Friday, March 28, 2014

4 Rings Session IPA and Tasting Notes

Its nice to see the session beer craze finally appearing into the main stream Craft Beer pipeline.  I for one, have been a session beer fan for years.  Having a couple drinks after work is a treasured pastime. So creating a homebrewed beer(s) that can be session-able and satisfy my hop requirements is something that is close to my heart. 

The major issue with creating a low alcohol session beer is creating a faux impression of body into the beer.  People talk about mashing at a high temperature or adding a lot of crystal malt into the grain bill, I'm not going to do that.  I'm approaching this problem like I would when brewing a Brett fermented beer.  Creating unfermentable sugars, and adding them into the mash.  Chad from Crooked Stave talks about adding oats, flaked wheat or another adjuncts into the finished mash or fresh wort around 170-200 degrees for his Brett fermented ales.  (Would it still be an ale if fermented with Brett?).  By doing this, I'm locking the starches into long chain sugars that any ale yeast wouldn't want to ferment.  Leaving them in the final product as perceived body.  So instead of aiming for a final gravity of 1.009 - 1.012, we would be looking at a final projected gravity of 1.013 - 1.016.  Which normally would be an alarm for a troubled or stalled fermentation.   

The vision for this beer is a very simple grain bill, focusing on the hops.  The majority of the grain is  American Two Row at 78% of the grain bill.  Followed by Flaked Wheat (Which we are going to add after the mash) With equal parts Acid malt and Cara-Pils at 4% each. Looking to be under 4.5% and refreshing.

To accomplish this I needed to change up my brew day routine.  Starting with a normal mash at 153 degrees for an hour.  Then transferring the wort over to the boil kettle and heating it to 170-ish.  Then adding the Flaked Wheat into the wort until it reaches 200 degrees then doing a temperature hold for 20 minutes.  Since my boil kettle was now filled with 1.5 pounds of Flaked Wheat, I needed to transfer back into my mash kettle via a march pump before boiling.

On the left is the normal boil kettle w/ the Flaked Wheat.  The right is the finished pre-boiled wort

Once the sweet wort with the added Flaked Wheat long chain sugars was back into the new boil kettle (normal Mash kettle) I continued to finish the boil normally.

I wanted this beer to have a nice hop bite so I bittered at 40 IBU's consisting of Summit and a very clean Magnum addition.  More than I felt like this beer needed.  However, Ive noticed that you need to over bitter on low ABV beers.  The last couple Session type beers I brewed seemed to be overwhelmed by the hop flavoring and seemed to smooth.   For the flavoring hops, I really wanted to focus on some very late additions. Having a pound of Mosaic and El Dorado hops in the freezer, used previously on some Single Hop Pale Ale experiments.  I knew these are good hops, however they lack the backbone to stand alone.  I've also gotten some butyric notes from Mosaic before, so I'm taking that into consideration.  So pairing them with Simcoe and Centennial is a nice way to let them shine (with a little crutch). 

With the amount of hops being pushed into this beer, paired with the low malt profile I wanted to add teaspoon of flour into the finishing fermentation.  This will create a uniformed haze into the beer.  Luckily I have no issues clearing beer normally, so chasing the "Perfect Unicorn" on clarity isn't important as it once was.  Now don't get this confused with allowing hop chunks into your final product.  This is still a beer with no other residue residing in the keg.  Just fighting the hop haze isn't worth it on this one. 

Aroma:  Intense piney, resinous characters.  Very low on the malt "Smell" just a sharp hop flavor.   I also get a honeydew, green melon sweetness on the nose.  A good friend stated they got a big Centennial note on the nose.  (I've never really been able to pinpoint the Centennial smells according to the written reports).

Appearance:  Can I say beautifully cloudy?  The straw haze is perfectly balanced with the thick pillow white head.  The long chain sugars mixed with the wheat have created possibly the longest lasting, thickest head on a beer ever know to man.  Knowing this is not over carbonated, I am consistently amazed at the longevity of the foam on this beer.  

Flavor:  Simcoe is the shinning star here.  The dank, piney characters are top notch.  The bittering is spot on.  Any lower the beer would appear to watered down. I can pull some of the wet, honey melon flavors from the hops, maybe even a little butyric notes, that are on the threshold of tolerance.  However that's really getting down into the flavor profile.  Maybe drop the Mosaic on the rebrew.  Overall it is very clean, low malt profile and a powerful hop presence.

Mouthfeel:  This is where the hard work paid off.  The body on this beer is phenomenal.  The carbonation is perfect.  Given the overly, and I mean overly long lasting head, I feel like I can walk away from my pint for 20 mins and come back to a perfect pour. 

Overall Impression:  This is a great session beer, I would drop the Mosaic hops on the redrew, maybe replacing with cascade for some additional pine like flavors. 

Brewing Timeline/Notes:  I love this beer, its almost custom created for my style of drinking. It happens to be very close to Stones new Go To IPA and Pizza Ports Ponte Session IPA.  This is more likely a random thing due to the heavy amount of Simcoe in the late additions. On the last couple session beers I've brewed I focused on Citra type hops, I'm starting to feel that these types of beer benefit from the danker, more weed like varietals. 

I think a rebrew is in order. 

4 Rings
American Pale Ale / Session IPA
Type: All Grain Date: 22 Feb 2014
Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal Brewer: Chris Lewis
Boil Size: 7.27 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 60 min Equipment: My Equipment
End of Boil Volume 6.24 gal Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Final Bottling Volume: 6.00 gal Est Mash Efficiency 75.0 %
Fermentation: My Aging Profile Taste Rating(out of 50): 40.0
Taste Notes:
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
9 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 78.3 %
1 lbs 8.0 oz Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM) Grain 2 13.0 %
8.0 oz Acidulated (Weyermann) (1.8 SRM) Grain 3 4.3 %
8.0 oz Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 4 4.3 %
0.50 oz Summit [17.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 5 28.7 IBUs
0.30 oz Magnum [12.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 6 12.2 IBUs
1.20 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins) Fining 7 -
1.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - Boil 8.0 min Hop 8 10.2 IBUs
1.00 oz El Dorado [15.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 min Hop 9 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Mosaic (HBC 369) [12.25 %] - Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 min Hop 10 0.0 IBUs
0.50 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool 15.0 min Hop 11 4.2 IBUs
0.50 oz El Dorado [15.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool 15.0 min Hop 12 6.3 IBUs
0.50 oz Mosaic (HBC 369) [12.25 %] - Steep/Whirlpool 15.0 min Hop 13 5.1 IBUs
0.30 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 min Hop 14 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg San Diego Super Yeast (White Labs #WLP090) Yeast 15 -
1.20 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Primary 3.0 days) Other 16 -
0.50 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - Dry Hop 6.0 Days Hop 17 0.0 IBUs
0.50 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days Hop 18 0.0 IBUs
0.50 oz El Dorado [15.00 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days Hop 19 0.0 IBUs
0.50 oz Mosaic (HBC 369) [12.25 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days Hop 20 0.0 IBUs
0.50 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days Hop 21 0.0 IBUs
Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.051 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.049 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.012 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.015 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 5.2 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 4.5 %
Bitterness: 66.6 IBUs Calories: 163.7 kcal/12oz
Est Color: 3.7 SRM
Mash Profile
Mash Name: Temperature Mash, 1 Step, Full Body Total Grain Weight: 11 lbs 8.0 oz
Sparge Water: 5.06 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F Tun Temperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.20
Mash Steps
Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
Saccharification Add 14.38 qt of water at 167.1 F 153.0 F 50 min
Mash Out Heat to 168.0 F over 10 min 168.0 F 10 min
Sparge Step: Fly sparge with 5.06 gal water at 168.0 F
Mash Notes: I racked the converted, unboiled wort into the boil kettle, adding the flaked wheat at 175-200 locking conversion. Then used the boil kettle as a grant and transfered into the mash for boiling.
Carbonation and Storage
Carbonation Type: Keg Volumes of CO2: 2.4
Pressure/Weight: 13.72 PSI Carbonation Used: Keg with 13.72 PSI
Keg/Bottling Temperature: 45.0 F Age for: 28.00 days
Fermentation: My Aging Profile Storage Temperature: 41.0 F
Fermentation Notes
Primary Fermentation:  63 degrees for 3 days, slowly rise to 70 over the next 7 days
Created with BeerSmith



  1. I recently had a chance to drink this beer, and I think you did a really nice job of realizing your objectives. It's plenty hoppy and very much an IPA in hop profile. I think that the Mosaic is responsible for the melon you're getting, but I really smelled Centennial and tasted Mosaic (probably the 15 minute addition). You could drink this beer all day with the low ABV; all the hard work that goes into brewing something like this paid off on this one for sure. There have been plenty of other session beers that didn't impress me nearly as much.

    1. Thanks for the comment Danny. I'm glad you got to taste it. Like I said above, I'm really happy with the way to turned out.

    2. What are your thoughts on doing a "second mash" of the flaked Wheat at the higher temp and add this to your primary mash as a "mash out" of sorts? I have been reading alot about this technique and it sounds like it works well.

    3. Interesting idea. Sounds like it might have the same effects as what I did with less steps. I only wonder about any dextrins getting stuck during the mash-out on the residual grains? Either way to do it, I would highly recommend brewing a beer using this process.

    4. Looks awesome Chris! I've been reading through your blog for the past couple of hours. Great stuff. I have my shopping cart saved on Northern Brewer to order about a month out from when I leave here from Afghanistan. Can't wait to get home and dive into all-grain, this session IPA recipe is going to be my first attempt. Seems only fitting as you were the one that taught me to brew. =) One question, I noticed in a lot of your recipes you start the initial fermentation in the low 60's and then work your way up throughout the first week. Is there a name for this method, and what are the pro's to this instead of maintaining a constant 68 deg? Hope all is well, tell the fam I said hi! I'm excited to see you and your buddies' NHC results for this year!


    5. Fabian,

      Awesome to hear from you. I'm sure you will enjoy this recipe. As for the fermentation temp, I like to taste beer vs yeast on hop forward styles. This low temp will minimize any yeast flavors. But a higher temp is fine if that is what you need to ferment at.


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