Experimental Brewday: Ship O’Boons I and II (15 Minute Hopping Challenge)

What, what?! I’ve been wanting to brew up a few experimental things, and in theory at least summer is when I have time. But this experiment is not a lone, mad-scientist experiment… no, it’s a collaborative experiment within my brewing community.

No, not forcing people to hop for fifteen minutes, but rather, adding hops to a beer only in the last fifteen minutes of the boil. (Normally, we add hops at earlier stages too, but the end of the boil means more flavor and aroma, and if you add a lot of hops you can maximize those and still get the kind of bitterness you normally want for a given style.)

It all started with a posting to the local brew forum… this posting.

I was surprised to hear that, when working with extracts, one could simply boil for 15 minutes and be done with it. That’s definitely something I’d like to work into my routine, as I have nothing against extract brewing and it would allow me to experiment at times when I don’t have the space in my schedule, or the energy, to do a full All-Grain batch of beer.

So anyway, I was chatting with another brewer friend in Korea, Dax, and suggested maybe we should try to have an event centered on 15-Minute Hopping. We decided on that because we didn’t want to exclude people who do all-grain beers… a 15 minute brew with an all-grain setup is a bad idea, as you’ll have all kinds of stuff you need to boil out of the beer. But allowing only a 15-minute window for hopping, that’s a different story altogether, and totally doable whether you’re into all-grain, partial mash, or extract brewing.

So I posted a challenge, and have been working out my recipes for a while now, off and on. I knew I wanted to do a single big double-sized mash, using different hops and yeasts to, I hoped, get a very different character out of the two beers. But which? 

I settled on a two pale ales: an American and a Belgian, since I figured I could make use of the very American hops I had on hand (lots of Amarillo, Cascade, and Willamette) and also could experiment with some of the fruitier hops I had or would be getting (Sorachi Ace and Citra especially) in the Belgian. (My first-ever BPA was brewed with Citra and I was happy with it, so I figured I’d expand on that theme.)

The grist ended up being mostly Pale 2-row (2.9kg per half-batch), with a sizeable addition of Melanoidin (500g/half-batch), some Carafoam (290g/half-batch) and Light Munich (200g/half-batch), and a little Special B and Victory Malt (100g each per half-batch).

The wort unfortunately ended up being a fair bit lower in gravity than I expected, and I have a feeling somewhere along the way I must have mismeasured something — my efficiency has never been that bad, so it must be something else.

Anyway, the Belgian went first, and I added a pound of clear candi sugar to it. (I’m saving the other two pounds for… well, I suppose a Tripel, if I can get one brewed soon and have time to age it!) The hop schedule was complex., but focused on Czech Saaz, Citra, and Sorachi Ace. I actually flubbed the 15 and 10 minute additions, doing them in reverse, but when I recalculated the recipe, it suggested there would just be a slight uptick in the bitterness, by luck, so I adjusted and went on. The rest of this brew went like clockwork. Yet I got a final gravity of 1.050… which I suppose will be serviceable, if a fair bit lower than I’d hoped.

Next, I boiled up the APA, hopping it (again, only in the final 15 minutes of the boil) with copious amounts of Cascade, Willamette, Glacier, and Amarillo. Since, unlike with the BPA, I didn’t add any adjunct to this boil, the gravity ended up frustratingly low (1.040), but I figure I might boil up a little light muscovado (say, half a kilo, or a little over a pound) and add it to the mix tomorrow.

A couple of observations:

  1. The wort went into the brewpot extremely clear, but by the end of the boil it was opaque, despite my adding Whirlfloc. I have never seen this before, and despite the false bottom in my pot having caught a ton of hop material, I am guessing the opacity is from hop particles in suspension… after all, I was putting five or six times the normal hop additions for a beer of this size, so it’s not surprising something ended up different.
  2. I need to start my brewdays earlier when I am planning to do double batches: I finished at 2:30am, and I can never just go straight to bed after brewing. So… I need to start those brewdays at, I don’t know, 8am, instead of 3pm or so. (There was a very good reason for it, today, but still…)

As usual, I have recipes on Hopville:

UPDATE (20 Aug 2011): The BPA has a nice krausen on the top of the wort now, and I also dumped in the dregs of a 750ml bottle of Duvel which Miss Jiwaku and I polished off this evening. (I figure, it’s a Trappist yeast blend already, might as well blend some more into it.)

The APA is starting much more slowly, which is hardly a surprise — all I had for that yeast was a White Labs tube from March, and I didn’t have a chance to make a starter. If it doesn’t take off soon, I’ll probably pitch some dry Nottingham yeast into the mix, as the California Ale seems to be doing not so well… but at the same time, I can see a little bit of krausen starting to form on the top of the wort, and I re-aerated it (in hope of getting the yeast to reproduce more); I’ll give it a day or two more before I panic.

UPDATE (5 Sept. 2011): Ironically, the APA finished way more quickly than the BPA… which bubbled on for a week longer than the APA, despite being at a higher temperature.

Bottled the BPA today. It got down to 1.005, and by rights is absolutely too hoppy to be called a BPA by any means. The hop bitterness is the right level, but the flavors and aromas are pretty over the top for a BPA… not that I completely mind. This is true even with a chilled sample. I think this is going to be an interesting beer.

Hoping to keg the APA tomorrow, will take a gravity reading and flavor sample then. Our meetup for comparing these ales is on the 17th, just ten days away, and I’m very curious to see how others’ 15-minute hopped ales turn out.

UPDATE (6 Sept. 2011): I’ve kegged the APA just now. It finished out at a much less dry 1.010. I forgot to add adjunct, so it’s a light and sessiony beer, but I’m glad I did so as the bitterness turned out a little more pronounced than in the BPA, as I’d hoped, and about the right level for this beer. (That was the first thing Miss Jiwaku said about the sample I shared with her — that it was noticeably bitter…)

That said, the aroma is much less profound than expected. Like, as in, much less. Again, lots of flavor, not so much aroma — indeed, less aroma even than the BPA. That, happily, can be remedied… at least, after the challenge. (I will likely just toss a couple of loose tea balls of some nice American hop in for a week and rack it into whichever keg ends up empty next… but only after the 15-Minute Hopping Challenge meetup, since dry hopping was off-limits for that challenge.

I’m wondering if the long steep for the aroma hops I added at flameout didn’t somehow end up pushing the contribution those hops made into the flavor spectrum, and out of the aroma side of things. The other possibility is that when the beer is carbonated, there will be more aroma from both.

Another observation is that the beer came out quite surprisingly clear. I have to say, I am impressed with Whirlfloc; it does a much better job than Irish moss.

UPDATE (8 Sept. 2011): Just shared a 500ml bottle of the BPA half of the brew with Miss Jiwaku, and am blown away by the fruitiness of this. The bitterness is about right for a Belgian Pale Ale, and I’m sure if I age it and the hops fade a bit, it could pass as a normal one, but at the moment the hops are front and center. Miss Jiwaku smells banana, but it’s not that kind of Hefe or Belgian yeast banana — I don’t smell it myself, but I can see where she gets it from the aroma of the hops: Citra + Sorachi Ace = a TON of fruit flavor. The aroma is less than I expected, but not bad… but the flavor is just a knockout as far as I am concerned. More would be welcome, I imagine, but what it has is really nice too. Very curious to see how this tastes when it has conditioned for varying amounts of time.

One tiny note: it’s still a little sweet, and I’m curious whether this is residual sweetness or just incomplete carbonation, since it’s only been in the bottle a few days. It’s cloudy, but I didn’t care: it was (for my taste buds) just that good. I’ll get a pic next time I crack a bottle of the stuff.

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