Brew Log: “Hops End Belgian IPA”

Our two-kettle system, which we may one day get right.

Yesterday we gathered to put together the red IPA recipe I’ve been planning. As usual, we spent some time snorting (that’s not a typo) hops that we’ve collected (the real winner was Spyke’s Pacific Jade, which had incredible floral and spice notes. We’re going to figure out something really special with that.)

We talked about yeast for a long time too. Our last batch, All Thumbs, was pretty dry when we sampled it on transfer day, so I wanted to steer clear of the American Ale yeast we pitched for that. I love Belgian yeasts and the hints of clove and banana they can produce.

What’s a hundred IBUs between friends?

Given the aromatics of the hops in play – citrus in the Magic Hop Dust and Cascade, the fruitiness of Calypso, and the bright grape sentiment of Nelson, we agreed that a little spice in the yeast would probably merge nicely, so we went on a mission to find Belgian Ale Yeast.

Here was the grain bill for Hop’s End Belgian IPA:

  • 8# 2 Row
  • 2# Munich
  • 1# Red Wheat
  • .5# Carastan
  • .5# Flaked Barley


Mashing

We hit a strike temp of 151° and closed up the tun. Between dinner and bottling All Thumbs, the mash actually ran about 90 minutes. I was working out some weird idea in my head about boil time, color, and volume loss, so we ended up sparging with only one gallon of water. This was way too little and we obviously left a lot of sugars in the tun. Ah well.

Boiling

We use a two-kettle approach (with two others on standby, actually. You just never know) and stagger the boil so that one can be chilled and transferred as the other is finishing. Theoretically, a quick cool-down helps color and clarity in the finished beer.

Anyway, the boil was uneventful and the timer started when the first kettle got roiling and hops were added. The second kettle was 12 minutes behind the first.

Irish Moss was added to each kettle to encourage strong flocculation.

Hops:

  • 1 oz Austin Homebrew Supply Magic Hop Dust, 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Cascade, 30 minutes
  • 2 oz Calypso, 15 minutes
  • 2 oz Nelson Sauvin, 5 minutes
  • (1 oz Calypso, dry hop – future state)

Initial gravity was 1.064, but our volume was short (thanks to my stingy sparging), so we topped off with half a gallon of water to get to something like 1.058.

Pitched two vials of White Labs 550 Belgian Ale Yeast. Took the carboy for a drive to help aerate it, and fermentation was underway in less than 12 hours at 72 degrees.

Problems

Aside from the raw volume problem, there is the difficulty of three to four inches of the bottom of the carboy being covered in trub from the six ounces of hops delivered. This volume loss may reduce as fermentation proceeds, but it will still be a lot of unavailable liquor in the mix.

In the future, we should take advantage of the recirculating wort chiller’s fast and dramatic precipitating abilities and siphon the cooled wort into the carboy, leaving a lot of solids behind. This will help with aeration as well.

Secondary Solutions

My plan at this point is to let fermentation roll for the week, but before it’s fully done, boil up three pounds of extra light extract in two gallons of water (SG: ~1.060), then perform a true secondary fermentation with a batch size of approximately 5.5 gallons. Ordinarily I try to avoid a lot of manipulation along these lines, but I’m curious to see if this approach produces a nice golden color without sacrificing any of the other sensory components.

What I’m most excited about though is the opportunity to age this beer for months. I love a good, strong, old Belgian ale, and I think Hop’s End might just be the flavor of my summer next year.

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