Friday 24 May 2024

High Bitterness & Low Hop Flavour in West Coast IPA

This article is going to be a bit of a brain dump, and perhaps a way to research and compile our own thoughts and evidence around this. As per the title, our latest challenge in our homebrewing journey has been a lack of hop flavour, but high bitterness in our West Coast IPA's.

As an amateur homebrewer, we've had a decent amount of success at (in our opinion) making all sorts of different beer styles, from lagers, to amber ales and pacific ales. But one style that we're struggling to get right is the West Coast IPA. After two separate attempts, using different recipes, we've somehow ended up with two beers that taste eerily similar - and not right.

We were far from happy with our first attempt - the resulting beer had a good amount of bitterness, but really lacked the hop punch that is trademark to the style. Along with the bitterness, there was a residual sweetness that's a little bit difficult to describe. Perhaps a bit of candied orange and a bit caramelly, but definitely not diacetyl. We're confident of this as we actually sent this one off to a competition which confirmed our impression of being too sweet, but also not having any diacetyl. What it definitely didn't have was the citrus, floral, and piney flavours that you would expect given the fairly heavy hopping schedule in the beer. 

After this first attempt, we attributed the sweetness to a grain bill that was too heavy on the specialty malts, so we recently had our second attempt at a West Coast IPA with the Awesome Foursome recipe, using 100g of 4 different hop varieties (with the exception of Centennial which was featured in both WCIPA's), and a very different grain bill. Yet somehow, as previously mentioned, we've been left with a finished beer that tastes very similar to the first one, but with a totally different recipe.

We're confident in our brewing process, from hot side to cold side. For both batches we pitched plenty of dry yeast, and had healthy fermentations that were temperature controlled and had finishing gravities around where they were expected (a high FG could of course leave some residual sweetness). So what gives?

We're ruling out a grain bill problem - both recipes had around 6.5kg of grain to give a starting gravity (OG) in the ballpark of what is required (around 1.065) - and there are plenty of IPA recipes using similar amounts. We dialled back the specialty malts on our second attempt, so we just don't think it's possible that this is the issue.

Our hop schedule seemed to be where it needed to be, with a decent beginning of boil addition followed by some late (5 minute) additions and a hefty whirlpool, along with a decent dry hop charge in both recipes.

We also thought that perhaps there was something going on with the Centennial hops - as this was one of the few common factors in our WCIPA's, however the flavour profile just doesn't match up to what you'd expect from Centennial. Given it's relatively low alpha acid content compared to the other hops that have been used, it shouldn't have dominated in terms of flavour, and it ultimately only contributed to 1/3 or 1/4 of the hops being used in each batch.

What we're leaning towards now is the water profile that we used in both of these beers - namely, the Brewfather "Hoppy" water profile. Based off our source water profiles, using this target water profile gave us around 100ppm of calcium, around 50-60ppm of chloride, and ~270ppm of sulfate. There are two things to consider here, which is the total amount of sulfate used, as well as the ratio of sulfate to chloride.

Our understanding of sulfates was that they would help to accentuate not only bitterness, but also the overall hop flavour in the finished beer, so elevated levels would help them shine brighter, right? When brewing hazy beers like a hazy pale ale or a hazy IPA, the inverse ratio (chloride to sulfate) is often used with a heavy amount of chloride and low amount of sulfate being recommended to give a fluffy mouthfeel, yet against conventional wisdom, also help to accentuate hop aroma and flavour, with a recommended ratio of at least 2:1, or even as high as 4 or 5:1 - there are some caveats to this but we're not going to get into that now.

So is our water profile to blame for our unexpected WCIPA flavour profile? Perhaps such a high sulfate to chloride ratio is enhancing the bitterness to a point that is totally overriding the other desirable hop flavours? Or perhaps the actual level of sulfate is too high?

Scott Janish, author of The New IPA has an award winning West Coast IPA recipe which uses 242.7ppm of sulfate and 52.5ppm of chloride, and 99ppm of calcium. Not miles apart from where our water profile is, but we've also read that 250ppm of sulfate is perhaps the upper limit, a number which we exceeded in both our WCIPA's.

BeerSmith also have a great blog post on the Sulfate to Chloride ratio, which quotes some information published by John Palmer with some guidelines on the ratio which we'll include below;

0-0.4: Too Malty
0.6-0.6: Very Malty
0.6-0.8: Malty
0.8-1.5: Balanced
1.5-2.0:Slightly Bitter
2-4: Bitter
4-9: Very Bitter
9+: Too Bitter

Based off this, our WCIPA sulfate to chloride ratios were in the lower part of the Very Bitter range, but this article also mentions both sulfate and chloride are typically within the 50-250ppm range (key here being the upper limit of 250ppm).

Looking back through our previous recipes, we've had a number of pale ales that also used the Brewfather hoppy water profile, and reflecting on these they also had somewhat of a diminished hop character and accentuated bitterness, so we're definitely going to be trying some different water profiles for these moving forward. 

For future reference, Black Hops, an award winning Australian craft brewery recommend 150ppm of sulfate and 50ppm of chloride (for a 3:1 sulfate to chloride ratio) for their pale ales as per their Water Chemistry blog post.

We'll definitely be trialling some different sulfate and chloride levels in our future IPA's, as well as our Pale Ale's to see how it changes the perceived hop flavours.

Friday 17 May 2024

Popular Craft Beer Hop Combinations

This will be an ongoing post that we're hoping to continuously update with hop combinations we come across in our beer travels. They won't be in any particular order, so a "find" on the page might be the best way to locate a particular hop you're looking for, to see what other hops it has been paired with by commercial breweries.

We feel this could be useful when researching/developing recipes to see what others have done. Chances are if a commercial brewery has used a particular hop combination, it's probably going to work reasonably well, though obviously we don't know what hops were used for bittering, flavour/aroma or dry hops, or the ratios in which they have been used, but hey, we've at least got a starting point, right?

It's interesting to see some of the patterns too - it appears breweries tend to favour particular hops and will usually have at least one hop variety that will feature in most of their beers, which arguably forms part of their signature flavour.

We'll be focusing on Australian breweries and beers to start, but will include some popular American breweries as well. Anything on this list has been added as the information has been made available directly from the brewery website - we won't be including any combinations sourced elsewhere, and unfortunately not all breweries share the hops that are used in their beers - but thankfully many of them do. We'll also be focusing more on the core range of beers, and less on limited and seasonal releases, with the view that if you want to see first hand what a particular hop combination might taste like, you can try and track down a particular beer from this list that is hopefully available year round.

Bentspoke - Barley Griffin Pale Ale - Ekuanot, Mosaic

Bentspoke - Crankshaft IPA - Ekuanot, Simcoe, Citra, Centennial

Bentspoke - Sprocket IPA - Mosaic, Amarillo, Fortnight

Little Creatures - Pale Ale - East Kent Goldings (bittering), Cascade, Chinook

Little Creatures - Pacific Ale - Galaxy, Magnum

Little Creatures - Hazy IPA - El Dorado, Galaxy, Citra, Amarillo, Mosaic, Azacca

Little Creatures - XPA - Galaxy, US Crystal, NZ Nelson Sauvin, Mosaic

Little Creatures - Rogers' - East Kent Goldings, Cascade, Stella

Stone & Wood - Pacific Ale - Galaxy

Stone & Wood - Mango Pale Ale - Galaxy

Stone & Wood - Hinterland Hazy Pale Ale - Vic Secret, Eclipse, Galaxy

Stone & Wood - Cloudy Pale Ale - Galaxy, Eclipse, Vic Secret, Ella, Enigma

Capital Brewing Co - Coast Ale (Pale Ale) - Saaz, Hallertau, Northern Brewer

Capital Brewing Co - Hang Loose Juice (Hazy IPA) - Amarillo, Amarillo CRYO, Mosaic, Eclipse

Capital Brewing Co - Trail (American Pale Ale) - Magnum, Simcoe, Motuea, Cascade, Galaxy, Ella

Capital Brewing Co - Summit (Hazy Mid) - Citra, Galaxy, Simcoe, Vic Secret

Capital Brewing Co - Good Drop (Low Carb Lager) - Pride of Ringwood, Topaz

Capital Brewing Co - New Wave (West Coast IPA) - Idaho Gem, HBC 638, Mosaic, Citra

Capital Brewing Co - XPA (Pale Ale) - Amarillo, Mosaic, El Dorado, Eclipse

Capital Brewing Co - Rock Hopper (IPA) - Citra, Chinook, Centennial, Amarillo

Sierra Nevada - Pale Ale - Cascade

Sierra Nevada - Torpedo (IPA) - Magnum, Crystal, Citra

Sierra Nevada - Atomic Torpedo (DIPA) - Cascade, Centennial, Magnum, Mosaic

Sierra Nevada - Hazy Little Thing (Hazy IPA) - Citra, El Dorado, Magnum, Mosaic, Simcoe

Sierra Nevada - Big Little Thing (Imperial IPA) - Cascade, Chinook, Columbus, Crystal, Idaho 7, Magnum, Mosaic

Sierra Nevada - Cosmic Little Thing (Hazy Double IPA) - Comet, Eureka, Helios, Simcoe, Strata

Sierra Nevada - Tropical Little Thing (Hazy IPA) - Amarillo, Cascade, El Dorado, Sabro, Sultana

Sierra Nevada - Juicy Little Thing (Hazy IPA) - Citra, El Dorado, Mosaic, Stirling

Sierra Nevada - Dank Little Thing (Hazy IPA) - Amarillo, Chinook, CTZ, Mosaic

Two Bays Brewing Co - IPA - Galaxy, Mosaic, Amarillo, Magnum

Two Bays Brewing Co - Session Ale - Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin

Two Bays Brewing Co - No Doubt (Stout) - East Kent Goldings

Two Bays Brewing Co - XPA - Simcoe, Ekuanot, Magnum

Two Bays Brewing Co - Lager - Saphir, Premiant

Two Bays Brewing Co - Pale Ale - Citra, Cascade, Magnum

Sydney Brewery - Pilsner - Saaz, Magnum

Sydney Brewery - Pale Ale - Cascade, Amarillo, Enigma, Eclipse

Sydney Brewery - Dark Lager - Saaz, Magnum

Sydney Brewery - Lager - Magnum, Hersbrucker, Tettnanger

Sydney Brewery - East Coast IPA - Magnum, Topaz, Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra, Galaxy

Sydney Brewery -  Mid Strength Ale - Magnum, Pride of Ringwood

Moo Brew - Flanders Red (Red Ale) - Hersbrucker

Moo Brew - Pale Ale - Centennial, Cascade, Vic Secret

Moo Brew - IPA - Simcoe, Citra, Mosaic

Moo Brew - Brew Tassie Ale - Topaz, Vic Secret, Galaxy

Moo Brew - Brew Tassie Lager - Topaz, Magnum

Moo Brew - Dark Ale - Centennial, Simcoe, Cascade

Moo Brew - Pilsner - Centennial, Spalt

Moo Brew - Session Ale - Centennial, Galaxy, Mosaic

Stomping Ground Brewing Co - Gipps St Pale Ale - Simcoe, Cascade, Mosaic

Stomping Ground Brewing Co - Big Sky Hazy Pale - Citra, Sabro, Ekuanot

Stomping Ground Brewing Co - Laneway Lager - Motueka, Pacifica

Stomping Ground Brewing Co - Hop Stomper IPA - Mosaic, Simcoe, Citra, Cascade

Stomping Ground Brewing Co - Footloose Alcohol Free Pale Ale - Citra, Ekuanot

Stomping Ground Brewing Co - Passionfruit Smash (Sour) - Riwaka, Mosaic

Stomping Ground Brewing Co - Raspberry Smash (Sour) - Galaxy

Stomping Ground Brewing Co - Bunker Porter - Centennial, East Kent Goldings

Hawkers - Pilsner - Perle, Mittelfruh, Nelson Sauvin, Motueka, Pacifica

Hawkers - Pale Ale - Amarillo, Centennial, Mosaic, Citra, Chinook

Hawkers - Hazy Pale - Cascade, Citra, Motueka, Mosaic

Hawkers - IPA - Simcoe, Mosaic, Centennial, Citra, Nelson Sauvin

Hawkers - Hazy IPA - Mosaic, Motueka, Citra, Galaxy

Hawkers - West Coast IPA - Southern Cross, Simcoe, Mosaic, Northern Brewer

Hawkers - Stout - Cascade

Hawkers - Double West Coast IPA - Southern Cross, Simcoe, Mosaic, HBC 586

Dainton Beer - Equalizer Pale Ale - Mosaic, Citra, Galaxy, Sabro

Dainton Beer - Major Tom Light IPA - Mosaic Cryo, Columbus, Cascade

Dainton Beer - Jungle Juice Hazy IPA - Ahtanum, Engima, Galaxy, El Dorado, Simcoe, Citra

Dainton Beer - Blood Orange Juicy IPA - Hallertau Blanc, El Dorado, Mosaic, Citra

Dainton Beer - Overdrive West Coast IPA - Columbus, Mosaic, Strata, Simcoe

Black Hops Brewery - East Coast Haze - Dr Rudi, Idaho 7, Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo, Eclipse, Mosaic

Black Hops Brewery - G.O.A.T Hazy IPA - Mosaic, El Dorado, Amarillo, Columbus, Dr Rudi, Citra, Ella, Riwaka

Black Hops Brewery - Hornet IPA - Dr Rudi, Cascade, Citra, Idaho 7

Black Hops Brewery - Lager - Dr Rudi

Black Hops Brewery - Send It Low Carb Session Ale - Dr Rudi, Citra, Hort, Idaho 7

Black Hops Brewery - Super Hornet Double IPA - Dr Rudi, Amarillo, Citra, Columbus, Simcoe, Vic Secret 

Stockade Brew Co - Refreshing Ale - Topaz, Ella

Stockade Brew Co - Splices XPA - Ella, Galaxy, Dry Hop - Centennial, Citra

Stockade Brew Co - Flight Path Pale Ale - Topaz, Cascade, Nelson Sauvin, Dry Hop - Nelson Sauvin

Stone Brewing - Delicious Citrus IPA - Amarillo, Talus, El Dorado

Stone Brewing - Pilsner - Cashmere, Vista

Stone Brewing - Hazy IPA - El Dorado, Azacca, Sabro

Stone Brewing - Dayfall Belgian White - Citra

Stone Brewing - Buenaveza Salt & Lime Lager - Liberty

Stone Brewing - Fear. Movie. Lions. (FML) Hazy Double IPA - Loral, Mosaic

Stone Brewing - Tangerine Express Hazy IPA - Magnum, Centennial, Citra, Sterling, Mosaic, Simcoe, Cascade, Azacca

Deeds Brewing - Double Time Hazy Pale - Mosaic, Citra, Simcoe

Deeds Brewing - Juice Train NEIPA - Amarillo, Citra, Simcoe, Galaxy

Deeds Brewing - Half Time Pale Ale - Citrus, Vic Secret

Deeds Brewing - Zero Alcohol Free Pale Ale - Simcoe, Citra, Vic Secret, Amarillo

Deeds Brewing - Pre Game Pale Ale - Citra

Deeds Brewing - Draught - Mandarina Bavaria, Warrior

Vale Brewing - Vale Ale - Amarillo, Cascade

Vale Brewing - Vale Lager - Tettnang, Helga, NZ Pacifica

Vale Brewing - Vale IPA - Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Citra

Vale Brewing - Vale Mid Coast Bright Ale - Cascade, Vic Secret

Vale Brewing - Vale Parched Az Pilsner - Nelson Sauvin

The Bondi Brewing Co - Beach Beer Bondi XPA - Centennial, Galaxy

The Bondi Brewing Co - Bondi IPA West Coast IPA - Amarillo, Cascade, Columbus, Centennial, Galaxy, Simcoe, Topaz

The Bondi Brewing Co - Bondi Draught Lager - Pearle, Saaz

The Bondi Brewing Co - Bondi Thicc Hazy IPA - Amarillo, Centennial, Mosaic

The Bondi Brewing Co - Beach Middy Lager - Pearle, Saaz

The Bondi Brewing Co - Bondi Tiramisu Stout GRANA colab - East Kent Golding

Esker Beer Co - Pacific Ale - Galaxy, Citra, Melba

Esker Beer Co - Lager - Crystal, Mosaic, Pacific Gem

Esker Beer Co - Hazy Pale - NZ Nectaron ("primary flavour driver")

Esker Beer Co - Centennial, Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo

Kaiju! Beer - Kaiju! Krush Tropical Pale Ale - Mosaic, Cascade, Simcoe, Motueka, Citra

Kaiju! Beer - Pleazure Kruze Hazy Pale Ale - Citra, Mosaic, Nelson, El Dorado, Galaxy, Amarillo

Kaiju! Beer - Cerveza Crisp Lager - Magnum

Kaiju! Beer - Metamorphosis West Coast IPA - Columbus, Cascade, Simcoe

Kaiju! Beer - Aftermath Double IPA - Mosaic, Chinook, Simcoe, Columbus

Bridge Road Brewers - Beechworth Pale Ale - Cascade, Nelson Sauvin, East Kent Goldings, Simcoe, Amarillo, Centennial, Cascade, Vic Secret

Bridge Road Brewers - Free Time Alcohol Free Pale Ale - Citra, Simcoe, Enigma

Bridge Road Brewers - Bling IPA - Vic Secret, Enigma, Galaxy, Citra, Simcoe

Bridge Road Brewers - Little Bling IPA - Amarillo, Citra, Simcoe

Bridge Road Brewers - Beechy XPA - El Dorado, Galaxy, Vic Secret

Bridge Road Brewers - Robust Porter - Northern Brewer, Fuggles

Bridge Road Brewers - Celtic Red Ale - Northern Brewer, East Kent Golding, Williamette

Bridge Road Brewers - Lemon, Lime & Hop Bitters - Enigma

Pirate Life Brewing - South Coast Pale Ale (includes the 3.5 and Ultra Low versions) - Cashmere, Wai-iti, Taiheke

Pirate Life Brewing - Acai & Passionfruit Sour - Enigma

Pirate Life Brewing - Lager - Spalt, Perle

Pirate Life Brewing - Pale Ale - Mosaic, Cascade

Pirate Life Brewing - IPA - Centennial, Riwaka, Simcoe

Pirate Life Brewing - Mosaic Single  Hop IPA - Mosaic (who would have guessed?)

Pirate Life Brewing - Stout - Perle, Taiheke

Pirate Life Brewing - IIPA - Centennial, Columbus, Mosaic, Simcoe

Pirate Life Brewing - Lager Italiana - Pacifica, Saphir

Pirate Life Brewing - California Pale Ale - Idaho 7, Mosaic, Strata

Pirate Life Brewing - Hazy IPA - Citra, Taiheke, Wai-iti, Mosaic

Pirate Life Brewing - Hazy XPA - Citra, Motueka, Superdelic

Brew Dog make all of their recipes available via DIY Dog but in the interest of completeness, we've added a selection of their current beers to this list

Brew Dog - Cold Beer Pale Ale - Chinook, Citra, Galaxy, Simcoe

Brew Dog - Hard Core IPA - Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Simcoe

Brew Dog - Hop Fiction - Citra, Ekuanot

Brew Dog - Hazy Jane - Cascade, Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe

Brew Dog - Nanny State (Low Alcohol) - Ahtanum, Centennial, Chinook, Simcoe

Brew Dog - Lost Lager - Spalter Select

Brew Dog - Valley Draught - Spalter

Brew Dog - Punk XPA - Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe

James Squire - Lashes Pale Ale - Amarillo, Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Williamette

James Squire - Stride Low Carb Pale Ale - Galaxy, Mosaic

James Squire - Shackles Lager - Hallertauer Mittelfruh

James Squire - Limited Edition XPA - Amarillo, Citra lupulin, El Dorado

Young Henrys - Swing Juice Country Club XPA - Topaz, Cascade, Citra Cryo

Young Henrys - Cold XPA - Topaz, Cascade, Galaxy

Young Henrys - Newtowner Australian Pale Ale - Topaz, Vic Secret, Cascade, Galaxy

Young Henrys - Natural Lager - Summer, Helga

Young Henrys - Hazy Pale Ale - Topaz, Mosaic, Idaho 7, Calypso

Young Henrys - Stayer Mid - Topaz, Eclipse, Citra Lupomax

Young Henrys - IPA - Columbus, Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Galaxy, Calypso, Citra Lupomax, Simcoe, Mosaic

Young Henrys - Motorcycle Oil Hoppy Porter - Chinook, Centennial, Cascade, Citra Lupomax

Georgetown Brewing Company - Manny's Pale Ale - Summit, Cascade

Georgetown Brewing Company - Roger's Pilsner - Sterling

Georgetown Brewing Company- Lucille (IPA) - Columbus, Cascade, Simcoe, Citra, Comet

Georgetown Brewing Company- 9LB Porter - Summit, Chinook

Georgetown Brewing Company- Johnny Utah - Citra, Mosaic

Georgetown Brewing Company- Bodhizafa - Chinook, Citra, Mosaic, Columbus

Sweetwater Brewing Company - Gummies Fruit Punch IPA - Citra

Sweetwater Brewing Company - Gone Trippin' West Coast-Style IPA - Centennial, Cascade, Crystal, Chinook, Citra

Sweetwater Brewing Company - American Lager - Crystal, Hallertau

Sweetwater Brewing Company - H.A.Z.Y. Double IPA - Strata, El Dorado, Sultana

Sweetwater Brewing Company - 420 Extra Pale Ale - Centennial, Cascade

Sweetwater Brewing Company - H.A.Z.Y. IPA - Mosaic, Citra, El Dorado, Azacca

Sweetwater Brewing Company - IPA - Columbus, Chinook, Cascade, Simcoe

Sweetwater Brewing Company - High Light Lo-Cal Easy IPA - El Dorado, Crystal, Bravo, Lupulin Powder Blend

Sweetwater Brewing Company - Blue (Wheat Ale) - Centennial

Deschutes Brewery - Fresh Squeezed IPA - Citra, Mosaic

Deschutes Brewery - Fresh Haze IPA - Amarillo, Cashmere, Mandarina Bavaria, Bravo

Deschutes Brewery - Symphonic Chronic Double Dank IPA - Citra, Chinook, CTZ, Mosaic, Simcoe, Idaho 7

Deschutes Brewery - Tropical Fresh IPA - Mosaic, Simcoe, Strata, Experimental 586

Deschutes Brewery - Squeezy Rider West Coast IPA - Cascade, Strata, Mosaic, Galaxy

Deschutes Brewery - Hazy Tron Imperial Hazy IPA - Simcoe Cryo, Experimental 360, Chinook

Samuel Adams - Boston Lager - Hallertau Mittelfrueh, Tettnang, Tettnanger

Samuel Adams - Just the Haze IPA - Citra, Mosaic, Sabro, Cascade 

Samuel Adams - American Light Lager - HBC 682, Vista

Samuel Adams - Wicked Hazy NEIPA - Galaxy, Simcoe, Mosaic, Citra, Cascade

Samuel Adams - Wicked Easy Session IPA - Cascade, Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe

Samuel Adams - Golden Pilsner - Hallertau Mittelfrueh, Tettnang, Tettnanger

Samuel Adams - Cherry Wheat Ale - Hallertau Mittelfrueh

Victory Brewing Company - Brotherly Love Hazy IPA - Citra, Simcoe, Mosaic, El Dorado

Victory Brewing Company - Classic Easy Drinkin' Lager - Hallertau

Victory Brewing Company - Dirtwolf Double IPA - Citra, Simcoe, Mosaic, Chinook

Victory Brewing Company - Cloudwalker Hazy Juicy IPA - Citra, Mosaic

Victory Brewing Company - Prima Pils German Style Pilsner - Tettnang, Hallertau, Spalt, Saaz

Victory Brewing Company - Hop Devil IPA - Cascade, Centennial

Southern Tier Brewing Co - Citra Fog Hazy IPA - Citra, Simcoe, Mosaic, Mandarina Bavaria

Southern Tier Brewing Co - Creme Brulee Imperial Stout - Columbus

Southern Tier Brewing Co - Mokah Imperial Stout - Columbus

Southern Tier Brewing Co - Hazelnut Stout Imperial Stout - Columbus

Southern Tier Brewing Co - Peanut Butter Cup Imperial Stout - Columbus

Southern Tier Brewing Co - Nu Haze Hazy Smooth IPA - Idaho 7, Simcoe, Mosaic

Southern Tier Brewing Co - 2XHaze Hazy Juicy Double IPA - Citra, Mosaic

Southern Tier Brewing Co - 2XJuice Jolt Extra Juicy Double IPA - Mosaic, Citra, Idaho 7, Simcoe, HBC 630, Amarillo, CTZ

Southern Tier Brewing Co - Juice Jolt Extra Juicy IPA - Mosaic, Citra, Idaho 7, Simcoe, HBC 630, Amarillo, CTZ

Southern Tier Brewing Co - 2XIPA Double IPA - Citra, Simcoe, CTZ, Cascade, Centennial

Allagash Brewing Company - Allagash White Belgian-Style Wheat Beer - Nugget, Crystal, Czech Saaz

Allagash Brewing Company - Hop Reach IPA - Nugget, Mosaic, Idaho 7, Cascade, Citra, Cashmere, El Dorado

Allagash Brewing Company - Tripel Golden Ale - Nugget, Hallertau

Allagash Brewing Company - Curieux Barrel-Aged Golden Ale - Nugget, Hallertau

Allagash Brewing Company - Gatherwell Boubon Barrel-Aged Stout - Nugget, Northern Brewer

Allagash Brewing Company - North Sky Stout - Northern Brewer, Cascade

Allagash Brewing Company - Sixteen Counties Maine-Grown Golden Ale - Cascade, Nugget, Northern Brewer

Great Lakes Brewing Co - Midwest IPA - Triumph, Strata, Cascade, Citra

Great Lakes Brewing Co - Vibacious Double IPA - Apollo, Cashmere, Citra

Great Lakes Brewing Co - Juicy Vibacious Double IPA - Apollo, Cashmere, Citra

Great Lakes Brewing Co - Dortmunder Gold Lager - Cascade, Mt Hood

Great Lakes Brewing Co - Hazecraft IPA - Simcoe, Azacca, Lemondrop, Mosaic

Great Lakes Brewing Co - Elliot Ness Amber Lager - Mt Hood

Great Lakes Brewing Co - Commodore Perry IPA - Simcoe, Williamette, Cascade

Great Lakes Brewing Co - Edmund Fitzgerald - Northern Brewer, Williamette, Cascade

If you've found this useful or have come across any popular breweries (who advertise what hops are included in their beers) on their website, leave a comment below!

Thursday 16 May 2024

Is Homebrewing a Lager Difficult?


Lagers are by far the most popular beer style in the world, so it makes sense that most brewers want to have a go at making one for themselves at some point. But when people begin diving into the world of homebrewing and researching how to make one themselves, they'll inevitably come across advice suggesting to steer clear as they can be more difficult to make than ales.

This is something that was always in the back of our mind as we've been progressing on our own brewing journey, and only fairly recently have we attempted making a few different lagers - with (in our humble opinion) great success. Which got us thinking - is it really that hard to make a good lager?

Why are Lagers more difficult to make than ales?

There's a number of reasons that lagers are considered more difficult to make than their ale counterparts. Let's break down some of them below;

Lager Yeasts need to ferment at lower temperatures

This is generally true for most lager strains which need to ferment at lower temperatures compared to most ale yeasts. There's a couple of ways to manage and address this though. First of all, if you've got a fermentation fridge, or other method to manage/control your fermentation temperature, then you're all set. Plug and play temperature controllers like the KegLand RAPT Temperature Controller mean you can turn just about any fridge of freezer into an precisely controlled fermentation chamber, for very little outlay (get a second hand fridge off eBay or other marketplace sites!)

Another option is to ferment at a warmer temperature, and use pressure fermentation to suppress the creation of off flavours that are typically created by fermenting too warm/hot. There's loads of information on this, and with cheap plastic pressure capable fermenters readily available (Keg King Apollo or KegLand FermZilla All Rounder are good starting options), it's very easy to leverage this relatively new fermenting method.

Keg King's Apollo PET fermenter

You could also leverage a yeast strain like NovaLager which has a higher recommended fermentation temperature range compared to most other lager yeast strains, but still gives a really nice, clean lager flavour profile.

Off-flavours are hard to hide

The other cautionary advice when brewing lagers is that there's "nothing to hide behind" in terms of flavour profiles, so if somethings not right, it can't be masked by high hop levels like it potentially could with heavily hopped ale styles like IPA's. There is some truth to this, but in terms of where your off-flavours are going to come from, in most cases it will be from the fermentation - namely temperature control (or lack thereof) which we've addressed in the point above.

There are loads of other steps in the brewing process where off flavours could be developed or introduced, but if you've got some reasonable brewing processes in place, or have made a couple of decent ales without any major flaws, then there's no reason you couldn't do the same with a lager.

Higher yeast requirements

Since most lager yeasts ferment at a colder temperature than ale yeasts, the pitching rates for lager yeast are generally higher to ensure sufficient yeast cells are present in the wort for a healthy fermentation. We previously mentioned Novalager, which ferments at temperatures similar to ale yeast, and this particular strain has a similar pitching rate to ale yeast, meaning a single pack of dry yeast can be used for a standard 20L/5 gallon batch. For most other lager yeasts, typically 2 packets of (dry) yeast would be needed for the same batch size.

NovaLager yeast is a higher-temperature tolerant lager yeast

Extended Conditioning Time

The term lager loosely translated to storing at cold temperatures for an extended period of time - also known as aging, which is what is required by lager yeast in order to condition. This conditioning process allows for off-flavours created during fermentation to be reabsorbed or broken down by the yeast, and generally allows the flavour profile to develop, smooth-out and mellow.

Raising the temperature towards the tail end of fermentation can help kick start this process, by keeping more yeast cells in suspension for a bit longer to help with this cleaning up process. But we don't think this conditioning time requirement should deter anyone from making a lager. We find the same kind of conditioning time is also required for some heavily hopped ales. It can be an interesting journey for your tastebuds to try your beer every day or two during the conditioning period to see how the taste changes and develops.

Hot Take on Brewing Lagers

Here's our hot take on brewing lagers - we actually think they can be easier to make in some aspects compared to ales.

Simple Grain Bills

The grist or grain bills for lagers are generally pretty simple, comprising mostly of pale or pilsner malt. Of course you can include other malts as well, but specialty malts don't play as big of a role in lagers as they do in ales.

Simple Hop Schedules

As with grain bills, the hop schedules for a lager are pretty simple as well. For many lager styles, a single 60 (or 30 minute) addition may be all that is required to get the bitterness and flavour profile you need. Whirlpool hopping, or dry hopping are far less common when making a lager compared to making an ale. The other benefit of reduced hop rates mean they can actually be cheaper to make, especially if you're comparing it to heavily-hopped ale styles that can use several hundred grams of hops for a single batch.

Simple Water Profiles

Water profiles when brewing a lager are generally pretty soft, with very little mineral content being required. Ales, particularly those with plenty of hops will often call for elevated levels of chloride or sulfate to help modify mouthfeel or accentuate hop flavours, but lagers don't need this. As with making any beer, the most important thing to do is remove chlorine or chloramine (use a campden tablet) from your source water. If your water otherwise tastes good to drink, you can make a good lager with it. We don't add any mineral additions to our tap water (aside from running it through a filter to remove chlorine) when making lagers.

One malt variety, and one hop type is all you need to make a killer lager

So, is homebrewing a lager difficult?

In our opinion, no. If you're a brewer and you can make a good ale, then you can definitely make a good lager as well. We've created a checklist below for making a great lager - pretty much all of these apply to making any kind of beer style though, and aren't lager specific

  • Fermentation temperature control (or pressure fermenting)
  • All-grain recipe (in our experience, extract-based brews just don't taste as good)
  • Good water (no chlorine/chloramine)

  • Good cleaning/sanitation practices (for all equipment)

  • Sufficient yeast (as per yeast manufacturers recommend pitching rate)
  • Good packaging practices (oxygen-free transfers are preferable to prevent oxidation)


If you can answer yes to the 6 points outlined above, and you've been toying with the idea of making a lager, then it's time to jump in and have a go. We wish we'd started making them sooner, as we've found they really aren't that difficult to make - and even a super simple lager with only a single malt and single hop variety can give a truly amazing result!

If you're a brand-new brewer it might be worthwhile starting out with a simple pale ale, as they are arguably a little more forgiving, But once you have your brewing and sanitation processes sorted out after even just one or two brews, it may be time to dip your toes in the lager "pool" and see how you go.

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Thursday 2 May 2024

Country Brewer - Irish Red Ale - Tasting Results/Review

We've had this one kegged for some time now, and wanted to share our thoughts on how it turned out.


Unsurprisingly, we have a deep red hue that really needs to be in direct sunlight to be fully realised. It otherwise looks much darker. There's a thick, persistent, fluffy, off-white head that gives plenty of foamy texture to each sip.

We did use whirlfloc when brewing this, so after a few weeks in the keg it's dropped pretty clear, but once again with the relatively dark colour, this isn't particularly noticeable.


Loads of caramel, and cocoa notes, as well as some hints of english-style esters from the S-04 yeast.


With the exception of a small amount of golden naked oats, the grist is entirely made up of Red-X malt. As a result, the flavour is very rich, perhaps a little too much in our opinion. On entry there's an initial hit of malty-caramel sweetness. Bitterness is very restrained, along with the general hop flavour. It tastes very malt-dominated, which is fine for a beer like this. In saying that though, the hop selection is good, with the noble hop varieties used complementing the flavour profile well.

Whilst we still enjoy this one and it is definitely very approachable, we'd probably dial back the Red-X malt and add in some pale malt to balance it out a bit better.

Final Thoughts

This all grain kit certainly represents good value in our opinion, and is a good alternative if looking to make something different from the plethora of IPA's, Pale Ales and lagers. We feel it represents the style of an Irish Red Ale pretty well, though with the fairly strong malt flavours, we find we'll only enjoy a couple before moving on to something else.

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