We all love (or at one time loved) a classic pale ale. These were the staple in-crowd craft beers before IPAs came along to take their place at the peak of Mt. Cool. But whether or not you’re over pale ales we can all agree they are the perfect style when you want a crushable hoppy beer – just enough alcohol, not super heavy, but not too light. And that we did not deviate from for Sink w/ California.
Where we did take a slight departure was how we approached the relationship of the hop profile with the malt bill. With this beer we focused on the hop aroma/flavor and used the malt to emphasize those characters. Breaking down the changes we were looking for there were three different approaches we took to achieve this:
Hop aroma/flavor – The key hops in this beer – Idaho 7, Citra, and Cascade – each have awesome tropical and citrus fruit profiles, which are most prominent when the hops are used in whirlpool additions (end of the boil) and dry-hopping (in the fermentation tank). To get that small amount of bitterness to balance the beer we use Warrior at the start of the boil. By focusing on the whirlpool and a big dry-hopping we are able to get that big hop aroma/flavor that you expect in an IPA, but keep the bitterness down at a pale ale level. After determining how to achieve the hop character we wanted the next step was to create a malt bill that added missing components and ultimately brightened the hop profile.
Honey Malt – yes, sweetness. The hops we used in this beer each have awesome tropical and citrus fruit characters. With these types of fruit your brain expects some sweetness. When all you taste from a dry IPA is that initial fruit character but without the sweetness to balance the bitter it really bums out your brain’s pleasure centers. Have you ever bitten into a piece of orange that had a good amount of rind left on it? Remember how you felt when that unexpected bitterness hit your palate? Not cool, man. So we brought in some reinforcements with honey malt in the grain bill. That touch of sweetness helps to emphasize what your brain expects to taste after you get a big hit from the hop aroma and flavor. This beer is by no means sweet like a milk stout. It’s just a bit sweeter than typical west coast hoppy beers, which really means it’s found balance with the bitterness.
Oats – The second change is in the body of the beer. When a hoppy beer is all 2 row you get a thinner body. A body that cannot match the intensity of the aroma and flavor of a beer means you have unbalance. By increasing the body we can deliver a bigger impact of the hop flavor profile ultimately allowing you to fully experience the tropical and citrus fruit flavors of the hops Idaho 7, Mosaic, and Azacca hops.
The combination of these two changes to a hoppy beer’s malt bill is not new to brewing. All of these ingredients are common, but just not usually in hoppy beers. What we are doing is experimenting with the way that malt bills can bring out those unique characters of hops. Sometimes it’s not adding more of one thing to improve the experience, but rather how you balance all the components involved.
Now it’s time to crack open a couple beers and get the weekend started. Party time!