Wednesday, February 4, 2015
The Naked: Series, What I've learned
In April 2014, I brewed what might be the best Pale Ale recipe I've encountered. The recipe, posted on HomebrewTalk. Is formulated from Russian Rivers Pale Ale, Row 2 Hill 56. Using 100% Simcoe hops, created as a tribute to the hop that Vinnie saved from being pulled from the ground for being to aggressive. As the story goes of course. After my clone was completed I started brewing the second clone. Keeping everything the same except fermenting it at a lower temperature (64° vs 66°). Because I'm a homebrewer and the temptation to change something is overwhelming. This went on for 6 batches, not changing anything on the recipe, just enjoying the fruits of my labor. Then Ed Coffey posted a link for a new hop variety I've never seen before. Called Azacca which I still can't figure out how to pronounce. (If anyone wanted to inform me how it would be awesome, I just call it Azz"ca") And his (Ed's) planned split brewday using this hop. Showcasing big orange zest paired with pine notes according to the growers website, a couple clicks later it was being shipped to my house.
Upon arrival, I really didn't know what to use it for. My original thoughts were a Saison to push the orange zest notes the hop advertised. (Which I still should do) The idea slowly changed into a SMaSh beer to pull my thoughts concerning this new hop. However, I remembered I hate SMaSh beers. Using single malts just can't hold up to the hops. (My opinion) But I've never brewed a single hopped beer...or have I? This fantastic Russian River Row 2 Hill 56 beer that I've brewed 6 batches is single hopped.
Picking which hops to use was easy, use what I had at the house, yet the more I thought about it the more I wanted to focus on high alpha hops. There is no use in tossing a pound of Saaz into a batch, knowing that the hop aromas would be over shadowed by phenols and trub. So the list quickly formed, Simcoe (of course), Azacca, Chinook, Columbus, El Dorado, Apollo, Nelson, Citra, Amarillo Summit and Centennial.
Understanding why this base recipe works so well goes back to Russian River. Row 2 Hill 56 was designed as a "Hop Grower Series" recipe. (I happened to find this out after my "Naked:" series was deep into fermentation. Would this of changed the hops I picked, I really can't say, but Russian River really hasn't done anything else with this series) Starting off with Belgian Pilsner malt. Being less modified vs 2-Row allows the malt to shine vs being muddled. Even the best IPA recipes have started to change over to a mostly Pilsner malt base. The next is Marris Otter, (which I've changed since the 3rd batch into 2-Row). I love the rich quality Marris Otter brings to most styles but in this I just couldn't tell the difference. So for costs reasons, 2-Row it became. Crystal 20 is a interesting choice for this beer. Hearing Vinnie talk about recipe development and his dislike of anything Crystal then seeing this (although in a Pale) threw me for a loop. At 6% of the grain bill, most of this contribution is golden color and some body for the pilsner malt vs sweet flavor contributions.
The mash temperature on this beer made me smile ear to ear. Historically I've always mashed higher than a lot of brewers on Pale Ales, IPA's and Stouts, who normally mash around 149°/150°. So knowing that someone else other than Lagunita's /(who is noted for mashing at 160°) was mashing normally at 154° was awesome news. I've even started mashing this beer in the 156° range on the last couple batches. Each Naked: recipe has the mash temperature noted on the recipe posted if you want to know more. Using this higher mashing temp, brings the needed mouthfeel to balance out the aggressive bittering Russian Rives uses on this beer.
The hops used in the original version are all Simcoe as you should know by now. The recipe is looking for around 43 IBU's using the Tinseth scale. I wanted to keep the same amount of bittering hops, IBU wise. Keeping the same volume for dry hopping at 2 oz, added as the fermentation is ending. The thinking was dry hopping doesn't take any IBU calculations into affect, it's all flavor contributions at this point. On the boiling additions you can see each change according to each hop variety and the amount of alpha acids they carry.
Each Naked: hop experiment has its own post which you can click on below or search inside this blog. Each post guides the details from each batch. Since the grain bill is the same, some of the hop profiles have started to blend together in my tastings, this may be due to the massive amount of pale ales brewed by me this year, or that all these hops have some similarities flavor wise. In order to keep the positives and negatives from fading to far from memory, I've been updating this sheet since the start of the experiment. Just focusing on the big picture, not that this one is "hoppy or dank" just some quick thoughts about each hop.
The original recipe, when tasting this beer you understand why this hop was used. It just works perfectly with everything. The dank/citrus Simcoe brings to the table is suitable for any Pale Ale or IPA style.
This hop took a long time to mature. At first, I felt it was to gritty or unbalanced to use again in this recipe. I waited a while to even post the tasting notes on the blog hoping it would change over time. I was happy to see the aromatics adapting into a beautiful orange zest flavor. The flavor profile also changed into a big Orangesicle flavor. Not as much on the nose, but in the flavor of the beer.
Being a old time favorite, I really wanted this hop to be the best. It's close. I was really shocked to have so much flavor with chinook. It was very close to the simcoe batches. Big green dankness, a resinous feel to it. The aroma was expected, pine forest, pine cones all just worked. When you figure out the cheap price is chinook hops, this will be rebrewed.
This really followed the lines that chinook took. Giving that these 2 are so close in flavors, I am glad that I brewed them back to back, as I could tell some small differences between the 2 hops. This showed a little chemical-ness in the big pine aroma. The flavors almost matched the chinook spot on. Which I thought Chinook would of shown vs columbus.
This stalled out at 1.018, netting only a 4.5% beer. Strangely enough only 3 times I've used El Dorado, something has knocked the beer down flavor wise. I wonder if it is fate keeping me from enjoying this hop?
Something about this hop doesn't work well for me when used as a single dry hop. I think it's the Rose/flower petal aromatics that bring something I personally dislike forward.
This was fantastic, the aroma, the flavors brought forward were so enjoyable...however after drinking this for a couple of days I noticed the recipe needed something. I thought it was Rye Malt, so I created Tonga Pale Ale (blog post is coming soon) and I was right. The addition of Rye Malt made this a perfect beer fitted for my drinking style.
As much as I love Citra, this beer ended up lacking dominance. Citra needs a backing, a backing that can play against the tropical flavors we love.
Apollo, Summit, Cascade and Centennial are the only ones left. Unless someone can talk me into doing something else?
Have I learned anything? Well for one you really need to love Pale Ales to embark on something like this. But the biggest take away is the love I have for some of the traditional hops. The dank, piney established hops seem to take my breath away. Chinook and Columbus. For being some of the cheapest hops on the market they make a damn fine Pale Ale. When you start to bring in the fancy tropical hops like Citra and El Dorado, this recipe really starts loose the magic Russian River created with Simcoe hops. Maybe that's why Vinny never moved forward on this adventure knowing that this recipe really only "hits it out of the park" with the more traditional hops, that, lets be honest aren't very exciting on the tap list. Market -ability vs Creativity I guess.