I have tried a few delicious IPLs since The Humulus Lager revelation (read IPL & The Lager Renaissance part 1). Pizza Port Brewing Claudie’s lager is a delicious example. I still giggle every time I see a Humulus on a tap list. I am completely and totally in love with this brew. Medium bodied with a silky mouth feel. This beer is super dry and crisp and yet, it boldly supports a multitude of hop additions unloaded into its delicate malt shoulders. This heavy hop bundle is carried until the end of it’s long lingering finish with a most amazing intensity. Do not let the bright character fool you. Under its complex balance, Humulus Lager is charged with a “3 lbs of hops per BBL ratio”. With a touch of rice adjunct, this beer has surprised me in many ways.
Quick recap. Lager yeast strains ferment at colder temperature than Ales (mid 50F) and are aged at an even colder temperature (lagering period), allowing the beer to fully reach proper maturity. This is why I have been puzzled by the hoppy concoctions with bottom fermenting lager yeast. Hop essential oils that impart aromas and big flavor compounds in most IPA’s are typically soaked in Ales during a process called “dry hopping” taking place at a much warmer temperature. Ale Yeast, or Saccharomyces cerevisiaet, ferment around 68-75 F allowing a better extraction of hop oils. The first thing to escape hoppy beers are these precious essential oils. From the moment the hops get in contact with the beer, the clock is ticking. I wondered “How do you cold age a beer and at the same time dry hop it to this level of intensity?”.
Curiosity being one of my habits, I wanted to find out more about dry hopping techniques in lagers. I went straight to the source and contacted two IPL experts. Follow me as I navigate through the secrets that make a world class IPL. Please sit down and get yourself a beer because this lupulus olfactory quest has just begun.
Quick intro with The Bruery.
Tyler King, from TheBruery in Orange County CA:
BC: Hi Tyler, thanks for responding to my inquiry. I have been fortunate enough to join the ranks of your fan club, so I am sure there will be no surprise when I say that, to me, TheBruery is truly on of the most adventurous breweries of our times, but also one that is highly successful in regard to the experimental ingredients and actual flavor combinations it plays with. Humulus lager doesn’t seam to follow most of the Bruery higher gravity or sour program beers. If I don’t mistake Humulus Lager is the most hop forward beer you brew. Heavy late hop additions apart, how do you treat Humulus Lager differently from your other beers?
Tyler King: I understand you want to know more about the hop aromas characteristic of Humulus Lager. This may be a surprise to many but we treat Humulus the same as any other beer we dry hop for the most part. The first dry hopping takes place after the diacetyl rest. When we start lowering the temperature for lagering, the carefully selected hops to get in contact with the beer. We feel that we lose some hop aromas during the lagering period; which is why a second dry hopping occurs one week before packaging.
In other words, nothing to particular except for we dry hop it twice since the long lagering process and cold temperatures do affect the end result. I would say that experimenting with time and quantity is key with lagers.
BC: I must admit this comes as a surprise to me. I am guilty of over thinking some parts of my home brewing process. Lesson learned, keep it simple. Thank you Tyler for demystifying the The Bruery’s dry hopping process for this amazing beer. Cheers.
Now lets move up from Southern California and visit The Pacific North West. Lets dig just a bit deeper into the technical brewing practices of bottom fermented Hoppy Lagers brewed at Base Camp Brewing Co.
Paul Thurston, head brewer from BASE CAMP Brewing in Oregon.
BC: Hello Paul. I recently had the privilege to try In Tents IPL. The 22 oz aluminum bottle packaging is definitely impressive. I am even more impressed by the mouth feel, aromas and flavors of In Tents IPL. This beer is borderline sessionable and yet the level of aromas intensity has been pushed way higher than what I would expect for most pale Lagers. What gives In Tents IPL this edge and balance at the same time?
PT: Let me start with our lagering process since it is quite unique and then get back to the question about dry hopping. When any of our lager beers, such as the In-Tents I.P.L, reach the end of primary fermentation, the fun has only begun! We then move on to the first part of our lagering technique, which we call Base Camping. As soon as the beer is moved to the lagering vessel, we blend in a small percentage of actively fermenting (high krausen) beer, which introduces a small portion of fermentable extract and fresh active lager yeast into the green beer. The tank is then capped and held a bit below fermentation temperature for a period of time before slowly being cooled, over the course of several days, to our lagering temperatures. This processcreates natural carbonation, through the refermentation of fermentable extract in the krausen beer, as well as adding fresh, healthy, active yeast to accelerate and improve the chemical reactions that occur through true lagering (as opposed to modern cold conditioning). After the lagering phase is complete the beer is packaged as an unfiltered, unpasteurized product, thereby allowing the bottle conditioning phase to begin. Our yeast strain, times, temperatures, and percentages are, of course, proprietary, but that is, in abbreviated fashion, our lagering process.
Now, the In-Tents India Pale Lager is unique in that it also receives a blend of four different hop varieties that are added to the lagering tank immediately prior to the transfer of the green beer, and left in the mix for the duration of the lagering process. The hops, therefore, are in contact with the beer through a controlled range of temperatures and times; witch does have a direct relation to the utilization of the hop oils that we are seeking to absorb into solution.
BC: You have just confirm what seam to be a common technique shared by Tyler King from The Bruery in a previous email he responded too. I understand, time and quantity is crucial here, so how did you figure out how long you needed to dry hop and which hop varieties worked best for the In Tents IPL?
PT: The amount of each hop,Glacier,Mt Hood, Zythos, Centennial, wish are added was developed through many pilot brewing trials. I feel it is the only way to establish how much hops were needed to impart the desired characters through the course of our lagering phase.
BC: An other great feature of In Tent IPL is the Oak chips aged character. What can you tell us about that part, and how does it relate to the dry hopping process?
PT: The exact same can be said for the addition of blended red and white oak, witch was chipped in-house on our custom-altered mill and toasted in a drum roaster we built expressly for this application. This allows us total control over the toast specifications as well as allowing us to transfer beer onto oak that is fresh from the roaster, preserving all the fresh aromatics. Again, the amount added was developed over the pilot trials in order to impart the proper balance of character during the lagering phase.
All that said, the general rules are that extraction of flavor-active and aromatic compounds from any substance that the beer is aged on, whether it is hops, wood, coffee, spices, et al, will be slowed as the aging temperature goes down. However, with lager beers, those aging times are typically longer than the relatively warmer (historically, “cellar” temperatures, 45-55 F) and shorter ale aging practices. Therefore, much of the differences created by temperature can be nullified by different contact times. Getting precisely the amount of desired character out of hops or oak, at any temperature or contact time, can only truly be achieved by trial and error. But these principles of utilization should always be taken into account when formulating any beer’s contact time with hops or oak, as well as comparing character across different beers.
BC: Well that was quite impressive Paul. Especially when considering Base Camp Brewing is an expert in lager beers. I look forward trying your Rye lager and other original creations in the future. I feel you have a strong passion for each beer you craft, and I sure can taste it. Thank you so much for taking the time and sharing with all the home brewers and Craft beer lovers out there your technical knowledge and lagering magic.
PT: Thank you again for your interest, and let me know if I can help with anything else in the future. Cheers.
I hope you all enjoyed this monumental beer geekery moment. This goes to show, when you are willing to reach out to your craft beer heroes, this community rarely disappoints.
With new IPL’s (like Ballast Point Phantom IPL finally bottled after 3 years of delighting San Diego residents or visitors) popping all over the country, the IPL future sure looks crisp and bright. BYO magazine focuses a bit more on the malt profile and yeast strains in the last November edition at http://byo.com/stories/issue/item/2875-india-pale-lager-roundtable.
Lagers and IPL’s are no longer the craft beer movement’s underdogs. Craft brewers like home brewers across the world are re-opening the concept of what lager beers can and should be. Keep in mind the amount of effort to craft one of these thirst quenching machines is not to be underestimated. Yeast pitching rates like fermentation and aging period are both much greater then its Ale sibling. Glycol and other cooling expenses should also be a counting factor when you are looking at production costs. Go find your locally crafted lager/IPL, I can assure your investment will pay back with every ounce that goes down.
Remember to enjoy a craft beer responsibly! A votre Santé.