May 25, 2012

Brewday: Belgian IPA

Belgian IPA is one of those styles, kind of cool among some beer geeks but the feedback on most Belgian IPAs is mixed at best. Recently Little Creatures released another single batch beer, Quiet American. It's hopped with big, bold American hops and uses a Belgian yeast. I haven't managed to pick one up yet but from what I've read, the main criticism is that it's cloyingly sweet, with some also saying that the yeast doesn't play nicely with the hops.

The hops, minus the first wort addition

I've been keen to have a crack at this style for a little while now and the De Ranke XX Bitter was the beer to finally push me to give it a go. These are the factors that have guided my recipe design:
  • A dry finish. This suits both Belgians and IPAs although IPAs aren't usually quite as dry. For this beer I'm aiming at a FG of about 1.008
  • Bold use of hops but not crazy American 'C' hops. I got a packet of the newish Aramis and some Saaz too, aiming for a bitter, spicy, herbal, lemony hop combination. I want to achieve an IPA level hoppiness without forcing overwhelming flavours into it.
  • Because of the high attenuation, the IBUs don't need to be as high as a classic IPA to still have the same effect as an IPA. The balance value formula was very helpful in working out how far to go with bitterness. An OG of 1.057, FG of 1.008 and IBUs of 45 give this beer a pretty classic American IPA balance.
  • I made a starter with the dregs from a bottle of XX Bitter. I liked how the De Ranke yeast was mild but still Belgian. That little touch of clove complimented the whole beer but didn't dominate the way a Belgian yeast often wants to.
  • Pale colour, light body and fairly high alcohol content. I'm borrowing pretty heavily from the Belgian Blonde Ale style here. My OG is a little low for a Blonde Ale but the attenuation will boost the alcohol percentage.

This Belgian IPA is much more about Belgium than America

Brewing was pretty straight forward. I used a slightly simplified mash schedule, 55/64/78'C for 10/60/10 minutes. I added some acidulated malt to the mash to get the pH in the right range. I ended up getting better efficiency than I expected, it ended up at 1.060 so if it attenuates well it could end up around 7% abv. The Aramis hops smelled amazing when I opened the package. Lemongrass, fruity, delicious.

I chilled the starter in the fridge, then decanted most of the liquid, gave a good shake and then pitched the slurry into the fermenter. The taste of the starter had exactly the right character from the yeast. It's sitting at 20.5'C and had visible signs of fermentation in about 10 hours.

Hopefully I'll get my hands on a bottle of Quiet American and do a side by side comparison as examples of the style.

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