Thursday, October 16, 2014

Brew Day: The Plinian Legacy (Imperial IPA)

In hindsight we may have started too soon creating our own recipes. None of our early beers were truly bad. We learned by doing, but maybe we could have "learned while doing" more proven recipes. Sometimes you don't know what you don't know. Now, instead of tweaking our early recipes I find myself starting from scratch like I did with my recent brown ale and pale ale.

I may not have used all these hops if I tried to come up with my own IPA recipe.
I may not have used all these hops if I tried to come up with my own IPA recipe.

Kits are a good way for a brewer to try new ingredients and to step out of his/her comfort zone. Last winter I brewed Northern Brewer's Kiwi Express as a way to learn about New Zealand hops. This summer I brewed Speckled Heifer to supplement the Spotted Cow we brought back from Wisconsin. In my latest order I bought the Australian Sparkling Ale kit to brew with Pride of Ringwood hops for the first time. In the future I want to brew one of Beer & Wine Hobby's Mystic Brewing kits.

When working on The Substance Ale clone I mentioned how I was equal parts intimidated and uninterested in brewing IPAs. A couple weeks before I had the idea to clone it, I took advantage of Northern Brewer's 20% off sale to purchase the Plinian Legacy kit along with my grain mill and wort chiller. At that time I had just brewed a Red IPA that was OK, but was missing something. I knew I had a lot more to learn about brewing a great IPA.

I am too lazy to to troll Beer Advocate to find somebody to trade #beermail with, so I haven't had a chance to try Pliny the Elder. Brewing a clone of one of the best IPAs in the world seemed like a good way to learn more about brewing IPAs. In the process I'll have five gallons of a close approximation of a world-class beer. Most of my recent brews have been either session or regular strength in terms of alcohol level; it will be nice to have a big beers in the house. Sometimes at the end of the night it's nice to kick back with a big IPA or imperial stout as a way to cap off a drinking session.

This was my first time using a hop shot. Instead of actual hops, the shot contains hop extract.
This was my first time using a hop shot. Instead of actual hops, the shot contains hop extract.

I waited to brew this for similar reasons I waited to brew The Substance. I used the WLP001 cultured from the original yeast starter. I actual pitched some extra yeast from the original starter into a new starter so I had enough healthy cells for this, the Pumpkin Wheat, and the Ballantine IPA clone. I then saved yeast from that second starter I can save and pitch in a third starter when I need to use the yeast again in the future. From reading the comments in Brulosopher's post, I can keep the yeast in the fridge for several months.

I brewed this at the same time as the Essex Pale Ale. When I added the late extract I put the lid back on the kettle to bring the wort back to a boil. While I transferred the pale ale wort to the fermenter, I had a boil over on the stove. As I cleaned up I forgot the hop addition at flameout. I noticed while the wort was cooling, and threw the hops in as soon as I noticed. I didn't strain out the hops when pouring the wort into the fermenter to try and compensate. If that helps extract any additional hop aroma it is a win, even if I lose a little bitterness by not adding the hops when the wort was still at a near boiling temperature.

I plan to do more research and experimentation with different hop varieties before attempting my own IPA recipe again. What I have learned from this and The Substance is the importance of blending different hops to come up with a truly unique and complex flavor. That involves using new hops I haven't used before, lots of test batches, and basically trial and error.

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