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 series can be found here.
With a busy weekend in front of me but needing to brew then to time things right for the homebrew competition, I opted to squeeze in a brew day on a full Saturday and set my alarm for the same time as a work day. I heated my strike water and mashed in, overshooting my target mash temperature by a little over one degree—not enough for me to worry about correcting. I then left the house for a fun-filled morning of errands and returned a little over four hours after I had mashed in.
After collecting my first runnings and two quick batch sparges, I brought the wort to a boil and took a gravity reading. Based on my pre-boil gravity and usual boil-off rate, it looked like I was right on track for my target OG. After an uneventfully smooth boil, I cooled my wort, transferred to my carboy, and pitched the yeast. A gravity sample revealed that I had undershot my target OG by two points—not terrible.
In less than 24 hours, signs of fermentation had begun.
Iteration 9 surprised me in that it genuinely lacked the hop punch I expected from 5 ounces of dry hops. Instead, I was greeted with a grassy taste for the first few bottles. Although this did fade some over time, it was not replaced by the flavors I had hoped for. In order to keep the grassiness at bay and to try to up the hop flavor in general, I decided to make a few adjustments to my hopping schedule. First, I decided to add more hops in the kettle to try to increase the hop flavor and not the aroma only.
The other big change I wanted to make ended up being two changes. Although the grassiness I had tasted in Iteration 9 did fade with time, I wanted to avoid it altogether. I was frankly unsure where the flavor was coming from based on a couple factors. The hop charge I used for Iteration 9’s dry hops was larger than I’d ever used before. I could not be certain that the amount of hops I used combined with the length of contact time did not play a part in that off-flavor, so I wanted to eliminate that as a possible source. I decided to use one ounce less for one day less.
The second of these changes was a last-minute decision based on hop availability at my LHBS. For Iteration 8, I used Amarillo hops and got good results from them. When I was purchasing hops for Iteration 9, I noticed my LHBS did not have those same Amarillo hops available, although they did have some with a slightly different AA% and in a different package. I went with those, and when I opened them on brew day, I found that they were a slightly darker green than I’m used to seeing in my hops and their aroma, although not off enough for me to discard them, was certainly not as present as I expected based on past experiences with this particular hop. With the end results of that beer yielding that grassy off-flavor, I was left questioning if this set of hops had been mishandled in the processing or packaging process. It wasn’t a chance I wanted to take again. So, when I went to buy ingredients for this iteration, I asked if there were any other packages of Amarillo left, and found out that the four ounces on display in the suspect packaging were the last four ounces of Amarillo available.
Unwilling to knowingly use potentially subpar ingredients, I thought back on the flavors I had really enjoyed from the hops in my last few batches. The orange character I had gotten recently was working really well with the dark fruit flavors from the malt, so I definitely wanted something that had that character. I also had enjoyed the apricot notes I first noticed in Iteration 7, meaning it was from the Amarillo; however, that flavor was secondary in importance to the orange for me. Unable to find a hop at the store that would exhibit those two characteristics outside of the suspect Amarillo, I opted to replace the Amarillo addition with Citra, yielding the following recipe:
- Mashed at 151⁰ F for 4+ hrs.
- 10 lbs. 2-Row
- 1.2 lbs. Crystal 120
- 1 lb. Vienna
- Boiled for 1 hr.
- 0.5 oz. Magnum (60 min) at 14.7% AA
- 0.5 oz. Magnum (30 min) at 14.7% AA
- 2 oz. Cascade (10 min) at 5% AA
- 2 oz. Centennial (5 min) at 9.7% AA
- 1 oz. Citra (0 min) at 12.5% AA
- 1 oz. Citra (hop stand at <180⁰ F) at 12.5% AA
- Pitched US-O5
- OG: 1.064
- FG: 1.010
- ABV: 7.1%
- Dry hopped 2 oz. Cascade, 1 oz. Centennial, and 1 oz. Citra for 3 days.
- Bottled and primed with 4 oz. of priming sugar.
This beer poured with a good head, had excellent retention, and was amber/red in color. The aroma smelled strongly of orange, with hints of plum and Bing cherry. The flavor had a definite orange character, with some hints of grapefruit in the background. There were also some cherry notes.
Overall, the hop character of this beer was excellent. The flavor and aroma were both strongly present and at the level I’ve been trying to achieve. This beer now definitely drinks like an IPA. The only thing I really wish were different is the malt presence. The hop additions have been a balancing act, as the malt is of just as much importance to a red IPA as the hops, in my opinion. The delightful dark fruit character that I’d been getting from previous versions of this recipe was hidden by the strong hop presence. I don’t think I would change the level of hop flavor and aroma I got from this iteration, but I do wonder if there’s a way I could tread that line a little better.
It was always my plan to brew this beer over and over for one year and then enter it in a competition as the final culmination of this project. As promised, I’m giving a breakdown of the results. I’ll also give the disclaimer that my tasting notes above were taken prior to getting these results back, so I’ll also try my best to reconcile those.
My overall score was a 30—disappointing to say the least, but I’ll get to my thoughts later. Both judges noted astringency in the beer and that the bitterness was too much and needed balancing with more malt. I’ll agree that this version was out of balance and needed more malt in the flavor. What I didn’t notice before was that the bitterness was definitely over the top, although I still wouldn’t personally call it astringent—just out of balance IBUs. However, that’s my opinion versus these judges who both agreed on that descriptor (and certainly not a defense of my beer in the face of this criticism).
I scored a 9 & 10 out of a possible 12 for Aroma. Both scoresheets note a sweet aspect to the aroma with a spiciness from the hops. I would venture to say that the sweetness was the malt coming through where it failed to in the flavor, but I’m surprised neither noted an orange aroma as I believed that was the predominant scent. My wife (who did not know anything about this beer or what I was going for) smelled it and her only response was that it smelled like orange. I’m also a bit confused about the spicy notes they perceived, but since two different judges both noted it, I suppose it’s there.
The Appearance scored a 3/3 on both scoresheets, both noting the haziness but red color and long-lasting head.
Flavor scored a 9 & 10 out of 20 (ouch). As mentioned above, both judges here focus on the bitterness. Both note that there’s a brief sweetness to the beer but then the bitterness comes back to dominate.
Mouthfeel scored a 2 & 3 out of 5, again both judges focusing on the astringency.
This beer received a 5 & 6 out of 10 for Overall Impression. Both scoresheets again here focus on bitterness as the primary reason for the score. One judge notes that more base malt would help and another notes that there was a good choice of ingredients but too many IBUs.
To be honest, I’m rather disappointed in these results. I think, though, that they show at least two things. The first is that perhaps I shouldn’t have upped the hops quite as much as I did all at once; the second is that perhaps this project has been more insular than was truly beneficial. Sure, I compared these beers to one another throughout the process, and sure these beers have ultimately been for me and my ideal red IPA, but others’ feedback has been lacking. That’s just one reason why I’m very excited for the next project I’ll be launching in January, where other brewers will be collaborating with me on this iterative brewing idea.
If I had to do it again, I’d increase the hops incrementally as I had in previous back to back iterations. Unfortunately, the lack of hop punch in Iteration 9 combined with the lack of time to brew any more iterations prior to the competition inspired me to increase the hop charge like I did. This beer certainly isn’t where I’d like it to be in its final form, but it’s given me a much better understanding of how to accomplish certain things in brewing. I think a better assessment, though, is asking myself if this beer is where I’d like it to be after 10 versions. It’s definitely improved immensely from Iteration 1, and I think one or two more tweaks would fix the issue of balance and let the malt character I enjoyed so much in previous versions truly shine through—so, the answer is a firm “probably.” I’ll certainly revisit this beer again in the future and adjust some elements of the recipe, but for now, the year is over, and my palate needs a red IPA break.
|Iteration 1||Iteration 2||Iteration 3||Iteration 4||Iteration 5||Iteration 6||Iteration 7||Iteration 8||Iteration 9||Iteration 10|
|Base Malt 2-row||10.25 lbs.||10.25 lbs.||10.25 lbs.||9 lbs.||10 lbs.||10 lbs.||10 lbs.||10 lbs.||10 lbs.||10 lbs.|
|Crystal Malt||1 lb. C80||1 lb. C120||0.75 lbs. C120||1.25 lbs. C120||1 lb. C120||1.2 lbs. C120||1.2 lbs. C120||1.2 lbs. C120||1.2 lbs. C120||1.2 lbs. C120|
|Specialty Malt||0.5 lbs. Special B||1 lb. Munich||1 lb. Vienna||1 lb. Vienna||1 lb. Vienna||1 lb. Vienna||1 lb. Vienna||1 lb. Vienna|
|60 min. hop||0.5 oz. Simcoe||0.5 oz. Simcoe||0.5 oz. Simcoe||0.5 oz. Simcoe||0.5 oz. Simcoe||1 oz. Magnum||0.5 oz. Magnum||0.5 oz. Magnum||0.5 oz. Magnum||0.5 oz. Magnum|
|30 min. hop||0.5 oz. Simcoe||0.5 oz. Simcoe||0.5 oz. Simcoe||0.5 oz. Simcoe||0.5 oz. Simcoe||0.5 oz. Magnum||0.5 oz. Magnum||0.5 oz. Magnum||0.5 oz. Magnum|
|15 min. hop||0.5 oz. Cascade||0.5 oz. Cascade||0.5 oz. Cascade||0.5 oz. Cascade||0.5 oz. Cascade||0.5 oz. Cascade||0.5 oz. Cascade|
|10 min. hop||0.5 oz. Centennial||0.5 oz. Cascade||0.5 oz. Cascade||2 oz. Cascade|
|5 min. hop||0.5 oz. Centennial||0.5 oz. Centennial||0.5 oz. Centennial||0.5 oz. Centennial||0.5 oz. Centennial||0.5 oz. Centennial||0.5 oz. Centennial||0.5 oz. Centennial||2 oz. Centennial|
|0 min. hop||0.5 oz. Simcoe||0.5 oz. Amarillo||0.5 oz. Amarillo||1 oz. Amarill0||2 oz. Citra|
|Dry hop||0.5 oz. Cascade & Centennial||0.5 oz. Cascade & Centennial||0.5 oz. Cascade & Centennial||0.5 oz. Cascade & Centennial||0.5 oz. Cascade & Centennial||0.5 oz. Cascade, Centennial, & Simcoe||0.5 oz. Cascade, Centennial, & Amarillo||1.5 oz. Cascade; 0.5 oz. Centennial & Amarillo||2.5 oz. Cascade; 1.5 oz. Centennial; 1 oz. Amarillo||2 oz. Cascade; 1 oz. Centennial; 1 oz. Citra|