Every once in a while, you come across an offer-you-can’t-refuse kind of sale at your local homebrew shop or from an online hops distributor — sometimes it is as simple as “$5 off 8oz EKG”; sometimes (usually to make room for the new crop) it is of an “All hops must go!” nature, significantly more enticing. So it was that I found myself with a freezer full of hops. I was relating the situation to a brewing buddy of mine and was happy to find that he was in the same boat. Whereas I had several ounces each of Cascade and Citra, he had a significant amount of Mosaic (which he had never used before), Nugget, and a number of the New Zealand varieties. We decided to combine our efforts, trade some hops, and do the only sensible thing in such a scenario: Brew an IPA.
My strategy for crafting an IPA is to lay as clean a foundation as possible in order to best showcase the hops. I usually incorporate a blend of domestic 2-Row and Maris Otter (because you want some malt character) and a bit of Crystal. If it is an American IPA, I use WLP001: Tried & True. I tend to use one addition of a clean bittering hop at the beginning of the boil and then really focus my attention on the late hops. This beer was a fun project because I got to try some new varieties, and I was excited to see how Mosaic, Cascade, and Citra played together. Mosaic, which is derived from Simcoe, is a newish high-alpha hop with a citrusy (think lemons, grapefruit, mangoes), piney, herbally character. It sounds great on paper and (I am happy to report) does not disappoint. Citra has been around a bit longer and was all-the-rage a few years ago. I had the opportunity to purchase several ounces of it a while back and jumped at the chance to try out this new variety I had been hearing all about, only to find that, well, I don’t much care for Citra. It has clean, high-alpha bittering potential, which is great. Used as a late hop, Citra is supposed to offer tropical fruit notes. However, I (and it seems many others) get astringent notes of cat-piss in its aroma. So it is that I can pick Citra out of any beer that has it in it, not something I can really say about most other hops. [Side note: This came up recently when a friend poured a pint of Zombie Dust for me –A great beer if you are Citra-inclined.] So too, how I ended up with a several ounces of it sitting in my freezer for months on end. The first beer I brewed with Citra was a single-hop beer, and while that is a great way to see what a new variety can do, I would not recommend using Citra by itself. It is just too much. What I discovered with this brew is that Citra excels best when in concert with other complementing hops.
For a six gallon batch:
10# US 2-Row
6# Maris Otter
8 oz. Cara-Pils
1.5 oz. Nugget (60)
1 oz. Mosaic (10)
1 oz. Cascade (10)
1 oz. Mosaic (5)
1 oz. Cascade (5)
1 oz. Mosaic (0)
1 oz. Cascade (0)
0.5 oz. Nugget (0)
2 oz. Citra (dry hop)
WLP001: Cal Ale
Added Gypsum and Calcium Chloride to the water. Mashed at 148F. 90 minute boil.
Appearance: For just having base malts and Cara-Pils, this beer came through with a nice color. However, it is confoundingly hazy. Even though I used Whirlfloc, this is a muddy-looking brew. The upshot is that it has a rich, creamy head and lacing that just won’t quit.
Aroma: As you approach the glass, the hops reach out and meet you half way. Whoa! Probably the best aroma out of any IPA I have brewed. Comes through super fresh, like sticking your nose in a bag of hops. Distinctive Citra aroma; however, cut through with some nice citrus and herbal notes as well from the late addition hops — Not bad! From here on out, I think I will reserve using Citra for the dry hop and leave it out of the boil.
Flavor: Around 80 IBUs is perfect for this beer. Nugget is a great, great bittering hop. Although I got somewhere around 77% attenuation, I still wish that the beer dried out a bit further. The malt character is a bit too present, the sweetness lingering just a bit too long. It distracts from the wonderful flavor component of this beer. On that note, there are a lot of different citrus characters going on — the Mosaic and the Cascade really work well together, with one offering an interesting counterpoint to the other. It is ubiquitous, sure, but there is a lot to be said for Cascade. The star of the show, however, is Mosaic, and I will definitely be using it again in the future.
Notes: IPAs are difficult for me to brew. To date, I have never really made a good one. This brew came close. Part of the problem is that it is a style that I truly love, so I am pretty hard on my own versions of it. Then there is the fact that there are just so many good IPAs out there to drink, and more being released by the day. So, why drink my subpar example? This brew was encouraging, however. If I could have knocked it down a few more points — around 1.011, ideally — and gotten the beer to clear out (maybe use finings in the keg?), I think I would have nailed it.
So what new hop variety is next? I got IPA Fever.