Office brew: New England IPA
Monday 05 March 2018
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Writing has never been the strongest skill I have to my name. So when my editor Richard mentioned that, as well as brewing my first beer, I would also be writing about the experience in the form of a short article for the magazine, I felt like a small woodland creature must feel in the moments that lead to it becoming a smear on the road.
Transfixed in the bright glow of car headlights, too fearful and confused to escape. I was looking forward to the brewing process, but dreading writing about it. My first home brew and my first published article. This has been a month of firsts indeed. So, be kind; it is my first time after all.
When I started working for Beer52, back in June 2016. I didn’t know my lagers from my lambics. As far as I was aware, an adjunct was some kind of eye infection. So, when I was presented with the opportunity to brew my own beer, the first thing I asked myself was how on earth was I – someone who up until a short while ago enjoyed a few pints of Stella after a hard day at the office – going to become a celebrated brewer overnight?
Then the answer came to me. It was simple really: get lots of advice from people who know what they are talking about! Fortunately for me, as Ferment’s salesman, I have a contact list that includes some of the best brewers around the UK. They all offered me the same advice: “Brew what you know and what you like.” So that is exactly what I did.
Over the past nine months, on what I can only describe as my craft beer adventure, I have discovered that I have a love of bitter hops. I like a huge, hoppy punch to the face when I inhale my first mouthful of beer. This must be followed by a rush of big fruit flavours and a chunky, almost chewable texture, then finished with an almost whisky-like burn as the liquid trickles down my throat.
Armed with that, I decided a New England IPA with extra hops and a bucket load of orange and grapefruit was the beer for me.
I started by choosing which hops I thought would work best. What a magnificent selection there is available to the home brewer; a sheer glut of flavour and aromas. After much humming and hawing I decided on 100g of two different hops with similar qualities. The first, Azacca – named for the Haitian god of agriculture – is a hop rich in citrus and tropical fruit notes. The other was Citra, which has strong tropical fruit flavours and aromas including mango, papaya and pineapple.
I used 45g of the Azacca during the boil, then 50g of the Citra fifteen minutes before the end of the boiling stage. I finished off the remaining hops by adding 55g of the Azacca and 50g of the Citra, dry hopped to the fermentation stage for aroma. By this method I hope to achieve an IBU of around sixty four.
As for the grain for my brew. I went with the advice of our friends at the BrewStore here in Edinburgh. Selecting 3.4kg of Pale Ale Propino, 0.39kg of Torrefied wheat and 0.56kg of Flaked oats. These, I was told. Would provide a great, smooth base for my beer. Yeast came in the form of Vermont Ale yeast to yield a truly authentic New England style.
Choosing what fruits to use was the easiest part for me. I went with oranges and grapefruits, as I find these sharp and slightly acidic flavours more accessible for my pallet to pull from a beer. Even though I had been informed that the zest of one orange and one grapefruit would be enough for my particular needs, I proceeded to buy three oranges and two grapefruits, reasoning you can never have too much of a good thing. After zesting the lot I, tossed them into the Grainfather to boil with the other ingredients.
Throughout the boil a pleasant, half-forgotten memory keeps resurfacing. An eight year-old me standing in my Grandpa’s kitchen, helping him make a homemade broth. I was certainly enjoying this foray into brewing, and it helps when you are technically being paid to do it!
I had ruled out using the actual fruit juice from the grapefruit and oranges, that was now sat in a jug looking particularly fruity and juicy. On the spur of the moment I decided I had to throw it in the mix. So I did, pips and all, fifteen minutes before the end of the boil. It very quickly developed a delicious almost radioactive orange glow and from that moment I realised I had a great beer brewing.
My beer now sits bubbling away in the corner of the office, hidden from sunlight and fermenting away nicely. I found the process of brewing my own beer relatively straightforward, apart from the clogged pipes and filter which ground my operation to a halt for a short while. The most surprising part of the whole process was when poor Richard managed to pour scalding boiled beer down his jeans and welcomed me back into the kitchen in just his pants. The pictures of this were somehow mysteriously destroyed. But it is a sight I won’t be able to forget in a hurry!
All in all, I would say I have successfully taken my idea and recipe from start to finish, and even writing about it wasn’t nearly as taxing as I thought it would be. I certainly can’t wait to taste the final product and update you all on the results.
To conclude, home brewing is much easier to do than to write about. My advice to anyone considering taking the plunge into home brewing would be to brew to your tastes. Get advice, mix up the recipe with confidence and have a clear idea of what you want the final outcome to be. But most importantly, have fun!
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