Monday, October 27, 2014

Brew Day: Hoppy Pale Ale

Right up there with a beautifully balanced English style bitter, another of my favorite pints is the hoppy American Pale Ale that makes use of the most flavorful hop varieties. Just as there is something to be said for the precision and restraint that comes with creating some of the most delicate beer styles, the opposite is also true. Brewing a beer with the biggest and strongest hop varieties requires much of the same skill and attention to detail as is needed to master the likes of pale lager. That said, I've been craving a citrus and pine heavy IPA of late, but with respect to my liver, I figure a 5.5% APA is probably the way to go.

Amber Ale
To accomplish this, I'll be brewing one of my favorite pale ale recipes; pale malt, some munich, and a touch of medium crystal for color. Hopping was to be Amarillo, Centennial, and Simcoe, although this time I am subbing the Amarillo for Galaxy. I haven't been impressed with the 2013 Amarillo crop - what I got was much too earthy - and I figure the dank, pine, and passionfruit character of the Galaxy will pair nicely with the floral Centennial. And as is the case with all my hoppy beers, I am starting from a base of 100% RO water and adding enough salts to reach a water profile around 110ppm calcium, 250ppm sulfate and 40ppm chloride. Yeast is some very fresh American Ale.

Just a mumbling or two on hops and dry hopping. After years of tinkering with my dry hop regimen - trying to find that perfect balance of big, fruity hop aroma without getting any grassy or vegetal character - I've reached a point where I get consistent results and the hop character about as good as I am going to get my with my current set up. Anyways, my dry hopping process is something like this...

For my system, I've figured out that the maximum amount of hop oil extraction I see is right around 2 oz of pellets per gallon of beer, anything more than that is a waste. So, I generally use around 3-4 ounces of hops per 5 gallons of beer when dry hopping my standard "hoppy" American styles, with a maximum of 2 ounces per gallon for the hoppiest IIPA's. This equates to around 1.5 to 4 lb of hops per bbl dry hop, which is on the high side of the craft brewing average (commerical is often from 0.5 to 2.5lbs/bbl).

As you may already know, the amount of time it takes for hop oils to peak in dry hopped beer is actually quite fast. Usually the greatest concentration of hop oils in a dry hopped beer will be within the first 24 hours of adding the hops. After that, oil concentrations will generally start to drop off and eventually they plateau, often around day 3. Some people take this to assume that dry hopping should be kept as short as possible. That is not exactly true. While hop oils do peak early in the process, aroma and flavor development takes a bit longer, with sensory studies showing that day 5 is around the time when aroma and flavor are the best for pure hop character. Longer dry hopping risks developing grassy and/or vegetal flavors, which brings with it a whole other host of issues, such as polyphenol and organic acid pickup. Generally speaking, 3-5 days is ideal, 8 is borderline too much.

Dry hop temperature is also important. An 'ideal' dry hop temperature is somewhere between 60-68F. Warmer dry hop temperatures do extract some hop oils faster than those hopped cold, but not really by much. Rather, it is the temperature of the beer that impacts the type of character we get from the hop oils. Generally speaking, warmer temps result in bigger, fruitier, and more true-to-the hop type of character than beers dry hopped cold. However, with temperature comes another issue. Yeast.

Hop compounds can bind to yeast cells and pretty much everything else in our beer. When the yeast drops out of solution, so does a lot of our hop aromatics and flavors. A sound method of dry hopping is to slightly cool your beer after fermentation is complete and then rack the beer into a c02 purged secondary. From there, the temp of beer can be brought up to 60F+ and dry hopped as normal. The take away point being to not dry hop while the bulk of fermentation is still active and/or while the yeast are in their growth phase. That said, having some yeast in suspension can be good and dry hopping towards the tail end of fermentation does have some benefits, although that is not always the case. Also, crash cooling does not necessarily mean dropping the temperature of the beer down to near freezing, but rather to a temp low enough to get the yeast to flocculate... for some yeasts this can happen as high as 55-60F.

A word on glycosides. Latley there has been some new information on how certain enzymes found in yeast can break apart glycosides (aromatic compounds bonded to a carbohydrate) and transform hop oils into even more aromatic compounds. This is certainly true and much of the 'breaking potential' is yeast strain, time, pH, and temperature dependant. Not every yeast will be as effective as the other and the overall effect can be less impactful than what the home brew community have been lead to believe. 

Adding hops to the beer. Interestingly, dry hopping is all about surface area. For that reason, pellet hops are without a doubt better at exacting more hop oils than whole cone. The flavor differences therein are largely subjective, but I fall into the 'pellets are better for hop aroma and flavor' school of thinking. Anyways, while just dumping your hop pellets into beer for dry hopping works fine, there are other ways to go about it. Powderize the pellets before adding them. Make a hop slurry. Agitation, recirculation, temperature control, ect... all have their benefits and some are better than others. For instance, if I want a really intense hop aroma, I will sometimes take pellets, crush them and then make a hop slurry with the beer that I am transferring. This is then added to the secondary and left for 3-5 days, with occasional gentle rousing, before the whole lot is crash cooled to 35F and kegged immediately.

Positives from this method are that you get a really intense, non-vegetal hop aroma that oozes hop oil character. Think resinous IIPA's. However, every method has its trade offs. Rousing or recirculating hops at too warm or cold a temperature and/or letting them sit too long in the beer risks polyphenol pickup, which often manifests in an overly bitter or astringent character. Among other issues. PH is very important too. Finding the method that works best for your system is going to be largely trial and error.

Enough of that...

Hoppy Pale Ale: American Pale Ale

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 5.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.50
Anticipated OG: 1.055
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 6
Anticipated IBU: 45
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

92.0% - 11.50 lbs. Pale Malt, 2-Row
6.0%  - 0.75 lbs. Munich Malt
2.0%  - 0.25 lbs. Crystal 55L

0.50 oz. each Centennial, Galaxy @ 20 min for 35 IBU
0.50 oz. each Centennial, Galaxy @ 10 min for 15 IBU
1.0 oz. Simcoe @ flameout/hopstand
1.0 oz Galaxy @ flameout/hopstand
2.0 oz Centennial @ flameout/hopstand
1.0 oz each Centennial, Simcoe, Galaxy @ dryhop for 7 days

Yeast: WY1056 American Ale
Mash 152F for 60 min
Brewed on 26 October


  1. Wish my brews shared your beers clarity,. Been struggling for some time. What's your secret?

    1. Secret? Proper water chemistry and pH, good hot and cold break, yeast health, cold crashing... and the list goes on. It all pretty much starts with good beer pH though.

      I used to use gelatin for fining, although I've pretty much stopped altogether due to the fact that gelatin finings often remove as much as 70+% of total hop oils from finished beer. And it can affect flavor. Plate and DE filters are about as bad. If you want to use finings, find some BioFine and use it on the lower end of the addittion rate for hoppier styles before bottling/kegging.

    2. Hi Will,

      Thanks for the advice, clarity has been a bit of hit and miss affair. My lagers are really clear but the more hoppy and darker brews opaque/cloudy. Its chill haze rather then yeast. I think as you say water chemistry/PH is pretty fundamental and its about the only thing I havent done much about. I live in a very hard water area of Spain and so have been buying cheap spring water from the supermarket. Which also is also pretty high HCO3 as well. So last week I bought an RO filter and ph meter so will hopefully knock any water issues away. Plan to brew this weekend with a blend of spring water and RO with bit of CaSO4 addition as per the water calculator. I plan to use your bitter water profile as a starting point.

  2. Good talk on the hopping rates etc.
    Very useful. and a nice touch with the galaxy too.

  3. Are you still brewing Will? Recently got back on the horse myself and I'd love to hear about what you've been brewing if you have been. Perfect pint has been a very good resource for me over the last few years.


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