Don’t mess with A Good Thing

Back in the day, when we were first getting started with this thing, as a home-brewer, I made a nice blonde ale. Hoping that it wasn’t horrible, I took a couple of 6-packs to work and offered them up at an end-of-day meeting.

The reviews were nearly* unanimous: “Hey, this is pretty darned good stuff!”

*”Nearly” because — despite my explaining very thoroughly about how, with bottle-carbonated craft beer, there is yeast sediment and the tasting experience is better if one pours carefully into a glass, leaving the last 1/2″ or so in the bottle — one coworker in particular would have none of that and just took a big ol’ swig of beer & yeast. I say “choices have consequences!” But I digress…

So there I was with a solid Blonde Ale recipe right off the bat! As it turned out, my local homebrew shop didn’t have light-enough malt for the recipe (Crystal-15) and I ended up using a slightly darker shade (Crystal-20), and so I dubbed it a “Dirty Blonde” ale (DBA). Anyway…

Right about that same time, I started feeling all rebellious about the ubiquitous California (West Coast? US-wide? Whatever…) fad of ever-hoppier beers** and had thoughts about making beer that leaned much more toward the malty side of things. And so, the next time I made a batch of DBA, I thought to halve the bittering hops. (Those of you who brew probably know how this story unfolds…)

** I talk a bit about styles & super-hops in this post.

It turns out that bitterness — the hops alpha acids — are kind of important to beer. According to German Beer Purity laws, beer is (i) malt, (ii) hops, (iii) water and (iv) yeast (a late addition — they didn’t used to know that yeast was a factor in beer!), and nothing else. Granted, folks make beer with all sorts of additives, but the point is: from a purist POV, hops is “the other ingredient” that makes it beer; without hops, one just has malt-water. And, while one can make more-hoppy and less-hoppy beer, there’s a point at which too little is not-enough.

I had discovered the other side of the tipping point.

The next batch, I split the difference — 3/4 the original recipe of bitterness. Plus I tossed in a little “dry hop” (which I still think should be called “cold hop”!) to give it a little “Summery” flavor with just a pinch of extra bitterness.

The result: “Ok”, but not as good as the original.

So today we’re making a batch with the original recipe. Actually, we’re using a few of the lessons learned along the way — the recipe is scaled-up to our fermenter size (when we’re trying a new recipe, we do it in a 5 gal carboy until we get it the way we want it, then go up in steps — 10 gal, 1/2bbl, 1bbl, etc. — to make sure we stay true to the vision. So this will be 1/2bbl of original recipe with full bittering with about 1/2 the cold-hops of our previous batch.

We’re feeling confident that we are re-creating Some Pretty Darned Good Stuff! 🙂

Ooo, that reminds me: I need to do a post about some of the beer experimenting we do. “Soon!”

Stay friendly, my hops…

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