Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sour Fresh Hop Brewday

This beer was a last minute surprise; I found out from Jeffrey that Heartland Hops was holding a u-pick at YSB with their Nugget hops today, so I scrambled to make this beer happen. I will say that with the glory of hindsight, I should have used a different yeast, but the LTC blend was the best available in the brewing rotation. These hops were by far the best fresh hops I have ever gotten my hands on—the wort was actually bitter tasting prior transferring it onto the yeast, and not just a little. I hope I can score a couple more pounds again next year, and use a neutral yeast like US-05 or 1272 to let these hops shine. Don’t get me wrong—this was a fantastic beer, but the Brett started eating into the hop flavor and bitterness even before I got it bottled: the hop flavor and aroma when this went into the secondary was light years ahead of any other fresh hop beer I’ve ever made, and was still excellent when bottled. But via the Brett, it began to quickly fade. Another lesson on the fresh hop learning curve.

182. Sour Fresh Hop
7 ¼ lbs. Best Malz Pilsen
2 lbs. Breiss White Wheat
1 lb. MFB Pale

Mash @ 152° F for 90 minutes w/ 3 ½ gallons RO water & 6 g. gypsum + 3 g. CaCl; collected 2 gallons @ 1.072
Batch sparge @ 166° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water; collected 4 ¼ gallons @ 1.026

Topped off to 7 gallons, brought to a boil (90 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 6 oz. Nugget 

w/20 to go: 6 oz. Nugget + 7 g. gypsum

w/10 to go: 6 oz. Nugget + 3 g. Wyeast yeast nutrient

w/5 to go: 7 ¼ oz. Nugget 

w/0 to go: 8 ¼ oz. Nugget 

Let stand for 20 minutes; chilled & racked onto yeast cake from 176. Smoked Sour (custersianus, Trois, and Lactobacillus)

Brewed: 9/7/2014
Secondary: 9/23/2014 @ 1.004
Bottled: 11/4/2014 w/ 2.8 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.046
FG: 1.002

Tasting Notes: For the sake of science, I’ve combined my fresh hop tasting notes for the year. As the photos attest, I did try them all at the same time. The second picture is from the 2nd Annual Fresh Hop King of Ohio competition with Brent Osborne, where my beers came in 1st (183), 2nd (178), and 3rd (182). Yes, there were only seven beers, and four of them were mine. But I’m still the Fresh Hop King of Ohio for 2014, dammit. I would add (as I note below) that 178 is probably the best beer, but 183 is the best fresh hop beer.

178. Smith Hop: made with Cascades from my neighbors; last year, it was by far the best fresh hop beer I made, and it won me the Fresh Hop King of Ohio title. This year it is the best beer in terms of quality, but I am giving the nod to the Bike Path 
Fresh Hop as the best of this year’s fresh hop beers. Smith Hop is the lightest of the four in color, and the most effervescent; it pours a hazy straw with a rocky head, and has lemon zest, lemon, and grapefruit in the nose, along with hints of pepper and orange. Flavors open with lemon and lemon zest, moving into a mineral and pepper bite in the middle, and finish with grapefruit and a slight citrus pith. The malt flavors in the beer are mainly playing a supporting role, while the bitterness is medium and clean. I expected more grassiness from dry hopping this with 4.6 oz. of fresh hops for two weeks (I left a bunch on the vine, and then picked them fresh for dry hopping); as it warms, a slight phenol gaminess comes out, but it balances well with the citrus flavors. Those Smith Hops rock!

180. Brewer’s Gold Fresh Hop: I’ll start with this: I don’t like this beer. It has some off-putting flavors, starting with the phenol band-aid of stressed/unhealthy yeast (as opposed to infection) and ending with the blandness and wood-like flavors from the hops. Others did not have as strong of a negative reaction to this beer as me, but I’m going to chalk that up to them being nice. While the beer did sit too long on the yeast, I’m still not sure how it ended up here. I got these hops from Brent Osborn at Osborn Brewing; I’m not blaming him, however, as the Brewer’s Gold fresh hops I got from him last year were phenomenal. BGFH pours a hazy gold with a thin white head that leaves some lacing; at one point, there were hints of orange marmalade in the nose and body, but currently the nose is merely “hoppy.” Flavors include a light bitterness and scratchy green grass character, but not much else worth noting. Mouthfeel and body match, but off-flavors mar this beer. Haters gonna hate. 

182. Sour Fresh Hop: made with Nuggets from Heartland Hops. This beer is straw colored and crystal clear, with a thin white head that disappears quickly. The nose is herbal and earthy, followed by sour orange and candy pilsen; going into the carboy, there was a much more intense herbal hop aroma that I wish was still here. Flavors open with candy and a slight grain-y Cheerios flavor coupled with wood and herb; the middle features a spicy hop bite—albeit low—and more wood. The herbal flavors come out in the final third, lingering with a dry cracker malt flavor and a hint of sweetness. All in all, this beer is a hot mess—it is neither fresh hop nor sour, while showcasing components of both. While I do like it—it has some intangibles that make it eminently enjoyable—it is simultaneously a pedestrian beer that borders on insulting: I would be pissed off if this was served to me at a bar, but I am glad I made it. That clarify things enough for you?

183.Bike Path Fresh Hop: I’ve been lurking and picking hops off Dayton’s bike paths long enough to note that this year was an exceptionally good year. The hops for this particular beer came from a section of the bike path that I had not utilized before; these hops had none of the ephemeral pear and apple aromas found in previous years, but they did provide more actual bitterness to the beer. BPFH poured a hazy straw with a white head that had more retention and lacing than 180 and 182. The nose was all grimy green chlorophyll and game-y grass, and flavors followed. Unlike some previous iterations of bike path beers, the wild fresh hop character came through. Malt flavors played a back fiddle to the grassiness in the front; the middle was grassy and scratchy, while the finish featured a grimy medium bitterness that was not clean but was enjoyable. The medium to low body and medium carbonation suited the beer; as a whole, this beer was easy drinking. And this beer in particular taught me a lot about how to think about and implement a good fresh hop beer.

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