I was pretty adamant that using gelatin/Biofine to clarify, or even *gasp* filtering, a New England style hoppy beer would/could strip away some hop character that I work so hard to get in my beers. While Marshall, and many other folks, contest that it will not and that haze brings nothing to the table and might actually degrade the quality of the beer, as well as decreasing shelf life. After much discussion with the Brulosophy team we ironed out the details of an xBmt that I would brew and bring to HomebrewCon 2016 to serve for data collection on one of their xBmt posts. So I did something I hadn't done in a long time, I brewed a 10 gallon batch of HopWards and gelatin fined half and left the other half bare. Oh the humanity!
This post will act as a companion piece to the Brulosophy article, and serve as a means for me to share my impressions and experiences on the beer from brew to glass. I encourage you to go read Marshall's post for all of the hard data we collected at Homebrewcon, there is all the p value your little heart can desire.
When I set out to brew this beer I wanted to ensure it was done as precisely as possible, not to say that I don't try to do that normally but the fact that I was going to have it judged based on one specific variable, I wanted to be sure everything was on point and indistinguishable in the triangle tests.It is my opinion that the water profile in these types of beers is of utmost importance, and can be a final piece of the puzzle to get them where I want them. Marshall and I discussed about the possibilities off high chlorides levels promoting even more haze in beers, in this case the NE style hoppy beer. I wanted to make sure this beer was constructed as close as possible to how I envision the style should be brewed but Marshall was concerned about the high Chlorides affecting the variable. So we decided a 1:1 Sulfate:Chloride ratio was a good happy medium, balanced, but still should work well for the style. Normally I try to target a 1.5-2:1 ratio in favor of high Chlorides.
I brewed a 10 gallon batch, adding half of the dry hops at the tail end of primary, then splitting off 5 gallons each into separate kegs with their own additional dry hop charge. There was a total of 6 ounces of dry hops for each 5 gallons. After 5 days of the keg dry hopping I chilled the kegs down for 24 hours, with the hop bags still contained. Up until this point both kegs were handled identically and this is where that changed. I opened both kegs and added gelatin to one using the Brulosophy method, and the other remained untouched. I wanted to make sure each keg was opened the exact same number of times, and while I did not need to open the unfined keg I wanted to be sure that everything was equal and fair. After 18 hours cold with the gelatin I used a keg jumper and moved both beers, the fined and the unfined, to serving kegs in a closed environment. It wasn't totally necessary to move the unfined beer to a new keg, but as I said I wanted to keep all of the processes equal.
|Heated up in the microwave to ~150F, then added the gelatin.|
While I was pushing the beer from the dry hop keg to the serving kegs the beer in the lines on the gelatin fined keg was significantly more clear than the unfined. I wasn't necessarily surprised by this because I know gelatin works well, but I thought that with so many oats, high-ish chlorides and heavy late/dry hops it might not clear so quickly. The beers we set to 35psi and carbonated over night, they were all set for the drive to Baltimore for Homebrewcon the next day.
|Gelatin fined, looking clear while being pushed to the serving keg.|
|Not Fined, looking hazy while being pushed to the serving keg.|
One hour before I left for Baltimore I sat down with both beers to taste them side by side for the first time. I didn't have anyone available to pour me a true triangle test but I still wanted to get a few notes down and impressions on the two. Visually they are remarkably similar looking beers, only when I took the glasses outside did I notice a perceivable clarity issue. At first glance at this photo you might not even notice the difference, but look at the glass on the right, the gelatin fined one, there is less haze at the bottom of the glass.
As I first dove into the aroma of these beers I truly thought I noticed a difference, with the unfined version having a more prominent tropical fruit aroma. The bitterness and overall hop flavor of the two was identical, no differences there but I felt that the gelatin fined beer had a more creamy smooth mouthfeel, something that really surprised me. However, when I got to Baltimore and was served the triangle test (somewhat) blindly while recording an episode of Basic Brewing Radio about this very beer, I had a hard time picking the odd beer out.
|Gelatin fined on the right, not fined on the left. Why I couldn't fill the glasses to the same|
level is beyond me, and currently driving me insane looking at it.
It seemed that the only real consensus from that group was that we felt we could tell a difference on the first pass through the triangle test but the more we tasted and sniffed the more confused we had become. It was interesting that we basically all got palate fatigue after only a few sips of this beer. Actually there was another consensus, everyone seemed to really like the beers, even remarking as we poured the samples out how aromatic the beer was as the smells engulfed the hotel room. The quality of the beer was of course something I was concerned about, I didn't want to look like an idiot here but of course it didn't matter really for the experiment.
In the end, as these types of things tend to do, this opened up more questions than answers really. On one hand the folks he felt that gelatin fining does not degrade the hop character of NE Style hoppy beers were right as tasters were not able to reliably differentiate the three beers blindly. On the other hand, gelatin was not able to clarify this beer enough to make a considerable visual impact. This beer is hazy and not murky as some folks say, but even with this level of haze you would be hard pressed to look at the gelatin fined beer and guess it was fined at all. Due to the fact that it didn't significantly clarify the beer, and since I am not a stickler for clarity anyway, I don't see this changing anything in my process. Yes it did not degrade the hop character significantly, but gelatin fining is an additional step that brought nothing of considerable improvements, or hurt, to the beer. So my process will remain the same, and I will sleep more soundly at night knowing I did not pop open that keg of hoppy beer exposing it to o2 just to add some gelatin. To each their own, and my own New England style hoppy beers will remain unfined.
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.82 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.25 gal
Measured OG: 1.050 SG
Measured FG: 1.012 SG
Estimated Color: 4.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 33 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
81.9% - 8lbs 8oz - CMC Superior Pale Ale Malt (3.1 SRM)
18.1% - 1lbs 14oz - Flaked Oats
First Wort Hop - 0.50 oz CTZ [14.20 %] - 16.3 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil: 5min - 0.5 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] - 3.1 IBUs
Boil: 5min - 0.5 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 3.6 IBUs
Boil: 5min - 0.5 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - 4.7 IBUs
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f - 0.75 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] - 1.4 IBUs -
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f - 0.75 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 1.7 IBUs
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f - 0.75 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - 2.2 IBUs
Dry Hop: 3 days @ tail end of Primary - 1.00 oz Amarillo [8.50 %]
Dry Hop: 3 days @ tail end of Primary - 1.00 oz Amarillo [8.50 %]
Dry Hop: 3 days @ tail end of Primary - 1.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %]
Dry Hop: 3 days @ tail end of Primary - 1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %]
Dry Hop: 3 days in keg - 1.00 oz Amarillo [8.50 %]
Dry Hop: 3 days in keg - 1.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %]
Dry Hop: 3 days in keg - 1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %]
Wyeast 1318 - London Ale III - 1L Starter
Sacch rest - 60 min @ 152.2 F
Fly Sparge 5.50 gallons 170f
Misc: 60 seconds of pure O2. Cherry Hill, NJ Tap water. Mash pH 5.35, Water Profile ( 109ppm Ca, 6ppm Mg, 10ppm Na, 100ppm Cl, 100ppm SO4). Some acid malt and some Lactic acid was used to lower the mash pH, your water profile may vary.
Notes: Fermentation temp was 66f for 7 days, bumped to 70F for 3 when half of the dry hops went into primary, then kegged and dry hopped again in the keg for 5 days.