I first brewed a Belgian session IPA (a la Raging Bitch but toned down) in my first year of brewing as a birthday gift to my father. He liked it so much that he has regularly asked if I plan to re-brew it ever since. Today I finally decided to give it a go using a similar base recipe but converted to my current all grain setup and substituting hops as needed to use what I had on hand (Nugget in place of Warrior).
Brew Day (9/26/15)
~9 Brix (~1.035 gravity) pre-boil.
Boiled for 45 minutes, cooled to 80 degrees in under than 30 minutes with my new immersion chiller. A huge improvement over my previous ice bath times of an hour plus.
11.5 Brix (1.043 gravity) post-boil.
Wort split between two 3 gallon better bottles. One carboy was moved to my chest freezer at 45 degrees with the temperature controller set to 65 to allow for slow cooling. The other carboy was left at room temperature around 68 degrees.
Fermentor at room temp bubbling away, the one in the chest freezer is just barely starting to get going around 55 degrees
Both batches fermenting vigorously, fermentation chamber up to 60 degrees.
Dry hop blend added to each carboy.
I didn't notice a large difference between the two batches and didn't have any 3 gallon kegs available so I decided to blend them together into a single 5 gallon keg. PSI set to 30 for 2 days, then will drop to 10.
Appearance: Pours with a large head that lasts for a long time leaving thick foam on the sides of the glass as it slowly falls. Color is a nice shade of copper with just a touch of cloudiness and some nice carbonation bubbles. All around a pretty good looking IPA.
Smell: Floral and slightly grassy hop character mix with sweet and stone fruit-y yeast and malt characters. There's also little bit of bread and just a touch of phenolic spice. Could use a more pungent and more interesting hop aroma.
Taste: Dry and mildly spicy on the tongue with just moderate hop flavor but fairly high bitterness on the end. The overall impression is decidedly more bitter and spicy than the fruity and pungent flavors I was aiming for.
Mouthfeel: It took a while for this one to carbonate correctly but it's now at a solid level. The beer is unsurprisingly dry, but with the high bitterness it is a little too attenuated.
Overall: Like a lot of my recent IPA's this one falls in the drinkable but not very good category. The hop flavor and aroma are disappointing and I think the yeast would have done better at a higher temperature in order to bring out more fruity esters and make it feel more "Belgian" instead of just being dry and spicy. I am happy with the color and malt profile.
It's hard for me to tell exactly what's been wrong with my past few hoppy beers. I probably need to evaluate every aspect: the ingredients including the type, quality, and age of hops being used and the processes including how and when hops are added in the boil, steep, and dry-hop. For example: I haven't been weighting my dry-hop bags, could that be limiting the ability for the flavor to come out or increasing the oxidation rate?
For this batch I'm going to add an ounce of Amarillo hops to the keg to try and improve it, though I doubt it will get above drinkable.