Brewing a NEPA

New England styles have become quite a trend in the last couple of years, a very delicious trend. Many home brewers are attempting to brew this style which is great! It has caused a little tension in the hazy vs clear debates frequently found on social media. But I’m not bothered in the least by the super hazy appearance, in fact I get excited when I see a beer like that. Now I still haven’t had the pleasure of travelling to San Diego and enjoying all the super clear mega hoppy offerings they have. I have had a few from Firestone Walker, Ballast Point etc but let’s be honest. If they have to travel from coast to coast before I get to sample them, they’re likely not in ideal shape. I mean you really want to have Pliny the Elder on tap or a really fresh bottle at the very least, don’t you?

patina
Mmm Patina. Image sourced from http://www.austinstreetbrewery.com/patina-pale/

My trips to the US consist mainly of Portland, Maine. Which is one hell of a beer city. Bissell Brothers, Austin St, Foundation, the list goes on and on. My first glass of The Substance changed the way I looked at hop forward American styles. I’ll be honest, the haze didn’t bother me in the slightest and even if it had, once I tasted the beer I was sold on the “style”. Ever since, I’ve been looking for those hazy, super hoppy beer every time I head down. As far as the pale ale style goes, one of my favourite commercial examples so far has been Patina by Austin Street. I’ve had it on numerous occasions and its solid each and every time, especially when they release a double dry hop version. Locally, Trailway is making some damn fine examples as well such as D’under and Rype. But my favorite has to be Fort Point by Trillium. It was extremely hoppy, the very definition of hop juice. I was very fortunate a friend was willing to share a bottle. I’ve only had it that one time and I still hold it as the best example of a NEPA.

As far as brewing this particular style at home there are a few things to keep in mind to try to get as close as possible to those great beer I mentioned earlier. General guidelines call for a very light beer, too dark and you’ll end up with murk instead of haze. Low IBU’s, the lack of hop bitterness helps to accentuate the juicy quality of a NEPA. A fairly large percentage of oats and/or wheat to increase mouth feel and add to the haze of the beer. Most or all of the hops should be added late in the boil and at flameout, possibly with a steep or whirlpool. Heavy dry hop additions help to really punch the hop aroma and flavor to another level. Finally using a yeast strain that tends to finish hazy and provide some fruit flavor to compliment the hops chosen. I prefer London Ale III, others use Conan which is also a good choice. I’ve read that some claim you need specific water chemistry adjustments as well, but I’ve settled in on a profile that works for me for all hop forward styles. So I keep that consistent from batch to batch. I have heard of some brewers using flour to add haze. But adding an ingredient to mimic a hazy beer seems unnecessary. After all, I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen sacs of flour hanging around the Bissell Brothers brewery.

With all of that in mind writing a recipe is fairly straight forward. A simple grain bill with 2-row as the base malt, a fairly large percentage of flaked oats (~15%), and some flaked wheat (~10%). I’d love to try brewing with malted oats but it’s something I can’t get from my LHBS unless I buy a full bag at an unreasonable price. Mash reasonably low so the beer finishes a little dry. Choose punchy hops, those with tropical fruit, fruit and citrus character work really well. For this recipe I chose Equinox, Columbus, Centennial and Simcoe.

This turned out well aside from one glaring issue. Something I have been suspecting on numerous batches recently but it’s been very minimal. For this mash I tried changing things up and I ran a single infusion with a batch sparge. I ended up with a fair amount of astringency, not so much to ruin the beer but I wonder just how good it could have been without it. Not to say this mash and sparge method was the cause, I think it merely helped to accentuate the problem. I’ve since made adjustments to my mash and I’m happy to say I’ve not had the same issue again. Otherwise a great NEPA.

Brewed with my son Setpember 24th, mashed in with 10L of 164F water to hit target mash temp of 152F. Tried a different sparge method for this beer. Added the mash out volume to the sparge water. Batch sparged with 18L of 168F water. 60 minute boil. OG 7 points low at 1.043, I’m assuming this has something to do with the sparge method I tried. Dry hops added on day 3 and day 7. Kegged on day 11, FG 1.008.

Recipe Targets: 4.5 gallons, OG 1.050, FG 1.010, ABV 5%, IBU 51,             SRM 3.3

Grain:

0.11 kg     Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM) 2.9 %
2.59 kg    Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) 67.8 %
0.60 kg   Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) 15.7 %
0.39 kg   White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) 10.3 %
0.12 kg    Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) 3.1 %

Hops:

14.00 g Equinox (HBC 366) [13.40 %] – Boil 5 min        5.5 IBUs
14.00 g Simcoe [13.00 %] – Boil 5 min                            5.3 IBUs
7.00 g Centennial [9.00 %] – Boil 5 min                         1.8 IBUs
7.00 g Columbus (CTZ) [10.90 %] – Boil 5 min              2.2 IBUs
28.00 g Equinox (HBC 366) CHILLER [13.40 %]             0.0 IBUs
28.00 g Simcoe CHILLER [13.00 %]                                0.0 IBUs
14.00 g Centennial CHILLER [9.00 %]                            0.0 IBUs
14.00 g Columbus (CTZ) CHILLER [10.90%]                  0.0 IBUs
28.00 g Equinox (HBC 366) [13.40 %] – Steep 15 min  13.6 IBUs
28.00 g Simcoe [13.00 %] – Steep 15 min                      13.2 IBUs
14.00 g Centennial [9.00 %] – Steep 15 min                   4.6 IBUs
14.00 g Columbus (CTZ) [10.90 %] Steep 15min            5.5 IBUs
28.00 g Equinox (HBC 366) DAY 3 [13.40 %] – Dry Hop Day 3
28.00 g Simcoe DAY 3 [13.00 %] – Dry Hop Day 3
14.00 g Centennial DAY 3 [9.00 %] – Dry Hop Day 3
14.00 g Columbus (CTZ) [10.90 %] – Dry Hop Day 3
28.00 g Equinox (HBC 366) [13.40 %] – Dry Hop Day 7
28.00 g Simcoe [13.00 %] – Dry Hop Day 7
14.00 g Centennial [9.00 %] – Dry Hop Day 7
14.00 g Columbus (CTZ) [10.90 %] – Dry Hop Day 7

Yeast:

London Ale III (Wyeast Labs #1318)

Extras:

1 tsp Yeast Nutrient

nepa-embrace-the-haze

Appearance: Pours with a white head, half finger which fades to a thin ring within a couple of minutes. Pale orange in color, quite hazy.

Aroma: Lots of punchy hop aroma. Fruit, citrus and some tropical character present as well.

Taste: Follows from the aroma with lots of great hop flavor, lime, mango and a mix of fruit. Unfortunately about mid taste astringency starts to come through, moderate intensity.

Mouthfeel: Medium mouth feel which dries considerably due to the astringency. Moderate carbonation.

Overall: A solid recipe. If not for that astringency issue (which has been corrected thankfully) this was likely the best Pale Ale I’ve brewed so far. It again solidifies LAIII as my go to yeast strain for hop forward styles. I would likely increase the oats next time and drop the wheat malt just to see the difference in clarity. If you haven’t tried brewing this style yet I suggest you give it a shot. Even if you’re an advocate for crystal clear hoppy styles, I bet you’ll enjoy how juicy these styles can be.

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