Triple IPA Brewday & Review

_DSC1886Take a ridiculously hoppy double IPA, increase the hopping and alcohol to ludicrous levels, and you have a decent outline for crafting a triple IPA. These are fun beers to brew, and a great way to use up any extraneously hops that may be buried in your freezer. This beer is very much in the same spirit as coveted beers like Pliny the Younger (you can read more about my club’s attempt at cloning the Younger, here).

This is a tough beer to brew as it can easily fall victim to common faults. The most frequent and egregious fault with American-style IPAs is not achieving adequate levels of attenuation. Nothing ruins a big hoppy beer’s drinkability quicker than excessive residual gravity or caramel flavors. This is even more apparent when you’re pushing the beer to triple IPA levels. Controlling fermentability with the addition of simple sugars and low mash temps will take you most of the way. From there, it is key to pitch a big healthy population of yeast, adequately oxygenate the wort, and carefully control fermentation to keep higher alcohols in check.

_DSC1888The second most common fault would likely be harsh or grassy hop flavors. This most commonly occurs when brewers leave dryhops in contact with the beer for excessive periods. Many sources cite the fact that the majority of hop oils are extracted within the first 24-48 hours of contact with our beer. Anecdotally, I’ve definitely experienced this and typically now only leave dry hops in contact with my beers for 2-3 days, maximum.

Lastly, it is extremely important to limit oxygen pickup post fermentation with your hoppy beers. Hop compounds are extremely susceptible to oxidation. Very few factors will contribute to the destruction of a hoppy beer quicker than oxygen. Purging vessels, pushing beer with C02 in closed loops, and cold storage can greatly increase the shelf-life of your hoppy beers.

Triple Tap Triple IPA Recipe

Size: 4.5 gal
Efficiency: 67%
Attenuation: 92%

Original Gravity: 1.088 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.007 SG
Color: 8.3 SRM
Alcohol: 10.65% ABV
Bitterness: 55.7 IBUs (Doesn’t account for substantial bitterness achieved with whirlpool additions)

Malt Bill:
12 lb (76.2%) Pilsner Malt (Weyermann)
1 lb (6.3%) Munich TYPE II (Weyermann)
.25 lb (1.6%) Caramalt 15 (Bairds)

Mash Profile:
147 °F – 60m
154 °F – 10m
168 °F – 5m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
6g Gypsum (to mash)
3g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

0.25 oz Centennial (10.5%) – 60 m
1 oz Centennial (10.5%) – 20 m
1 oz Amarillo® (8.7%) – 20 m

2 oz Citra™ (13.7%) – Whirlpool 20m
1 oz Amarillo® (8.7%) – Whirlpool 20m
2.5 oz Mandarina Bavaria (7.2%) – Whirlpool 20m

2.5 oz (17.5%) Amarillo® – Hop Back (Blichmann Hop Rocket)

2 oz Galaxy (14.0%) – Dry Hop @ Room Temp 3 Days
2 oz Citra™ (12.0%) – Dry Hop @ Room Temp 3 Days

Kettle Additions:
2.5 lb (15.9%) Corn Sugar – 15m
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) –  15m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

WYeast 1056 American Ale™ – Large starter on stirplate to achieve 1 million cells per milliliter of wort per degree Plato. Use Mr. Malty to determine proper starter sized based on age of yeast package. Pitch into 60°F wort and allow to free rise to 64°F. As fermentation begins to slow, raise temperature to 70°F.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 23 Specialty Beer

_DSC1976Aroma (10/12):
Huge, punchy hop-nose. The hops are extremely juicy and tropical — reminiscent of mango, orange, and pineapple. In many ways, this beer reminds me P.O.G. (passion fruit, orange, guave) juice. There is a moderate amount of grassy, plant-like aromas. By and large the hops are almost uniformly fruity with very little pine or resinous aromas. Malt character is slightly bready. No alcohol, DMS, or diacetyl are perceptible.

Appearance (1/3):
Beer pours a muddy copper color. Extremely hazy with hop compounds. Beer is capped with a bright white, thick, persistent head.

Flavor (10/20):
Taking a swig from the tasting glass fills your mouth with huge, round, hop flavors. The flavors are very fruity and tropical, although there is a slightly biting, resinous, bitterness on the finish. There is a bit of residual sweetness that keeps the beer feeling slightly full and heavier than I would like. As the beer warms, some warming alcohol dances across the palate.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
Medium body and carbonation. Some light hop astringency is present on the finish and detracts from the overall drinking experience. The hops seem to lend a creamy texture to the mouthfeel.

Overall Impression (6/10):
This beer pushes the level of hoppiness that I am able to enjoy almost to the breaking point. The beer is young and brash with bold assertive flavors that come off a touch green. It is very much in the same vein as beers like Pliny the Younger, which are best enjoyed in small glasses and shared with friends.

Very Good (31/50)


New Belgium / Alpine Super IPA Review

New Belgium / Alpine Super IPA

New Belgium / Alpine Super IPA

The nature of the craft beer movement encourages trends. Currently, it seems that collaboration beers are all the rage. Stone does it all the time (even with homebrewers) as does Russian River, Deschutes, Hair of the Dog, and many of the greatest breweries in the country. Super IPA is a collaboration between one of the biggest craft brewers (New Belgium) and one of the smallest and most sought after (Alpine Beer Co.). At first glance, this seems like an amazing opportunity for a small and critically-acclaimed brewery to get distribution well-beyond their typical geographical influence. Unfortunately, while quaffable, this beer misses on many marks which would have made it amazing.

Beer Data:

Purchased: 10/5/12 at Whole Foods P Street, Washington DC
Consumed: 10/7/12
Bottled: No decipherable date on bottle
Alcohol: 9% ABV

Commercial Description from Website:

The Alpine Beer Co. and New Belgium have come together for the love of IPAs. This collaboration is hop-wonderful with Amarillo, Columbus, Simcoe and Centennial hops, bringing the bitter all the way to the front. A nice balance is present with Pale, C-80 and Carapils malts, but the tropical and citrus tones of the American hops dominate. This Super IPA pours a sheened copper and carries a bright, white head. Consider yourself a hero for getting an  Alpine beer outside of San Diego.

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: Big green grassy raw hop aroma. Hops are quite resinous and herbal. This beer is dominated by Columbus hops, which are very rough around the edges. There are some nice mango and tropical fruit notes which seem bullied by the heavy piney and grassy characters. Little to no malt aromas are present on the nose; quite characteristic of Alpine’s other offerings. This beer smells like homebrewed beers I’ve had that sat too long on the dry hop. 5 / 12

Appearance: Very light copper bordering on golden. Off-white head with great retention. Clear, but not crystal clear. 3 / 3

Flavor: Big grassy raw hop flavor. Lots of resin on the palette. The flavor is pretty one-dimensional and dominated by the grassy / herbal hop flavor. There is a very light sweetness / honey character to the malt, but it is by no means easily perceived. This is a very smooth beer whose bitterness is quite low for the style, but balances with the dryness of the beer. This is where I see Alpine’s biggest influence.  11 / 20

Mouth Feel: Medium / medium low body. Average carbonation. Some astringency reminiscent of chewing on a raw hop pellet. 4 / 5

Overall Impression: Alpine is known for producing over-the-top hoppy beers with huge tropical fruit flavors and very lean malt profiles. I feel like this beer tried to hit those notes, but fell short in the hop selection arena. I can’t help but think that perhaps the need to produce New Belgium scale quantities of this beer forced the hand of the brewers into compromising on their hop selection; using massive quantities of Columbus hops which come off harsh, grassy and herbal in this beer rather than the more tropical varietals like Amarillo and Simcoe listed on New Belgium’s website. The malt is perfectly in line with Alpine’s tradition; dry and lean which would set the stage perfectly for a cleaner, fruitier hop experience. Unfortunately, this is where it falls short. 5 / 10

Score: 28 / 50 (Good)

Note: Evaluation done according to BJCP Scoring System. This beer was reviewed as a Category 14c. Imperial IPA.

Founders Breakfast Stout Review

Founders Breakfast Stout

Breakfast in a Glass

The Pacific Northwest is home to a rich craft brewing tradition, offering a wealth of world-class beers made both locally and available through distribution channels.  While living there, I was spoiled. That being said, a beer geek cannot help but hear about beers available elsewhere and dream about the day he’ll get to try them. For myself, and I’m sure other west coasters, Founders Breakfast Stout is one of these forbidden fruits. As I drove across the country I had the chance to stop at Founders in Grand Rapids, MI and sample many of their fine beers. Alas, there was no Breakfast Stout to be had (at the time), but I knew once I hit NYC, I’d have ready access to this great brew.

Beer Data:

Purchased: 9/6/12 at Key Foods in Park Slope, Brooklyn. $12.99 / 12 oz. 4 pack
Availability: Now through February in NYC (according to Founders’ website)
Bottle Date: 8/2/12
Alcohol: 8.3% ABV

Commercial Description from Website:

The coffee lover’s consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and Sumatra and Kona coffee, this stout has an intense fresh-roasted java nose topped with a frothy, cinnamon-colored head that goes forever.

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: Sticking your nose into the glass is like walking through a great coffee roasting house. Strong aromas of cold pressed coffee leap from the glass.  The coffee isn’t burnt or acrid, but rather smooth and nutty, with a light fruitiness (almost a tang), and a roast similar to a good dark chocolate. The oats come across toasted, almost like an oatmeal cookie. Cacao nibs meld nicely with the coffee, leaving an impression of chocolate covered espresso beans. Alcohol is present and becomes more so as the beer warms.   11 / 12

Appearance: Jet black with a slightly viscous pour.  The head is composed of tiny bubbles which dissipate fairly quickly into a ring that alludes to the head that was once present.   2 / 3

Flavor: Bittersweet chocolate or cocoa is rounded out by a medium level of sweetness, which keeps it from being harsh. Some malt flavors of rich brown bread crust and toffee sit in the background, reminding you that this is still very much a beer. Coffee is apparent, but not nearly as heavy as the aroma would lead you to expect and is somewhat masked by the roasty chocolate notes.  17 / 20

Mouth Feel: Medium body that is considerably less heavy than many commercial imperial stouts. Oats give an almost oily impression in the mouth. There is a very firm hop bitterness that combines with roast to clean up the finish and give the impression of dryness. Bitterness leaves you wanting a little more body or residual sweetness for balance. 3 / 5

Overall Impression: As a coffee lover, I really enjoyed this beer. The coffee and chocolate components are well-integrated and meld nicely with the malt’s light toffee and toasty flavors. The bitterness could be dialed back a touch to leave the impression of a richer beer. The alcohol is very smooth with a hint of warming that reminds you you’re drinking a big beer. 8 / 10

Score: 41 / 50 (Outstanding)

Note: Evaluation done according to BJCP Scoring System. This beer was reviewed as a Category 21A Spice / Herb / Vegetable Beer (Imperial Stout with Coffee).