Monday, March 15, 2010

Blonde Ale IV and My Hop Rant

I'm just beginning to start my annual late winter/early spring homebrew build up. During the summer months I generally don't feel like brewing a whole lot, and the logistics of fermenting in 110F+ temps is difficult as well. So Ive started to brew up a few batches of lower gravity beers that will really hit the spot come summer time.

This week I decided to brew up yet another version of my Blonde Ale. It seems to come back every spring time with a few slight tweaks. The one thing that is always there though is a touch of honey malt. It really shines in a light beer like a blonde, although you have to be careful with how much you use or it will really dominate the beer.

The recipe this year is a bit more simplistic than last years. Mostly this is due to the malts I have on hand, and being lazy about going to my LHBS. So there isn't any carapils or Vienna in the grist this time, its nearly all pils plus a little honey malt. I did however decide to significantly up the amount hops in the beer. Over the last year Ive done a 180 with regards to how I view hopping in the kettle.

I used to brew with the highest AA hop I could to get the IBU levels I was shooting for. The reasoning behind my approach was that I wanted to save money and keep vegetable matter out of the kettle to make siphoning/straining into the fermentor easier. Well after awhile I began to notice that the beers with more hops in kettle seemed to have much better head formation and retention, and a much more pronounced and smoother bitterness. And this really caught my attention, particularly the increased head retention.

If you think about it, I'm sure you've noticed this same phenomena as well. Whenever you brew up an IPA how is the head density/retention? I'd bet that its quite phenomenal, and a large part of that is due to the amount of hops used in the boil. It may seem counter intuitive but hop oils/resins play a significant role in head retention and formation. So increasingly (the last 6mos especially) Ive began to use significantly more hops in just about every beer I can. This blonde ale is no exception, and I decided to use a very low AA hop (crystal 3.3%) to achieve my IBU levels and add a ton of aroma. I'm hoping that the beer will have the monumental head formation that my IPA's always display.

Blonde Ale IV

Malt Bill
All GrainExtract Equiv
Amt (lbs)MaltAmt (lbs)Malt
8.0Pilsner5.0Pilsner DME
0.25Honey Malt1.0Pilsner
--0.25Honey Malt
Amt (oz)TypeTimeAmt (oz)TypeTime
1.5Crystal (3.3%AA)60min2.3Crystal (3.3%AA)60min
1.0Crystal (3.3%AA)KO <170f1.0Crystal (3.3%AA)KO <170f>
Mash Schedule
168F1.9qt/lb15min - vorlauf168F0.5qt5min
Yeast US05 - 1 sachet
5.75gal6.5gal boilOG: 10435.75gal3gal boilOG: 1044
80% effIBU: 16FG:75% effIBU: 16FG:
Notes: Hops at KO less than 170f as described here : the fluffy coagulated trub in the pic compacted to a nice thin layer - gotta love whirlfloc!


James said...

Randy Mosher's book Radical Brewing agrees with your theory about the use of larger amounts of low aa vs smaller amounts of high aa hops. Mosher is a proponent of using heaps of low alpha hops for smoother hop character and head retention.

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