Monday, January 23, 2017

StarTropics 3.0

What makes a beer a beer? I don't mean to ask what beer is so much as what makes a particular brand of beer that brand.The bottle of beer in my hand is, at some level, chemically different than any other beer with the same label even if from the same six pack. At the professional level brewers work hard to have quality control so that every Budweiser tastes like a Budweiser and every Heady Topper tastes like a Heady Topper, but even then there is an acceptable level of variability.

When I first set out with the goal of making StarTropics I envisioned it as a cross between a red IPA and a Brettanomyces saison. The goal was to get a beer that had a gorgeous red color, tons of tropical fruit hop character, fruit and slight funk character from the brettanomyces, with a finish that was dry, slightly spicy, and refreshing. Over time the goal has been somewhat pared down, first transitioning to a 100% brettanomyces beer to reduce some of the funky and spicy character, then to dropping the brettanomyces all together. Today I am brewing a beer that has little in common with my original design: it is no longer intended to be red, or have a large amount of yeast derived characteristics. So is this still StarTropics or just a New England IPA that uses a hopping bill that I liked? Does any of this matter? Not really, but it's fun to think about the recipe creation process from all angles and sometimes the branding can be one part of what shapes a recipe.

This beer came out almost exactly how I had hoped for: light colored and fairly cloudy with huge hop aroma and flavor and only moderately high bitterness. The beer won (well tied) for crowd favorite at the DC Homebrewers annual BBQ competition where I got lots of great feedback. I likely won't change much about this recipe the next time I brew it except possibly to increase the dry hopping rate.

Doing a tasting after over a month in the keg, the cloudiness and hop aromas have faded some but still an enjoyable beer.
Appearance- Deep gold, moderately hazy, some hop particulate noticeable. Head is large and pillowy

Smell- Tropical fruit and pine lead the way giving - mango, papaya, resin, grapefruit. A little more typical American IPA and less complex than when fresh but still a nice mix.

Taste- Hop flavor - again tropical, light pine, citrus fruit - lead the way, some malt sweetness - not caramelly or malty as just a light sugar sweetness, followed by a moderate bitterness that builds slightly in the finish to fully balance and then overtake the sweetness.

Mouthfeel- Super smooth and silky medium body. Hard to tell how much the oats contribute versus yeast and other grains but the balance works great regardless. Carbonation is medium - the beer has been at 10 PSI in the mid 30s for a while now.

Overall - Even over a month old this beer is drinking very nicely. It's not the best NEIPA I've had (we can't all be Scott Janish) but it's one of the best hop dominated beers I have brewed.