Does this headline make me look ironic? In search of a good session IPA

I have become interested, nay, some would say obsessed, in that oxymoron of beers, the “session” IPA(1).

Our ribbon-winning House Pale Ale.

I like drinking a lower alcohol beer that isn’t like sex in a canoe, you know, “f**king close to water.” And you know the beers. The ones that taste slightly…umm…yellow. Besides being low in alcohol they are low in flavor and aroma. They are just a small step up from sparkling water, only with less taste.

The trend in microbreweries had been to brew bigger. Why make an IPA, when you can make a Double IPA? According to the American Homebrewers Association, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder is the best beer in America. I have had Pliny at Russian River Brewing. It tastes terrific but at 8.0% ABV, one pint is all I can drink. Driving is out of the question. Walking to Peet’s Coffee across the street and staring at my hands is all I can manage after a pint of Pliny.

So if you want to drink more than a thimble’s worth of tasty brew and be able to operate machinery, such as a lawnmower, you need something with less alcohol. To meet that need, some breweries have started making hoppy beers with lower alcohol. Examples include Squatters’ Full Suspension Pale Ale (4.0% ABV), Stone’s Go To IPA (4.5% ABV), and New Belgium’s Slow Ride Session IPA (4.5% ABV).

The best session IPA (perhaps the best session beer) around, in my opinion, is Ballast Point’s Even Keel. It packs a whole lot of flavor into a beer with 3.8% ABV (1). Ballast Point says Even Keel is “A full-flavored beer with a silky malt backbone and a bright hop profile of herbs and citrus, it packs all the taste of an IPA in a sessionable alcohol content.” It is just a damn good beer. RateBeer gives it a 92. Beer Advocate gives it an 86. Those are  respectable scores for a beer with less alcohol than Bud Light.

Once I knew that a great session IPA could be made, I had to try my hand at making one.

Session IPAs are not regular IPAs with water added. The goal is to make a beer with all the taste, mouthfeel, and aroma as a big beer but with less alcohol.

Change the base. To keep that flavor and mouthfeel, cut down on the base malt but not the specialty grains, and consider using more flavorful malt such as Maris Otter or Vienna instead of pale malt. The goal is to reduce the fermentable sugars the malted grain produces during the mash process.

Cut back on the hops. Every beer has a BU:GU ratio, that is, bitterness units to gravity units. If you lower the gravity, you will need to lower the bitterness to keep the same perception of bitterness. As a professor of mine used to say, “It’s all relative.” For example, if your favorite IPA has a BU:GU ratio of one and it’s OG (original gravity) is 1.070 with 80 IBUs and you decide to lower your OG to 1.040 then your new IBU target should be 45 IBUs (40/70 x 80). The 45 IBUs will keep the same bitterness to maltiness as the bigger beer. Also consider hop bursting and and hop stands to give the flavor and aroma punch without the added bitterness that comes from boiling.

Consider poorer attenuating yeast (that is one that finishes at a higher specific gravity). Also, consider under-pitching the beer. You want to leave sweetness and maltiness in the background so the beer doesn’t taste watery. Instead of California Ale yeast try Ringwood or an English Ale yeast. You want the fruity ester compounds.

Smooth Sailing Session IPA

Recipe

Batch Size: 5.50 gal
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
Boil Time: 60 min
End of Boil Vol: 6 gal
Final Bottling Vol: 5.00 gal
Est Original Gravity: 1.044
Est Final Gravity: 1.014
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.0 %
Bitterness: 36.4 IBUs
Est Color: 6.9 SRM
Efficiency: 70%

Grain Bill

2.174 kg    Vienna Malt (Great Western) (3.5 SRM)      50.6 %
1.087 kg    Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)     25.3 %
0.353 kg    Caramel/Crystal Malt – 20L (20.0 SRM)    8.2 %
0.353 kg    Caravienne Malt (22.0 SRM)      8.2 %
0.163 kg    White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)      3.8 %
0.163 kg    White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)       3.8 %

Hop Schedule

9.00 g    Galaxy [14.80 %] – First Wort 60.0 min
7.00 g    Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 20.0 min
7.00 g    Chinook [13.00 %] – Boil 20.0 min
7.07 g    Chinook [13.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min
7.00 g    Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 5.0 min
16.00 g   Amarillo [9.20 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 min
8.00 g    Chinook [13.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 min
16.00 g  Simcoe [13.00 %] – Dry Hop
16.00 g Cascade [5.50 %] – Dry Hop
32.00 g Grapefruit peel – Dry Hop

Yeast

2.0 pkg    American West Coast Ale Dry Yeast (Danstar #BRY-97)

Mash Steps

Name    Description    Step Temperature    Step Time
Mash In    Add 11.20 l of water at 168.2 F    156.0 F    15 min
Mash Out    Add 4.48 l of water at 202.4 F    168.0 F    10 min

Boil for 60 minutes.

I will let you know how it turned out in a few weeks. In the meantime, have you brewed a session beer? How did it turn out?

For more information see: “Five Tips for Session Beer Brewers” and “Session Beers: Techniques

Footnotes

  1. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, an American IPA is:
    “A decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale, showcasing modern American or New World hop varieties. The balance is hop-forward, with a clean fermentation profile, dryish finish, and clean, supporting malt allowing a creative range of hop character to shine through.” pg 37, 2015 BJCP Guidelines (PDF)
  2. For comparison, Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light each have 4.2% ABV.

Calling All “Beer Geeks” Geeks

The humble little Batch-22 blog was contacted by (apparently) David Page, President of Page Productions. He produces Beergeeks.tv hosted by Michael Ferguson. He says it is “the first nationally syndicated show celebrating the world of craft beer.”

Page goes on to say:

As great as the show is (we’ve just been nominated for an Emmy as Outstanding Culinary Program up against the big boys like Bobby Flay and Anthony Bourdain), generating revenue to produce the series remains a struggle. We are committed to shooting season two and are trying to fund the shooting of one episode through Kickstarter. Which means we need to get the word out (and quickly, since we are on a 30 day Kickstarter deadline).

It would be a great help if you could please pass the word along to anyone and everyone you know — through your blogs, email lists, websites, any way you can help us reach as many beer lovers as possible. Please direct everyone to our Kickstarter site via this web address: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/71568375/emmy-nominated-beer-geeks-television-series-season

By doing this, you can be a big part of helping us continue to get the word out about the great craft beer community. And we appreciate the assistance very, very much.

I think I can kick loose a few coins. I’ve not seen Beer Geeks before but it looks like something I will have to see.

Disclosure: 1. David Page gave me permission to quote from his email. 2. Neither I nor the blog received any compensation from David Page or Page Productions.

 

A Whale of a Beer

Have things gotten out of hand in the world of craft beer? Did another brewery jump the shark, or was the shark just moved farther out? When did just making good beer stop being the goal and evolve to carnival act? Apparently, to even be noticed, you have to create something that’s never been done before (or in the case of Dogfish Head brewing, brew a beer that hasn’t been brewed for hundreds of years). Scottish brewers James Watt and Martin Dickie of Brew Dog have become notorious for making outrageous beers, with such beers as Sink The Bismarck! (41% ABV), a quadruple IPA. Wynkoop has brewed a stout ale with rocky mountain oysters.

Now, an Icelandic microbrewery, Steðji (Anvil) has jumped a whale and brewed a whale of a seasonal beer(5.2% alc ABV) with real whale in it. They say it will make you feel like a viking and it will be available for Iceland’s mid-winter festival.

An environmental group, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, is having none of it. Vanessa Williams-Grey of WDC says, “[R]educing a beautiful, sentient whale to an ingredient on the side of a beer bottle is about as immoral and outrageous as it is possible to get.”

What will the next outrageous beer be?

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Kelsey Creek Brewing opens its doors

Kelsey Creek Brewing Company opened its doors to the public for the first time on Saturday, July 14, 2012. Publican Ron Chips had a smile wider than Main Street in Kelseyville where Lake County’s newest public house is located. “It’s been a constant stream of folks since we opened the doors,” Chips said.

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Ron Chips started as a home brewer and quickly turned pro by attending brewing school and interning at Lagunitas in Petaluma. The brewing company has been in the works for almost a year.

On tap for the opening was Kelsey Creek pale ale an American Pale Ale that was brewed with Ivanhoe hops grown in Clearlake as well, and No’na’me Irish Red ale.

Chips showcased one of the centerpieces of the brewery: a Russian made dispenser for filling half-gallon to-go bottles known as growlers. “The growler filler first flushes the bottle with CO2 to remove all oxygen, which is the enemy of fresh beer,” Chips said. “Then it fills the growler slowly so it does not foam. Last, there is a layer of Co2 at the very top. Most growlers can last only a few days without being opened, but mine can last for a month, making the beer fresher for a much longer of time,” he said, “I knew Kelsey Creek Brewery had to have it as soon as I saw it at a trade show.”

The brewery has an outdoor seating area (a beer garden), a long copper bar, and even purse hooks beneath the bar for women to hang their purses while they perch.

Kelsey Creek Brewing’s address is 3945 Main St., Kelseyville, CA 95451, telephone number 707 245-8402, and is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon to 8:00 p.m. and Sundays from noon until 5 or 6:00 p.m.

Update (7/21/12): Kelsey Creek Brewing has had to open on Mondays and Tuesdays due to the pent up demand for good and fresh beer in South Lake County. And, Ron now has a third ale on tap: a Scotch ale.

BrewingTV visits Dogfish Head Brewing

I am completely jealous. Northern Brewer‘s BrewingTV got a great tour of Dogfish Head Brewing in Milton, Delaware and their brewpub in Rehoboth Beach.

Last summer, my wife and I toured Dogfish Head Brewing on September 1 (note: you need to make reservations in advance). Dogfish’s motto is “Off-centered beers for off-centered people.”We had a great time and enjoyed conversing with the employees and our fellow tour-groupers. After the tour, we tasted 90 Minute IPA, Indian Brown Ale, Punkin’ Ale, and Midas Touch; and then went to lunch at their brewpub and tasted their Lawnmower, Shelter Pale Ale, 60 Minute IPACask-aged 75 Minute IPA, and Midas Touch.

I’m not head-over-heels in love with Dogfish’s beers; I prefer our west coast style ales. I must be more centered than I knew.

Third Street Aleworks Takes Two Golds at World Beer Cup

Incredible collaboration and competition at the 12th Annual Brewers Association

Kudos to Third Street Aleworks of Santa Rosa, CA. for garnering two gold medals at the 2012 Brewers Association World Beer Cup.

Third Street topped 32 other entries to grab the Gold in Category 67 (Classic English-Style Pale Ale) for their Annadel Pale Ale. And, they beat 29 other breweries to get the gold in Category 83 (Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout) with their Blarney Sisters Dry Irish Stout.

Firestone Walker Brewing Company of Paso Robles, CA. whooped 82 other entries to take first and second for the American-Style Pale Ales category with their Pale 31 and Mission Street Pale.

According to the media release from the Brewers Association, “The ninth bi-annual competition boasted the strongest field of entrants on record, with 799 breweries from 54 countries and 45 U.S. states entering 3,921 beers in 95 beer style categories.”

A detailed analysis of the entries and awards can be found in the 2012 World Beer Cup Fact Sheet (PDF).

Lagunitas Brewing to open new brewery in Chicago | Beerpulse.com

Funny I should mention that I cloned a Lagunitas brew just yesterday.

About 10 hours ago, Lagunitas Brewing Owner, Tony Magee announced in a series of ‘tweets’ on Twitter that Lagunitas will opening a 250 barrel brewhouse in Chicago. He expects “1st mash-in will b Q4 2013. Freakin cool, this. Lots and lotsa work ahead.”

Announcing a new 250 bbl brewery140 characters (or less) at a time.

The brewhouse’s location will be “18th & Rockwell, Chicago” and bigger than most of the craft breweries in Chicago combined. At 250 barrels, it will be 5x the size of Goose Island’s operation in Chi town.

He expects “Fresher beer w/ less diesel in it.”

For more go to Beerpulse:
Lagunitas Brewing to open new brewery in Chicago | Beerpulse.com.