This post is one in a series of making small adjustments to a single recipe in order to improve it, learn more about the impact each ingredient has on the finished product, and the art of recipe creation. The rest of the comparison tastings in this series can be found here.
The difference between Iterations 7 and 8 of this red IPA recipe were meant to be differences in hops alone. However, I did make the mistake of not reviewing my notes prior to brewing Iteration 7 and ended up with less pre-boil volume gathered than intended. This resulted in overshooting my OG. I did not make that same mistake with Iteration 8, so these beers have a significant difference in ABV (1%). This understandably affects the perception of some elements that I did not intend to change between these batches, but the differences in those elements are still worth exploring to determine how best to move forward with this recipe.
The recipes for each beer are as follows:
When I popped the cap for Iteration 7, I had an idea of what I was in for. With no tell-tale pop or hiss of escaping carbonation, I knew I had unfortunately saved a bottle that had an improper seal, and therefore did not carbonate fully. As would be expected, this beer had very little head at all, despite a vigorous pour. It did, however, have a pleasant deep red hue.
Iteration 8 had excellent head with excellent retention. The red color was not as deep as Iteration 7, but was still distinctly red.
Iteration 7 had an aroma of dark cherry, black plum, and orange rind. Iteration 8 had a strong note of orange/lemon zest in the nose. The noticeable malt characteristics were red cherry and red plum.
Iteration 7 tasted of black cherry with a hint of raisin. It also had notes of black plum and black muscadine grapes. Iteration 8 had notes of cherry, orange, and plum.
Overall, Iteration 7 is a richer beer from a malt perspective. This is not surprising considering the difference in OG between these beers. This is also not to say that Iteration 8 does not have richness or depth of malt flavor—it is simply less so compared to Iteration 7. Those deep malt flavors, though, are not truly the best for this beer. Iteration 8 hit target OG and has what I think is the appropriate level of malt character for a red IPA.
The muscadine flavor present in Iteration 7 is not one I’d noticed before. I have to wonder if the lack of carbonation combined with the 8.3% ABV of that beer was responsible for bringing out an almost wine-like character. Wine-like is perhaps not the best descriptor, because it by no means tasted like wine or had the body of wine. It did, however, have that muscadine grape flavor with a higher ABV that I am having difficulty describing another way.
Iteration 8 is certainly an improvement in hop character from Iteration 7. Still, more hops are needed in the recipe to get to that IPA-level of aroma and flavor. The flavor itself, though, is the profile I hope to maintain as the hops are scaled up.