A homebrew moment

My latest batch of homebrew may well be a watershed moment in my journey as a homebrewer.wpid-IMG_20130309_191933.jpg

Yes, I know that opening sentence sounded a bit pretentious but it does make sense. Trust me.
For those who want the full backstory on the so-called Hopless Cause IPA you can go here and here. And maybe even here if you want to see whether making it was still cheaper than buying a few cases of beer.

For those not interesting in giving me a totally artificial boost in site traffic by clicking all those links, the aim was to make a US double IPA with Citra, Centennial and Amarillo. I’d found a recipe online that looked the goods, so I took it into my homebrew shop.

The recipe called for 300g of caramel malt, 200g of victory malt and 100g aromatic malt. The guy at the homebrew shop said I should use the 500g of caramel as it doesn’t make much difference to the flavour and suggested I do the same with the 500g of amber malt he said was a substitute to the victory and aromatic malts.

Being a learner I’d taken his advice in times past so I did what he said. Now I wish I hadn’t, because it seems that the extra malt may have added unfermented sugars to the Hopless Cause, resulting in both a higher final gravity (and less alcohol) than I wanted and a somewhat less than completely palatable malty sweetness. There’s also an odd grassy or petrol-like flavour from the hops, which I reckon is my fault.

Sure, after a while you kind of get used to the overall flavour – so it’s not like I’m going to pour the batch down the sink. At the same time, however, I’m not going to be offering this one to guests who enquire about my homebrewing exploits.
So why is this beer a watershed moment? Because it’s taught me to back my own judgment. I had the recipe I wanted to follow – and a recipe I felt sounded right – so I should have stuck to it rather than tweak things.

So from here on I’m going to use what knowledge I have gleaned in the last 12 months or so, rather than always deferring to someone else who I think has more experience than me.

While I’m by no means a brewing genius I have learned enough in this past year of beer-making to have a bit of a gut-feeling about what sounds right, and what sounds wrong. And a small part of me thought the idea of adding more malt than the recipe called for sounded a bit wrong.

So that’s the watershed moment – the realisation that ‘‘hey, I actually know a thing or two about this brewing caper, so I should go with what I think is right’’. At least that way, if everything goes pear-shaped it’ll be no-one’s fault but my own.I might even try and make that US double IPA again, but stick to that recipe and see how things pan out.

13 replies »

  1. Perhaps it’s more of a message about not so much trusting your gut as being selective of who you get your advice from? Either way now you k ow what beer with a shitload of crystal type malts tastes like

  2. Hey mate,
    Good to see you’re not giving up on brewing and that you’re getting more confidence making beers. Personally I find that Double IPA’s can quite easily be very sticky if you uses too much adjunct. IIPA’s are meant to be a hop showcase with minimal supporting malt body and flavour as well as a dry finish. In fact plenty of the world’s most famous IIPA’s don’t use anything except a 2 Row or Pils malt for grain.


    • I had a recipe that I followed for this one. I’m thinking it may have had something to do with the fact that I can’t do a full boil. So I mash in the speciality grains, top up the pot to about 8 litres and do all the hop additions as per the recipe.
      Then I cool the wort, pour it into the fermenter and add in the extract and water to get it to 19 litres.

      • Hmmmm…. I think you might struggle to achieve a true IIPA with that process – or at least a dry hop showcase bitter IIPA. If you can’t do full mash, I’d recommend using as little adjunct as possible. In fact I wouldn’t use any adjunct (specialty grains) at all I think. Also if you are boiling 8 litres only and adding in the extract and water separately you might not get quite the isomerization of the hops (bittering) that you want in an IIPA.

        Hadn’t really thought about it before this but maybe an IIPA is tough one to nail with extract? Or maybe I’m just being too much of a snobby purist….

        Regardless I’d recommend keeping adjunct to a minimum. This style is all about the hops. My humble opinion anyway…

      • Thanks, sort of confirmed what I’d thought. I might give the 2IPA a rest for the moment. If I go back to it I’ll opt for the lightest LME I can get and just do a simple hop boil.
        It’s all about the experimentation.

  3. 2IPA’s are hard work and can take a while to mature, why not work on building up the hop volume of your beers in steps focusing on late additions and dry hopping

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