale, Red IPA, Hoppy Amber Ale, taxonomy aside, I think it’s a great style of beer, especially as a fall seasonal.

As the days get shorter and the leaves turn to hues of red and orange, it seemed befitting to create a hoppy beer that has a nice toasty malt flavor and a little more heft than I typically like in my hoppy beers.This sounds infinitely more appealing than the overly spiced pumpkin beers that tend to corrupt the season. It is also a great opportunity to clean out the freezer of last season’s hop crop in anticipation of the upcoming harvest. This is truly a harvest beer as it pertains to the ingredients found in typical beer. Huh, maybe Harvest IPA is the right classification.

Mind you, this should absolutely not be a sweet beer. Nor should it have too many deep caramel flavors that are better suited in beers where hops are not playing the leading role. This recipe focuses on the toasty and biscuity flavors imbued by melanoidin rich malt rather than leaning heavily on crystallized caramel malts. The beer finishes very dry, giving the beer a high level of drinkability as well as the requisite ability to warm you from the inside out (a key requirement for the fall season).

American Red Ale Recipe

Size: 3.5 gal
Efficiency: 67%
Attenuation: 81.3%

Original Gravity: 1.060
Terminal Gravity: 1.011
Color: 14.26 SRM
Alcohol: 6.3% ABV
Bitterness: 78 IBUs (does not account for whirlpool addition hop isomerization)

Malt Bill:
8 lbs (88.3%) Briess 2-Row Brewers Malt
0.5 lb (5.5%) Briess Victory Malt
0.5 (5.5%) Weyermann Carared
1 oz. (0.7%) Briess Midnight Wheat

Mash Profile:
149°F – 60m
170°F – 5m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
4g Gypsum (to mash)
2g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

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

Kettle Hopping:
16g Warrior (15.4% AA) – 60m
1 oz. Mosaic (12.3% AA) – 15m

Whirlpool Hopping:
1 oz. Mosaic (12.3% AA) – 15m
1 oz. Citra (13.7% AA) – 15m

Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Dry Hopping:
1 oz. Galaxy (16.1% AA) – 2 Days
2 oz. Mosaic (12.3% AA) – 2 Days

Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 21B Specialty IPA – Red IPA

Aroma (10/12):
Medium to high tropical fruitiness—overripe mango, pineapple, Juicy Fruit gum. There is a very low caramel malt nose, much less than the color would indicate. Underneath the hops, there is perhaps a touch of lightly toasted bread. The hop combination is primarily fruity / tropical with just a hint of pine resin. Very clean fermentation. No alcohol.

Appearance (1/3):
Medium brown with a reddish tint, though I’d really like the color to pop with a more saturated red tone. The beer is hazy, but not milky. The beer has a great tightly bubbled tan head that persists until the pint is finished.

Flavor (15/20):
There is quite a bit of nice malty character on the palate that is slightly sweet with some nice toasty / biscuity flavors and just a touch of toffee. Somehow, given the high level of attenuation, there remains just a touch of sweetness. The beer has a very firm bitterness that is tempered by this slight amount of residual sweetness.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
Medium body and medium-high carbonation with a fair amount of creaminess / softness on the palate. I am becoming more and more of a believer in the ability of hop compounds to produce a certain lusciousness in mouthfeel for a beer. The bitterness is just a bit astringent / biting.

Overall Impression (8/10):
I had a great time finishing this keg of beer. When super fresh, the beer hits you in the face with awesome bright hop aromatics. Over the period of about a month, the beer dropped bright, much of the punchy hops settled down, and the beer became more of a showcase in balance and malt. It aged quite gracefully; not becoming less of a beer, just a different style of beer. I actually preferred the beer most after about a month of cold storage.

Excellent (38/50)

Bioreactor Culture A – Gen 2

Bioreactor A2

Bioreactor A2 – Sour red with a subtle toasty background.

The somewhat laborious process of maintaining mixed cultures via what I’ve called, for lack of a better name, my Bioreactor Project is beginning to bear fruit (or in this case, sour beer). The recipe and review below represents the second generation fermentation of mixed culture “A”  grown up from the following beers:

  • Cantillon Gueuze
  • Tilquin Gueuze
  • Russian River Beatification
  • Crooked Stave Surette
  • Jolly Pumpkin La Roja

I’ve managed to consistently maintain the bioreactor on a 4-month refresh cycle. The results so far have been positive, although I’ve noticed that the fermentations have rather sluggish starts, which is a bit concerning. If I were to implement this program on a commercial level, I would decrease the refresh cycle to something more reasonable, perhaps refreshing every couple months. Unfortunately, the practicality for doing this at a homebrew level is somewhat limited (at least for myself).

For this iteration of the recipe, I wanted to see how the souring culture might synergize (or clash) with a slightly toasty malt background. Vienna malt plays a prominent role in the beer bringing a subtle toasty note to what should be a fairly funky sour beer.

Size: 1.25 gal
Efficiency: 66%
Attenuation: 85%

Original Gravity: 1.054
Terminal Gravity: 1.014
Color: 11.13 SRM
Alcohol: 5.25% ABV
Bitterness: 0 IBU
Terminal pH: 2.60

Malt Bill:
2.75 lb (91.7%) Weyermann Vienna Malt
0.25 lb (8.3%) Weyermann Carared

Mash Profile:
160°F – 60m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
Added to mash: 2g Calcium Chloride

0.25 oz Aged Cascade Hops (0.0% AA) – 90m

Kettle Additions:
0.25 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15m
0.25 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10m

Bio Reactor “Culture A” – racked from a 4-month old fermentation using the same culture

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 28B Mixed Fermentation Sour Beer

Aroma (8/12):
Prominent pie cherry, fruity Brett aromatics on the nose with a punchy level of lactic sourness. There is a nice soft, bready malt nose featuring light toast along with some oxidized dark fruit (think prune). Some of the more funky Brett aromatics of wet hay and earth are subtle, offering background complexity. As the beer warms, the beer exudes a nutty, almost Amaretto-like aroma.

Appearance (0/3):
The beer strikes a deep copper tone with light chill haze. A vigorous pour offers up a very slight white foam that quickly dissipates. The beer is a bit under-carbonated, making head formation a difficult task. Also not helping matters is lactobacillus’ ability to degrade foam positive proteins.

Flavor (12/20):
The beer strikes a medium acidity, primarily lactic in nature although a touch of acetic acid is perceptible. The first sip reveals a prominent THP flavor that is reminiscent of Cheerios, which is actually quite pleasant when tasted in concert with the lightly toasty Vienna malt base. There is a low level of residual sweetness which helps take the edge off of some of the stronger acetic acid notes. Interestingly, when tasted at 4-months old, the beer had a fairly robust plastic-like phenol which seems to have been transformed at this point into other more positive flavors.

Mouthfeel (1/5):
The beer has a medium to medium-light body with a very low carbonation level. The beer is in desperate need of something to lift it off the palate; a task that the acidity only marginally accomplishes.

Overall Impression (6/10):
The beer falls a bit flat, but does offer up some interesting complexity, particularly in the commingling of some of the THP and toasty Vienna malt characters. The touch of oxidized malt flavor plays nicely with the Brett fruitiness—something that I think could become even more interesting if actual fruit (think tart pie cherries) were introduced into the mix.

Good (27/50)

Gueuze Blending for the Homebrewer

Gueuze Blending

The nine individual blending components spanning a 3-year-period that will become my Gueuze style beer.

Update 4/2/2017 – This beer placed 2nd in the first round of the National Homebrew Competition and will be moving on to the final round at Homebrew Con in Minneapolis.

All the way back in 2013 I started what was both my first mixed-fermentation beer, as well as the first part of a three-year long project to produce a Belgian Gueuze style beer. When I started the project, three years was an almost impossibly long time for me to look into my brewing future. I had only recently begun brewing again after a nearly seven-month hiatus following a cross-country move from Seattle to NYC. Committing the space, time, and cooperage to an extended project like this was definitely a leap of faith. But the funny thing with time is that it makes a habit of flying by and here I am, three years later, writing about my Gueuze blending experience.

In many ways, Gueuze transcends the boundaries of what we typically consider beer to be. While the ingredients are basically the same as most beers we know, to those uninitiated to the world of sour, it is an entirely different beast. Acidic, fruity, funky, earthy, spicy, dry, spritzy—all of these commonplace Gueuze traits add to the synergistic complexity characteristic of these beers. It is a balance obtained through a rigorous blending process which ultimately produces a harmonious beer comprised of individual characters that on their own can be somewhat polarizing.

For me, Gueuze stands out not only for its delicious character, but also for the almost mythic process in which three annual vintages of Lambic beer are blended together to create the Gueuze blend. There is a romantic notion associated with the idea of blending different vintages of wild beers to create a happy harmony that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is pure liquid alchemy.

Blending Gueuze is not unlike the blending methods used by winemakers. As a vintner takes varying percentages of different grape varietals to produce a composite product, Gueuze production is approached in a similar manner. For my blend, I was able to choose between nine different 1-gallon batches—the result of splitting the original three batches three ways with secondary fermentation incorporating varying mixed cultures propagated from a host of commercial batches of beer.

Base Culture: Wyeast 3278 Belgian Lambic Blend

Secondary Cultures:
– Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus
– Tilquin Gueuze
– Russian River Beatification

Base Culture: Wyeast 3763 Roeselare Ale Blend
Secondary Cultures:
– Russian River Framboise for the Cure
– Jolly Pumpkin La Roja
– Blended House Culture of Various Origins

Base Culture: Wyeast 3763 Roeselare Ale Blend
Secondary Cultures:
– Sante Adairius Cellarman
– de Garde The Duo
– Allagash Cuvee d’Industrial

Tasting and Blending

Gueuze Blending

From left to right: the three-, two-, and one-year-olds.

Tasting nine individual batches of beer can be somewhat complicated. Simply keeping track of each beer is a chore, as is understanding the traits of each specific component. I found it necessary to simplify the process and hone in on specific traits and characters that I wanted to balance out in the final blend. I focused on trying to think about each beer in terms of broad categories: fruitiness, alcohol heat, sweetness, dryness, bitterness, astringency, acidity, and funkiness. Knowing that I would only be blending out five gallons from my 9-gallon stock allowed me to be picky and only choose the best of the class for my blend.

On my first pass, I found that specific samples stood out as delicious examples that could stand on their own while others exhibited specific off-flavors or traits that would be a problem in the final blend. The 3-year-old batches all exhibited a rather bitter/harsh/astringent character—something that I’ve since chalked up to the somewhat high levels of hopping these beers incorporated (using hops that were labeled as debittered, but which I suspect maintained a fair amount of their bittering capabilities). This trait made me confident that the final blend would likely only include these batches in a somewhat minimal fashion where the astringency would act to produce mouthfeel, balance, and complexity without being overbearing.

Four out of the nine batches stood out from their peers as being pretty exceptional on their own. All of the 2-year-old batches and one of the 1-year-old batches had a great balance with moderate to high levels of fruitiness, acid, and complex funk. These would act as the base for my blend.

Once all of the batches were methodically accessed, I began the process of producing a handful of test blends. Using a graduated pipette I created varying blends for trial. Having a second palate throughout the entire blending process was indispensable. Luckily, The Homebrew Wife was around to lend her taster and expertise to the process. We all have varying tastes and sensibilities when it comes to beer. Having two or more tasters at your disposal helps to ensure you’re not blending something that is flawed due to a blind spot in your own taste buds.

Ultimately, the final 5-gallon blend utilized seven different blending components:

10% – 2013 w/ Tilquin Gueuze
20% – 2014 w/ Russian River Framboise for the Cure
20% – 2014 w/ Jolly Pumpkin La Roja
20% – 2014 w/ Blended House Culture of Various Origins
10% – 2015 w/ Sante Adairius Cellarman

2.75 gallons of the leftover beer was racked over to a clean carboy with 3 lbs of apricot puree for additional aging.


After such a commitment of time, it was with a lot of anxiety that I packaged this beer. My main concern was achieving a high level of carbonation in the beer. This presents a challenge in terms of choosing the proper bottles as well as ensuring that the yeast in the beer can ferment out the priming sugar in such a harsh, acidic environment.

To achieve a high level of carbonation, I primed the beer with dextrose to a calculated 3.1 volumes of CO2 with the anticipation that I may receive a slightly higher level due to a low amount of additional attenuation in the 1-year-old portion of beer. When priming a beer to this level of carbonation, it is extremely important to use heavy glass bottles specifically designed to accommodate high carbonation. Using standard beer bottles to carbonate to this level will cause dangerous bottle bombs!

To hedge my bets in terms of achieving carbonation at all, I packaged the beers with a fresh slurry of Safale US-05 yeast that had been fermenting in a wort starter that was pre-acidified to a pH of 4.0 using lactic acid. This strategy was employed based on research completed by Matthew Bochman from Indiana University in regard to terminal acid shock for bottling conditioning yeast in sour beers. The IU study concludes that using an acidic growth medium to pre-adapt yeast prior to bottling conditioning in acidic environments can lead to better consistency in successfully bottle conditioning sour beers.

Tasting Notes

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 23E Gueuze

Gueuze Blending

The Final Blend

Aroma (12/12):
The beer emits a beautiful nose that is both incredibly complex, but also very refined and well composed. The aroma starts with a prominent lactic component intermingled and energized by intriguing fruity aromatics reminiscent of both pie cherries and some bright tropical fruit. The bright fruit is kept in check by a substantial amount of barnyard funk with aromas of leather, earth, and hay. No alcohol, nail polish, or other common flaws found in sour beers. Fantastic.

Appearance (1/3):
The beer is a medium gold with just a whisper of haze. The head is bright white with medium to low persistence.

Flavor (20/20):
Amazing. The beer is highly acidic, yet remains soft and supple with a balanced and quenching disposition. Somehow underneath the cacophony of complex yeast and bacteria-derived compounds, a beautiful touch of slightly sweet pilsner malt character remains. There is a light touch of tannin, likely from the aged hops, that brings another balancing agent to the table. The flavors fall along the entire spectrum of sour beer, from fruit to funk with beguiling flavors that elude flavor description. One of the best beers I’ve tasted.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
The beer leaves an overall impression of dryness and effervescence. The beer is quite light bodied, but the acidity provides a soft roundness.

Overall Impression (10/10):
It is not hard to love a beer when you are acutely aware of the dedication and sustained effort required to produce said beer. But falling in love with a beer is a whole different matter. And I am definitely in love with this beer. I can unequivocally say that this is the best beer I’ve ever created and believe it would hold its own if consumed alongside some of the best sour beers in the world. The beer manages to be wonderfully complex, but also incredibly approachable and highly quenching. Having learned a great deal about long-term aging, mixed-culture fermentation, and blending in the process of creating this beer, it is profoundly rewarding to have also arrived at such a satisfactory end product.

Outstanding (48/50)

Gueuze Blending

Looks like I’m not the only one that loves this beer.