I returned home from Norway yesterday. I decide to commit sacrelige by trying one of my Hop Paradigm Shift IPA's. Its only been bottled for 4 weeks so the melding process has just started. At the moment my initial impressions are as follows.
The colour is extraordinarily light.
Carbonation is good. Enough to pop up a nice head but not overly fizzy.
Woody overtones(too much but it is early days).
Slightly sweet taste and a good touch of alcohol(think Duvel balance).
Clean taste but ever so slightly cloying(again, think duvel).
Refreshing, Spicy and Bitter with LARGE Floral bouquet.
There is an awful lot going on in this glass for a single malt few hop beer.
Reduced head remains to bottom of glass.
This leads me rather neatly onto the reason for not choking on a One month bottled 200IBU IPA. Simply put its all thanks to the brewing process of First Wort Hopping.
When i first started brewing I used to hop in the usual style of adding X amount of hops to the boiling wort and then adding my late aroma hops at the end over the final fifteen minutes. This was fine but the bitterness achieved with this style of hopping is massive and means in IPA's the beer is not accessible for around 4 months at the very earliest(trust me i tried valiantly). FWH'ing on the other hand has us add large quantities of hops to the kettle prior to commencing the run off from the mash tun. This means that the hops are not hitting an instant boil but instead are brought slowly up to temperature and have a long warm soak before boiling takes place.
Initially when i read about FWH i though this had to be a a snake oil idea. Nonetheless, in the interest of developing my own brewing knowledge i decided to give it a whirl a few brews ago. I quickly realised that FWH does indeed work and makes for a much smoother hop profile within the beer. I did think that there may have been a placebo effect going on. I no longer think this, my reasoning is that this beer would be in no way accessible after a single month in the bottle if it had been 'boil& last15 minute hopped'. I vividly remember how a mere 130IBU 'normally' hopped beer tastes after a month in the bottle!
There is a link below to the article i first read regarding FWH and its benefits.
If you are using Beersmith software, and if not, why not? :). Start a new recipe(or adjust an old one). Double click on one of the hop choices in your recipe. A box will open, look for the 'hop use' drop down box and click on it. You can now choose FWH. This process is right up there alongside the 'initial big steps' i made at the beginning of brewing. It does cost a bit more in Hops but if you can buy a decent volume of hops at a good price i think you should try it out. I'll be interested to hear from anybody on their thoughts on First Wort Hopping.
My next venture into the land of IPA's is going to be a darker IPA with simply huge amounts of Amarillo, Simcoe and a C hop or two in it. I may even allow myself some CaraMalt and a touch or two of crystal! ABV is going to be limited to around 4.5 to 5%. I am hoping to boost the body and make it appear stronger using mostly Munich and Wheat malt. I'll be brewing that one in a couple of weeks. Any name suggestions much appreciated.