This was supposed to be a yeast experiment, with half being brewed using American US-05 and half with British S-04. But just like Britain is in no shape for a fight at the moment, I’m not entirely convinced my fermentation chamber can handle two beer yet – I think I need to reinforce some of the seals. There’s also an element of laziness here – I’ve made so many half batches lately that the last thing I wanted is two 10L beers to bottle or half fill kegs.

So for the first time, I’m ditching the British S-04 and using American US-05. Not that I’ll be able to draw much conclusion about the yeast from this – so much has changed in the process of this beer that I’ll not be able to put differences down to the yeast until I do a proper comparison:

  • First time to use filtered water
  • First time to mash at a single temperature (maybe a mistake since I used flaked rye)
  • First full 25L boil
  • First time to use leaf hops without a bag, using a strainer instead when pouring the wort
  • First time to use “first wort hopping” – or at least, the best equivalent I can do: adding the hops while bringing the wort to the boil, instead of waiting until the wort has boiled
  • First time to use an immersion chiller (borrowed)
  • First time to use a fermentation chamber to regulate the temperature

But I do hope that the combination of better temperature control, the American yeast, and my IBU calculations (below) will get rid of the sweetness of some of the IPAs I’ve made so far.

This beer is an IPA. I’ve gone back over the IPAs that I’ve brewed and noticed a pattern in the ones that I like – namely that the IBU OG ratio is around 1.1, or maybe even more. That is, if the OG is 1.060 then IBUs should be 66. After noticing this and glancing at “Designing Great Beers”, that’s exactly the value of most IPA competition winners. Commercial IPAs – I’ve noticed recently – generally have lower ratios of around 0.9 but still taste good, something which I can’t achieve with the same ratio. That might be my choice of bittering hop or it may be because the beers have conditioned for a longer time (I notice that my Flasher tastes better with age – ooer!).

Beersmith on First Wort Hopping:

FWH involves adding a portion of the hops to the boiler at the very beginning of the sparging process, allowing these hops to steep as the sparging completes and remaining in the kettle throughout the boil. Add the hops to the boiler as soon as you have finished recirculating the first runnings.

Sources vary, but most testing indicates that first wort hopping will increase the number of International Bitterness Units (IBUs) by as much as 10%. Given the hop shortage I wrote about earlier, increased utilization is an added bonus. However, taste perception is different. In blind taste testing across a number of articles, the overall flavor of first wort hops is perceived as smoother, less sharp, and had a more pleasing aroma. Hop bitterness was perceived as harmonic and uniformly bitter. In blind taste tests, the FWH were preferred by 11 of 12 test subjects.

The amount to hops to use varies. Most sources recommend using 30% of the overall hop schedule and moving it to FWH.

I took the simple approach of adding all my bittering hops early – 43%. They were in the pot from 85 degrees to boil, which took around 20 minutes.

I’m also not using a hop bag this time, for the first time – while this doesn’t add to my IBU ratings, I was using a hop bag before so in theory the IBU values I’ve listed in previous brews could be reduced by about 5-8%.

Even though I’m not splitting the batch, this IPA is still a mix of British and American. Bittering is from Chinook and flavouring from Fuggles and Cascade. I made these choices after looking at two beers – Harpoon IPA from Clonebrew which uses Cluster for bittering and Fuggles and Cascade for flavouring, and Sister Star of the Sun which uses Chinook for bittering, EK Goldings for flavour, and Fuggles for aroma.

I’m getting a bit fed up of the taste of “All American” IPAs – Centennial, Cascades, etc. On the other hand, “All British” tend to lack a “refreshing” flavour. This should be a mix of both.

Dave Brockington, creater of the award winning Sister Sun, says of Chinook:

I have stuck with Chinook through the years, although several reputable brewers have a strong disdain for the hop, because it simply offers (in my opinion) the best clean, sharp bittering profile that I had tried.

I’m looking for a bittering hop that gives me sharpness, so that statement attracted me. Other reports of Chinook say that it is quite “citrus”, so it should match well with Cascade. The only negative is that some really don’t like the hop – so I’m taking a bit of a risk.

Grain for this is quite mixed – with some wheat, rye, and munich, and about 500g of crystal. The wheat is a result of me running out of 2-row (or more accurately, wanting to keep enough 2-row for my next beer) and wheat being the only alternative. The rye makes up about 6% of the fermentables so I’m not sure whether it will affect the taste or not, but I hope it adds some character (when I bought the rye, I bought it on a whim, without much idea of how to use or how much to use).

That was my thought process when designing this beer – now time for the beer itself:

America v Britain Superpower IPA

Partial mash

Boil volume: 25L
Estimated batch size: 22L
Actual batch size: 20-20.5L (I actually suspected that too much might boil off, hence the batch size of 22L instead of less).

IBU 68 + FWH = 74.8

Predicted OG: 1.064 – giving an IBU OG ratio of 1.17
Actual OG: 1.072 – giving an IBU OG ratio of 1.04 (a tad lower than I would have liked; it would have been better if the batch size had been 21L or more)

Mash schedule: 16L at 65-66 degrees for 60 minutes, 10.5L at 70-75 degrees for 20 minutes (I think, maybe 30minutes) giving exactly 25L
Cooldown using IC – took about 20M to get to around 24 degrees.

1kg American 2-row
500g Munich
204g Crystal 15L
229g Crystal 40L
100g Crystal 150L
300g Flaked rye
770g Wheat malt
2kg Extra light DME (added at FWH stage)

FWH + 60m: 45g Chinook 13% IBU 58 + 10% FWH
15m: 15g Cascade 7.2%, 15g Fuggles 4.7% IBU 8.8, Irish Moss, Immersion cooler
1m: 15g Cascade 7.2%, 15g Fuggles 4.7% IBU 0.8
By design, I wanted the majority of the IBUs to come from the bittering addition, rather than later flavouring additions. I didn’t use a hop bag – hops were left in the brew until filtered into the fermenter through a sanitised sieve

Yeast: US-05. Try as hard as I could with the IC, I could only get the wort down to 24 degrees. Working on autopilot, I pitched anyway and then thought “Oh, maybe I should have waited” – still, 24 is better than the 30s I’ve been pitching at sometimes. I rehydrated the yeast first and added 3 tablespoons of wort to it – it was bubbling away nicely before I pitched.

I’ll ferment this around 18 degrees, probably for 10 days – depending on whether I decide to dry-hop or not (with either Fuggles only, or a mix of Fuggles/Cascade). I’m going to be kegging this beer rather than bottling.

So there we have it – another experimental IPA. I swore I wasn’t going to do full batches of experimental IPA – but lo and behold, I have. I only hope that I’ve learnt enough theory and have enough luck with the new techniques that this will come out as I expect: nice sharp bitterness, inspiring British/American hoppiness, and no sweet aftertaste.