It's a kind of magic
Lost + Found’s low alcohol JU-JU IPA represents a new direction for the highly regarded Sussex brewery
Monday 30 December 2019
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Lost + Found made its name with the kind of big, hoppy, high-alcohol beers that hit their fashionable peak a couple of years ago. Working out of the same Brighton shed where the whole adventure started, head brewer and all-round creative powerhouse Chris Angelkov recently took on the challenge of creating a beer that had the same bold character, but at a much lower ABV.
“The general premise was to explore the low alcohol movement that’s obviously growing. The younger demographic are very interested; a lot of them are really into keeping fit and looking good on social media, they wouldn’t get caught being sick into a hedge. Even 35 and up though, they might want to play football and then go to the pub with their mates. They want an option to do that without drinking pints of Coca-cola. It’s not a health drink, but it’s a healthier choice than loads of booze or sugar.
“There are obviously more of those beers out there, but we wanted to see if we could push it beyond what had been done before. Coming from brewing a lot of big beers, I think our concern was that low alcohol suggests it’s going to be lacking in some departments. So it couldn’t just be about chasing a trend for us; we had to make a beer we’re proud of, that we’d want to drink ourselves.”
Chris has always been a technical brewer, preferring to put the work into his research and planning than endless trial-and-error brews. There’s a good practical reason for this too, particularly if you’re looking to nail an emerging trend: with each test brew taking around six weeks to properly mature, it’s far better to get it right first time and catch the rising wave then to wait until next year and end up as an also-ran.
“I like getting into the science and numbers of recipe creation, balancing the components of the beer to make it work. I’ve always done that from day one and that felt particularly important for this beer. So I put in the time and effort up front, acquired the ingredients and set out on an intensive brew schedule: five beers in three days, double-batching morning and afternoon shifts, then really babysitting the fermentation.”
The result of Chris’s shed retreat is five new recipes, all at 2.8% ABV. The first to be released is JU-JU, a juicy, soupy, mosaic-heavy IPA. In a blind tasting, you would never peg it as a low-alcohol beer; it’s certainly quaffable and light on the palate, but with tonnes of body, mouthfeel and aroma. So how did he do it?
“The trick is in the balance,” he explains. “Traditionally with a beer you’ve got your four basic ingredients, and with a low-ABV beer you’d typically reduce the malts to bring down the amount of fermentable sugar. For example, when you drink a 3% best, there’s just spatting of Fuggle, so you get a balanced beer. But because we’re throwing in a tonne of hops, as if we’re making a really juicy IPA, we had to somehow avoid making hop water.
“So we’re using malts that don’t add sugar, but do add body and mouthfeel. We’re adding body builders like naked oats and flaked wheat. We’re putting unfermentables in, so they’re adding viscosity and volume. It’s challenging this orthodoxy that you need alcohol to balance hops; body balances hops just as well. Also, we normally use a clean yeast on our high ABV beers, which breaks everything down. But for JU-JU we used an east coast ale yeast, which leaves a lot of heavies and personality. So you bring the yeast profile up too. Turning up those three other components creates great balance, despite the lack of alcohol.”
The other four recipes in Chris’s back pocket include a version of JU-JU using Citra, Lemondrop and Amarillo instead of Mosaic and (tantalisingly) a white stout with cacao nibs and vanilla. Sadly, he only made eight litres of each, and Beer52’s James Brown snaffled our allocation, so I can neither confirm nor refute his claim that the latter is “fucking killer”.
“I bottled off 24 and left a couple of pints in each keg,” concludes Chris. “I’ve been drinking it and living with it, from sipping it out of the mash tun all the way through fermentation. It’s at its peak now, and I keep nipping out to the shed for another glass. It’s the kind of thing I’d go for myself a lot of the time, now I know we can make it to this level without compromising.”
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