Wednesday, June 8, 2016

HopWeapon: Hoppy pale ale's with Bootleg Biology's FunkWeapon

I'm a big fan of hop forward beers with Brettanomyces, whether they are 100% Brett fermented or a beer with Brettanomyces as a secondary fermenter, they hit me in the right spots. As a fan of such beers I do have my preferences, or maybe I have acquired some pet peeves within this weird "style" of beer. A lot of folks, myself included, choose to pair the fruitier Brett strains with the aggressively fruity IPA type hops. I have brewed many beers in this flavor profile of fruit on top of fruit with very positive results. But after a few pints I tend to get a little bored with them. They lack nuance, or complexity, making for a one dimensional, albeit enjoyable, beer. 

Do you even Pellicle Brah?
There is something about extremely fruity brett esters that can make a beer appear under attenuated, pair that with more fruit and citrus from the hops and that impression of under attenuation is exasperated. Now this might seem to contradict my love affair with London Ale III in hoppy beers, but there seems to be a difference in the fruity esters that brett throw off as compared to English strains. Whenever I have brewed one of these beers, with strains like The Yeast Bay Lochristi/Brett Vrai/etc, I'm almost always left wondering why I didn't choose to pair these types of hops with the funkier, barnyard/horse blanket/etc, type Brett strains like Brett Drie/Clauseneii/Bruxellensis etc, or maybe there is an even better blend? 
Last fall Jeff over at Bootleg Biology released a blend of Brettanomyces called Funk Weapon, described as producing "pungent horse blanket and fresh leather aromas. Perfect for breaking out the funk in farmhouse-style beers." Based on that description I thought it might fit the bill for a more complex hoppy Brett beer that would age well. Maybe this would be that "better blend" I was looking for in my hop forward Brett things.

Over the last 10 months I have been repitching this blend into various batches of my HopWards recipe, fermented out with either WLP565 or Wallonian Farmhouse and Funk Weapon co-pitched at the start of fermentation. The base beer has a nice base of Oats and Pale Malt hopped heavily with aromatic varieties, fermented out bone dry and bottle conditioned, no dry hops. Normally a beer like HopWards is best drank fresh but Brett does some magical things to hops over time, making for a beer that can be drank young and ages gracefully with a bit more nuance than fruit on fruit.

Tasting Notes HopWeapon:

Hoppy, zippy, and sweaty bottles of beer.

Appearance: Beautiful pale color moderate haze still lingering, first pour is a little more clear than the second from the bottle. Moderate carbonation pouring with a creamy white head that lasts for days. A pretty attractive looking beer.

Aroma: Fruity hops and rustic funk, hay, mango, very slight barnyard, passionfruit, even some leather as Jeff describes, just a beautiful back and forth of light funk and fruit. There is also an underlying peppery spice lingering in the mix behind the fruit and Brett aromatics.

Taste: Light tartness and prickly carbonation hits the tip of the tongue off the bat, then a smack of citrus fruit wafts over the tongue with aggression. It's so fruity and delectable in the middle of the mouth that then is giving way to a very subtle spice and a dry but yet still fruity finish. The sparkly carbonation and the dry but not astringent finish makes this supremely drinkable.

Final Thoughts: This particular batch took a bit to get where I wanted it, after one month in the bottle there was an interesting spearmint character that I was not really digging. But after a few months in the bottle it transformed into a dry, fruity and slightly funky easy drinking beer that is great for warm weather enjoyment. I have brewed 5 variations on this beer so far, always varying the hops based on what I have but always using this same blend of yeasts. Its been really fun to watch the shift in this particular pitch get a little funkier and a little spicier as times goes on. What initially would take 6-8 weeks to reach full attenuation now takes about 3-4 weeks and I can get it in the bottle.

This type of brewing might seem boring to some, but for me brewing a similar base beer and repitching a unique blend of strains over a period of months can teach you a ton about both that base recipe and how a blend of yeast can shift and grow accustomed to your brewery. 

Recipe Specifications - HopWeapon
--------------------------
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: 1.000
Estimated Color: 6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 45 IBUs
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


Grain:
81.9% - 8lbs 8oz - CMC Superior Pale Ale Malt (3.1 SRM)
18.1% - 1lbs 14oz - Flaked Oats

Hops:
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

Yeast:

Mash:
Sacch rest - 60 min @ 150.0 F 

Sparge:
Fly Sparge 5.50 gallons 170f

Misc:  Cherry Hill, NJ Tap water. Mash pH 5.35, Water Profile ( 100ppm Ca, 19ppm Mg, 7ppm Na, 100ppm Cl, 100ppm SO4). 

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