What is a West coast style? That was the theme set for July’s meeting and it was nicely vague enough to get two very different styles and then even more variety within the styles.
The obvious – first thought in my mind – is a West Coast IPA. A bright and lively, hop bomb of a beer with a sharp bitter linger and an explosion of fruit or resin on the nose. A beer that’s strong and punchy enough to make sure you know you’re drinking it. We had three great examples that showed the base of pale malt and a bit of crystal can carry a huge range of flavours and aromas and give quite different drinks.
We tasted the three IPAs directly against each other and could easily describe the differences; more body here, a brighter appearance there, assertive bitterness in this one, softer fruitier flavours in this one. The differences gave opportunity for an in depth discussion on the processes used and hop varieties chosen.
One discussion point I found interesting were firstly around dry hopping temperature. Personally I drop the FV temp down to 14C let some of the yeast drop out for 12-24 hours and then add the hops for about 3 days. Pellets just dumped in. Other regimes focussed on taking great care to minimise oxygen pick up and not changing from fermentation temperature when dry hopping. I think there’s a great opportunity for an experiment with everyone brewing the same recipe but following their own dry hopping regime. One for the future.
One of the resources I used to develop the hopping recipe was the amazing work done by Scott Janish. He has done some really interesting work looking at the flavour and aroma components of hop varieties and their expression in beer. It here I got the idea of using 14C but also the realisation that it’s not always more is better. The tool linked here – Hop Oils Calculator – made me realise that it’s the combination and relative levels of hop oils that make the beers pop and not necessarily just adding in more and more of all the hops. I’ve pasted some screen shots from the tool that give the expected flavours from dry hopping at different ratios of Simcoe, Amarillo & Mosiac. The different descriptions mean this is a tool that allows you to target the flavour and aroma you love in your beers. It’s genius! The variations are amazing just by tweaking the ratios of the different hops so the oils mute or lift other oils in the hops. There’s a lot of levers to pull here.
And speaking of delicate hop flavours the last two beers of the night were a fascinating experiment. Another Westcoast style – Steam beer or California Common – made famous by Anchor brewery is a great easy drinking beer for sipping in the sun. Using it’s very heat tolerant yeast and usually hopped with Northern Brewer hops gives it quite a delicate, sweet and piney herbal aroma. Some ingenious recipe development improved on this. We tasted two versions of a split batch (As always beautifully labelled) – the first brewed traditionally with Northern Brewer hops the second substituting them for Elderflower. A bold choice you might think. It worked really well.
The delicate slightly perfume flavours from the Elderflower sat perfectly in the beer. If I hadn’t been told the flower was in there I would have put the earthy flowery taste and aroma down to the use of a English or noble hop. It really brightened the beer and in my opinion improved it on the more traditional take, without it being obviously a “flavoured” beer.
A great night as always. Looking forward to next month’s meeting planned for August 31st where we might be doing something special, watch this space.