Monday, June 20, 2016

Brewing up an xBmt, New England Style!

The East Coast/West Coast divide on hazy hoppy beer is the talk of the year in 2016, so much so that I even penned a stupid opinion piece about it, something I said I would never do here. What's the deal guys and gals? Some of us want to see through our beers and others aren't as concerned. But the question remains, do we or don't we need the haze that's so prevalent in New England style hoppy beers? Whats makes this style so different that it must not be clarified? Not only that, but does clarifying these types of beers degrade them in some way shape or form, could they even be better if they were fined/filtered? These are questions that Marshall and Malcom from and I have been discussing for months over email. Admittedly, Marshall and I both fall staunchly on opposing sides of the debate (while Malcom seemingly can have it both ways) but that just makes us the perfect pairing to collaborate and start to get to the bottom of these debates. We're all cumbaya up in here!

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.


Recipe Specifications
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
ABV: 4.8%
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 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 %]


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. 


  1. I've noticed with mine that I've decided to fine (I'm kind of in the Malcolm camp) is that after you add the gelatin these beers really need a longer cold crash than your normal beer to clear. I had one that I poured at a PBW event two weeks ago that was crashed overnight, gelatined the next afternoon and then kegged the following evening (so ~48hrs cold, ~24 w/gelatin). It was less murky than before, but definitely not clear -- somewhat akin to your gelatined sample.

    Now, this past week, I was cold crashing the second half of the batch and I did the same pre-gelatin crash time but I ended up having the gelatin in there for 5 days because I got sick and didn't feel like kegging. That beer's crystal clear now. So these things just takes a lot longer. No idea why.

    1. Wible mentioned the same thing. I did notice that the gelatin fined beer was just a bit more clear yesterday (when the keg kicked, 10 days after gelatin hit the beer). Not sure how much more it would have clarified but it looked pretty nice.

  2. May want to edit your hops section to include your split dry hop additions..its a little ambiguous

  3. I've brewed this recipe twice. Great recipe. First batch was opaque, second batch was hazy. Both were cold crashed and kegged. Beers tasted very similar but looked quite different. Go figure.

    1. Ive had the same experiences, but the murkiest have been batches I forgot whirlfloc. If people are forgoing whirlfloc in order to get these hazy as possible they are doing it wrong. You'll get the muddy character when a persistent haze is more appropriate.

  4. You mentioned that "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 assume the water profile in the recipe above is the one used for the experiment. What is your normal water profile for this recipe? Thanks!

    1. Not terribly different from what we used really, but recently I have been targeting 150ppm CaCl and 75ppm Sulfates. I do change it up a lot though, Im always tweaking to see how the resultant beer changes but I do think the 150:75 is a great target.

    2. Hi Ed,

      Thanks for sharing your recipes. Have you ever tried 0.5:1 ratio? I've already seen a couple times when high SO4 was advised:

      Tree House: "highish CaSO4..Lowish CACL..."

      Trillium: "bump the sulfates w/ gypsum...if MWRA water, ~2g/gallon"

      2g/gallon is 294.8ppm.

  5. I've tried this recipe a couple of times and experimented with different hop varieties. It's usually cleared up pretty well but in saying that I never have experienced the mouth-feel you would expect from the high % of oats. Is there a specific type of oats you have found work best?

    1. I use Bob's Red Mill, and at %18-20 the beers are silky smooth and creamy, but you absolutely taste the Oats. So if the Oat flavor isnt your thing you may want to try Naked Golden or Thomas Fawcet Malted Oats, just used the TF recently and love it.

  6. Replies
    1. For this batch Halcyon. I got a bag and brewed a bunch of variations on this recipe, nice malt, but I dont think its worth the high price tag for these types of beers as the malt character is so far in the background behind the hops.

  7. Slightly off topic, but can I ask where you source you Amarillo from? The past few years, every batch I get smells like diesel gasoline. Dank. Not peachy and awesome like I expect. Reading how awesome this beer smelled made me think of this. Thanks!

  8. Hi Ed,
    I know the norm for NE IPA's is 1318 or Conan etc.
    But have you tried other Yeasts?
    I'm getting hold of WYeast1469 - West Yorkshire (It is a fantastic Strain for English Ales btw)
    And I Wondered about using this for your hophands recipe. any thoughts on other strains of yeast in this particular recipe?

    1. I've used it in this style. With ramping temps into the low 70s, 1469 can be pretty peachy. I've also used wlp022 Essex, which was more nutty and less fruity. Wlp644 is another one I tried, but it doesn't seem to do much glycerol production. It seems better blended with other strains that produce better mouthfeel. I used BA11 (wine yeast) and it seemed to help. There are a lot more options than the Conan/1318 that show up on blogs and homebrewtalk. I hope you and others really explore the outer regions of yeast in this style. Just think mouthfeel and fruit.

    2. Ive tried a bunch of different strains for these types of beers, but not West Yorkshire, a guy I know swears by it though. Never hurts to give it a try.

      Ive used 644, Brett Drei, Brett C, S04, 565, Wallonian Farmhouse, Northeast Abbey, 007, 002, to name a few non Conan/1318 strains, all with varying levels of success with this recipe.