Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stonginton Pale Ale: Batch 3, Tasting

Though its been a few months since I've brewed SPA, batch 3, I opened one of the last remaining bottles last week. Its been drinking fantastic since about 3 weeks from bottling, where it was still a touch green at 2 weeks. Even now, perhaps a month past its truly fresh aromatic and resinously hoppy peak, it has still garnered accolades from friends, both new and old... ie."one of, if not the best IPA I've ever had...and I've had a few".

Yeah, these sort of statements really do stick in brewer's head.

The small incremental changes of going with C40 vs. C60 + increasing to 1lb vs. .5lb did, in fact, improve the beer as I had hoped. Any implied biting (too) dry character from the first two iterations has now given way to a smoother, rounder mouthfeel. Just a touch of soft sweetness and light biscuit malt introduces each taste before giving way to the incredibly American hoppy profile. It still leads with that terrific fresh green nose, just-peeled grapefruit rind and floral aromatics. An unaggressive bitterness finishes, builds a bit after the swallow, but never punches too hard. This is an aroma first, and flavor 2nd, and bitterness 3rd IPA, and I think I like SPA just like that.

But, there's almost always room for improvement, and this beer still elicits plenty of criticism from its creator.

I will certainly back down on carbonation levels in the future, as the overcarbonation flaw simply cannot be resolved with a slow, high pour given the unbelievable head retention from the wheat and hops. I also think I'd retain more of the volatile aromatics throughout the beer over the course of its enjoyment if I didn't have to resort to such remedial tactics, and would have a softer, more inviting quaff, as well.
I will revisit the grist, hopping schedule, etc. once I have the carbonation more in line with where it should be.

Ultimately, however, this beer is one that really would benefit from cold crashing + kegging, as that Chico yeast strain combined with tons of late + dry hopping renders this a particularly hazy beer. IPAs really shouldn't sit around conditioning for extended periods of time...the clock is ticking! Of course, bottling with all that turbidity results in a significant sediment in the bottle, which can and does adversely impact the pour. I will usually leave 3-4 oz of the beer (!!!) in the bottle for fear of introducing that sediment, which ends up muddying up the whole experience, both visually, and flavor wise. This also means this beer travels very poorly, so the advantage of bottle conditioning the batch to have a six pack to take away, always at the ready, is diminished by all that sediment stirred up and into the beer. I would love to cold crash the whole she-bang before dry hopping to drop the hop flavor stripping yeast out of suspension, then return to room temp, then rack to a keg for immediately chilling, carbonation and storage, but until then I'll dream of others' clearer IPAs that aren't saddled with all that beer-robbing sediment and head ballooning carbonation.

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