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Saturday, 29 August 2015

AG #4 - autosuggestion Black IPA

Despite being a lover of IPAs of the black variety, I have for some reason never got around to brewing one - this needed to remedied! Having just put down Mikkeller’s Book of Beer, I was feeling suitably enthused. In the book was a recipe for Firestone Walker’s Wookey Jack, a rye heavy black IPA that sounded absolutely delicious! Luck would have it that someone had just imported a stack of Firestone’s beer, one of which was this very brew. I made it my mission to get my mitts on a bottle, which the kind folk at Beermoth supplied with me. It was blummin’ marvelous! So I immediately pencilled in a BIPA brew into my schedule.

Needing a name, and with nothing jumping off the top of my head, I required something that could make some kind of auto suggestion. Bingo! ‘Autosuggestion’ is the name of a Joy Division song, which much like every song they ever did, is a pretty dark affair and you can’t get much darker than a Black IPA. It was a marriage made in hell! Plus, with living in Macclesfield, and just down the road from where Ian Curtis lived and died, it seemed a logical tribute. It didn’t really happen like that, I just thought the name was great and had always wanted to match it up with a dark beer.

Before concocting a recipe, I had another read of Port66’s Black IPA Brewing Tips, which was written by James Kemp, brewer of many-a-decent BIPA. This is a must read! With the knowledge committed to memory I set about building the beer. Some of my favourite BIPAs border on a hoppy porter (see Great Heck’s Black Jesus). I wanted to replicate this, so I went slightly heavier on the chocolate malt, only a few percent mind, but enough to be noticeable. For the hops I went for the mainstay of hoppy beers, Citra and Amarillo. I do have some Topaz pellets in the store that needed to be used so I was toying with the idea of using them to dry hop.

To tighten up my brewing process, this time I came prepared! All the hop additions were clearly labelled up and stacked in order, so no accidental hop additions this time. Having only just started to use Beersmith in anger, I realised you could print out a useful brew schedule which was good to have to hand when weighing and working out timings. For this brew day I also had a brewery assistant, Sam, on hand to help out. This meant that I didn’t need to divide my time so much between different tasks, I could just leave him with the sheet and he knew the score.

I planned for a ‘low and long’ mash schedule, at 64 degrees and held for 90 minutes. Once again going with a gut instinct strike temp calculation, I was around .5 of a degree out, which was easy to remedy. Knowing that my kit usually drops a couple of degrees during the mash, I planned to bring my old Brupak boiler out of retirement to do a bit of recirculating, without recirculating, so in reality a single stage decoction. After around 60 minutes it dropped a degree, so I drew off 4-5 litres and set the Brupak to around 80 degrees. Once it tripped off I transferred the hot wort back into the mash, which worked an absolute treat, bringing the temp back up to where I wanted it for remainder of the mash.

Nothing particularly exciting occurred during the boil...

When it came to cooling, again I got to use the Behemoth chiller, which managed to get down to 21 degrees within around 30 minutes. It was only when I transferred into the FV the temp controller reported the temperature as being 16 degrees! Fearing that the controller was buggered, I drew off a sample and dunked a good old liquid thermometer in, sure enough it was 16 degrees, so it was actually my digital thermometer that was out. So, this new chiller of mine had actually managed to get down to 16 degrees in 30 minutes, which I think you’ll agree, is pretty impressive!

After pitching I decided to leave the temperature to rise naturally in the hope of squeezing out some fruity esters, with peaking at 22 degrees for a couple of days. Once it started to drop, I switched on the temperature controller to keep it at a steady 20 degrees. After a week it had dropped from 1.048 to 1.012, making it around the 4.7% mark, which I was happy with. Time to dry hop the hell out of it. I stuck with my original additions of Citra and Amarillo and decided I would crack open the Topaz pellets after all, for some added fruitiness. The combo seems to have worked well, with the fruity Topaz fleshing out the other hop additions.

My target was to mirror the liquorice blackcurrant vibe that Buxton’s Black Rocks has (one of James Kemp’s own creations), thankfully this is what I got! It’s easy drinking with some resinous bitterness.

Update: After a couple of weeks this was really in a sweet spot, but just a week later the hops had faded fast and what I was left with is a roasty porter with some slight fruity notes. It was certainly still drinkable, but not quite what I was looking for. Since then I’ve sent a water sample off to Murphy & Son for analysis (via BrewUK) to see what improvements could be made to my water to improve hop utilisation. The results show that for hop forward beers I was way out with my minerals, but not too bad for darker malty beers, which I’ve always had great success with. So with a store cupboard now full of water treatment I shall schedule in a hoppy brew and expect to see a difference. Stay tuned!

Grain Bill...
5.5 kg Maris Otter (88%)
300 g Munich (4.8%)
250 g Chocolate (4%)
200 g Carafa III (3.2%)

Hop Bill...
30 g Topaz Leaf (16.3% Alpha) (First wort)
30 g Citra Leaf (12% Alpha) 10 mins (Boil)
45 g Amarillo Leaf (9.2% Alpha) (Steep/Whirlpool)
45 g Citra Leaf (12% Alpha) (Steep/Whirlpool)
55 g Amarillo Leaf (9.2% Alpha) 3 days (Dry hop)
25 g Citra Leaf (12% Alpha) 3 days (Dry hop)
10 g Topaz Pellet (16.2% Alpha) 3 days (Dry hop)

Single step infusion at 64°C for 90 Minutes
Fermented for 2 days at 22°C (left to rise naturally) with White Labs Pacific Ale yeast (WPL041), then dropping to 20°C for 5 days.

OG: 1.048
FG: 1.012
ABV: 4.7%