Monday, July 11, 2011

IPA II - Brewed with tips from a brewmaster

The first IPA was certainly satisfactory but wasn't exactly as envisioned. The final bitterness, aroma, body, head and alcohol content fell short of the pre-calculated values. It was still perfectly drinkable so I knew that I hadn't done anything "wrong" but there must have been something I could do "more right" during the next attempt.

As luck would have it, while attending the annual St. John's Beer Fest, I was introduced to the brewmaster at the Yellow Belly Brewery. We chatted briefly and he said that anytime I wanted to stop by and talk brewing, he would be more than happy to give me some tips, and... wait for it... free yeast!!

Now free (and fresh!) yeast might not sound like something most people would get excited about but I couldn't wait to schedule my next brew day and take him up on his offer. So I went down to see him one afternoon after work, with a bottle of my last IPA, the recipe sheet and a head full of questions.

The first thing we did was crack open the bottle I brought for him. It poured out with a decent head and a slightly darker colour than his Yellow Belly Pale Ale (one of the only hoppy beers served in Newfoundland). He took a few sips and commented "Good beer. I would drink that."... Not too bad, eh? I was pretty happy with that review anyway.

We spent the next hour discussing brewing (my process and his), and in the end I took away some tips that will stick with me for the rest of my brewing days. I won't go into any more detail than I have to, but a few things I learned are:

1. Boil everything it one pot - Having all the wort in one pot (as opposed to 3) leads to better hop utilization (ie: more bitterness), most consistent flavour and less liqud lost to boil-off.

Now that's a big pot.

2. Harden the water. The water in St. John's is quite soft (ie: low in calcium). A calcium deficiency can reduce the mash/boil efficiency, meaning less sugars and ultimately lower alcohol content. 

Gypsum. Apparently the Sin Jawns wadda isn't 'ard enough.

3. Cool the wort faster. The faster you cool it down from boiling to room temp, the less hop aromas will escape and the less chance you have of a bacterial infection... I should say, the pot in the bathtub is only a slightly improved technique over leaving the pot in a snowbank for a couple hours. I hope to have a proper work chiller soon. Pending budgetary approval.

Improved cooling technique.

3. Get all the alpha acids oils out of the hops. He didn't advise me on this one, but rather that doing my normal slow wort straining using a sauce pan and strainer, I poured the cooled wort and hops through a straining bags and then squeezed every last ounce of hop oil into the beer.

"Improved" straining technique.

4. Use healthy, viable yeast. It doesn't get much better than yeast fresh from a local microbrewery.

Real brewery yeast. Fresh off the conical.

Shaken and well poured.

I also added some CaraPils malt to the recipe for better mouthfeel and foam stability.

Tasting/seeing the results, I am certainly very pleased and wouldn't change anything the next time I make it.

Nice active head.

I left the brewmaster a bottle of it but unfortunately never got a chance to get his reviews before we moved back to PEI. I will look him up, the next time I'm over for a visit.

So farewell Newfoundland. The hoppiest beer ever served on the Rock (as far as I know) was a one-shot deal.

All the pics here.


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