I have come to be a little obsessed with the New England “styles”. So much so that I really want to keep one on tap at all times. Recently I’ve brewed a pale ale and two iterations of an IPA, so it only made sense to brew a Double IPA next. The timing of this brew lined up closely to a home brew competition that was reasonably close for me to enter, the Big Spruce Home Brew Challenge.
As the title of this post mentions, I had never entered a competition before. Not because I didn’t want to, but because over the last few years the local competition styles haven’t been of interest to me. I’m not one to brew a style I wouldn’t normally just to enter a competition. I mean if I haven’t brewed it before or don’t really plan to brew and work on that style then what’s the point? Between family time and shift work my brew days can be difficult to fit in and so I’d rather use that time accordingly.
I’ve been fairly picky about the way I brew DIPA’s for the last couple of years. I generally want to keep the ABV between 7.5-8%. Once they start creeping towards the 9% range I find that malt sweetness is nearly unavoidable. Or at least it has been when I’ve brewed them in the past and that’s something I don’t enjoy at all. So I tend to keep the grain bill simple and the percentages fairly consistent with my IPA recipes. But push the OG just barely into the IIPA range. The downside to this approach is that if your OG is low at all you’re likely to fall out of the IIPA category if you like to stick by the BJCP guidelines. Normally I don’t concern myself with those guidelines (not that you should ignore them) when brewing hop forward styles. At this point I know what I like in a Pale Ale, IPA, IIPA and so I brew to those preferences.
Planning this recipe was fairly easy, use hops that I love, in this case Mosaic, Equinox, Simcoe and Amarillo. Keep the grain bill simple, mainly 2-row, Maris Otter and flaked oats which would make this more of a NEIIPA I guess. Use LAIII, my go to for New England styles and that’s it.
I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail describing these hops and what they bring to a beer. I love all of them, especially the Mosaic and Equinox. My only concern was that Mosaic, Simcoe and Amarillo have the potential to be dank. Which I love but combining all three had the potential to push the level of dank into a range some might not enjoy (understandably). More on that later. As usual almost all of the hops used in this recipe were late, steep and dry hop additions. With the latter being split, half on day 3 the other half on day 7 with plans to keg on day 11 or 12.
Brew day and fermentation went as planned and this turned out really well. The first week it was especially juicy and dank and delicious. Here’s the catch. Beer tasting can be completely subjective. Different people pick up on different characteristics in each beer based on their palate and preferences. I gave this beer out to my fellow beer geeks (including two who now brew professionally) and they loved it. I got nothing but great feed back, even from those I knew would be completely honest with me.
The score sheets I received back from the competition however were a different story altogether. The beer was evaluated by three judges, two BJCP certified, the other a Cicerone. They described the beer as astringent and sweaty with onion and garlic in both aroma and flavor. To be honest I was completely surprised and my confidence took a huge hit. Not because I was personally hurt. I have never taken offence to comments about my beer, I want nothing else but brutal and honest feed back. I believe it’s critical to improving your beer. I was surprised because I couldn’t pick up on any of those characteristics in this beer. When I relayed the comments to my fellow beer geeks they seemed equally surprised. I poured this beer day after day, analyzing and attempting to detect the slightest amount of astringency. I never could. Same for the onion and garlic aroma and flavor. I did find the level of dank pushed towards being sweaty once when I let the beer warm for twenty minutes before tasting. Unfortunately those score sheets took away from this beer quite a bit for me as I spent so much time picking the beer apart instead of just enjoying it. That’s a mistake I won’t make again.
As a result of the competition feed back it’s difficult for me to recommend this recipe. I do plan to brew it again with a different hop bill just to see how it turns out. As I mentioned I was really enjoying this beer up until the time the sheets came back.
Recipe Targets: 5 Gallons, OG 1.069, FG 1.012, ABV 7.5%, SRM 4.4, IBU 71
2.60 kg 2-row (41.9%)
1.50 kg Maris Otter (24.2%)
1.40 kg Flaked Oats (22.5%)
0.26 kg Acid Malt (4.2%)
6 g Polaris (21%) @60min
28 g Amarillo (9.8%) @5min
28 g Equinox (15%) @5min
28 g Mosaic (12.25%) @5min
28 g Simcoe (12.7%) Steep 15mins
28 g Mosaic (12.25%) Steep 15mins
28 g Equinox (15%) Steep 15mins
28 g Amarillo (9.8%) Chiller (temp <180F)
28 g Equinox (15%) Chiller (temp <180F)
28 g Mosaic (12.25%) Chiller (temp <180F)
56 g Amarillo (9.8%) Dry Hop (half on day 3, half on day 7)
56 g Equinox (15%) Dry Hop (half on day 3, half on day 7)
56 g Simcoe (12.7%) Dry Hop (half on day 3, half on day 7)
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
LAIII – Wyeast 1318
Brewed October 30th. Mashed in with 15L 160F water, mashed out with 9L of 205F water. Drained mash tun and batch sparged with 165F water. 60 minute boil. Fermentation temp capped at 72F. OG 1.067. FG 1.010. ABV 7.5%
I completely forgot to take a picture of this beer so here’s an image of an awesome beer by Foundation. Epiphany, a “Maine” IPA. Image sourced from: http://foundationbrew.com/beer/epiphany/
Appearance: Pours with a 1/2″ white head, dissipates to a thin ring withing a few minutes. Light orange in color, moderate haze.
Aroma: Intensely hoppy, quite dank with some fruit and tropical notes.
Taste: Follows from the aroma, dank followed by fruity and tropical hops.
Mouthfeel: Moderate mouth feel, medium carbonation, finishes dry.
Overall: As I mentioned earlier I really enjoyed this early on. Very juicy and dank, everything I look for in a IIPA. I’m interested to brew this with a different hop bill and get feed back again.