I’ve been brewing commercially for twelve years now and I couldn’t begin to count how many times I’ve told people how much there is to learn about brewing. Even after thousands of brews and many more thousands of hours spent getting beer from grain to glass, I am still discovering layer upon layer of complexity in what, at first glance, seems such a simple product.
Lighthouse is a good example – a 3.8% golden ale filled with citrus flavours and aromas. I always brew what I like – I’ve found that its the only way to go with a craft product. I like hop flavours and aromas but I’m not overly keen on excessively bitter beers so, over the years, I’ve developed methods to get the hop character I want without taking the enamel off people’s teeth.
But now, I’ve got new toys to play with – first the water – I can blend alkaline Southern mains water with virtually mineral-free Reverse Osmosis water and then add back in a range of minerals to give virtually any water profile I want and I have found that the ratio of Chlorides to Sulphates is critical – a ratio of 2:1 give virtually no hop character at all – the malts dominate. A ratio of 1:2 however, allows the hops to shine through, uncluttered by malty notes.
Then there’s the yeast – I’ve dabbled with different yeasts over the years but settled on the romantically named Fermentis SO4 because it gave good flocculation (the settling out of the yeast at the end of fermentation), a decent residual gravity (I prefer beers with a little body left in them) and reasonably quick fermentations (I had to make a living). But I’m now able to experiment with yeast pitching rates, temperatures and yeast types and I’m finding that there are massive differences in the flavour and aroma profiles that can be achieved by relatively small changes in parameters. So now I’m pitching higher rates at lower temperatures and finding yeasts that really work best for the beer being brewed – Lighthouse, for example has been brewed with an American ale yeast that allows the hops to sing – no diacetyl getting in the way of the aromas and flavours. By reducing the fermentation temperature, I’ve been able to carry through much more hop character and the slower fermentation allows greater control at the end of the process.
Next for the dry hopping….that starts on Sunday….