The Pursuit of Haze

The following guest blog post is by Jim Stiff from BrewTube, Jim is huge fan of New England IPA and thought it would be useful to share some of his learnings in pursuit of creating hazy juice bombs:

 

Making your own beer is most certainly a hobby of dedication. The time to plan your brewday, research your recipe, sample copious amounts “test subjects” and finally dedicate the time on brewday. However for many you can become hooked on the search of excellence on one or two beer styles, constant tweaking between batches of the recipe, getting bottles into the hands of your friends who are “into their beer” for the feedback and again… more research. It can feel like its taking over at times..

Well it’s safe to say that I am one of those who has become  hooked on a style and brew it at least 50% of the time at the moment. The enigmatic New England IPA, over the last few years has become synonymous with the craft beer scene. Its low bitterness, smooth mouth feel, gargantuan amounts of hops and spellbinding hazy appearance has me and many others hooked. It’s a style that laughed in the face of the old guard of beer styles and dank bitter west coast style IPA’s and has become the thing of legend. Then new kid on the block that takes the best of both worlds and brings out something better than anything you can imagine. It’s also a very interesting and complex style for the home brewer as in many ways it shouldn’t work… what do you mean little to no bitterness? Are you bonkers??? Beer should be clear right?

Anyway, this post is about the pursuit of the Haze, the things that have led me to the point of being very very happy with my recent batches. The things to watch out for and the tricks that have helped me along the way. I can’t say this method is fool proof and I’m always working to fine tune my routine. I’m no expert brewer but follow these points and I think you will find you will be on the right path and make some headway into this wonderfully satisfying beer style. 

I’ve tried to break this down into the main areas that I have tried to focus and refine over the last 18 months or so and hope it helps to inspire you to try the same. It’s all about trial and error, critical feedback and optimism that “the next batch will be the one”. 

Water

Now this could be a post in its own right as water chemistry is something that can (and does) take time to learn, master and practice. Again I’m no expert at all but these few pointers have helped improve my beer loads recently, especially my NEIPA’s. There are two main methods which I’m going to touch on when trying to select/create water that’s going to make a difference in your finished beer. This is a very important step because hops can be an expensive element to this beer style and to ensure your investment really gets the attention it deserves then you should make some effort with water. It really does make a difference to the finished beer with hop aroma and flavour more prominent and longer lasting but also when done well the characteristic smooth silky mouth feel comes from the water too.

The first thing you need to do is find out what the water from your tap at home is made up from. You can achieve this two ways, have a water test done by a third party. You send a water sample off and pay for a report to be done and sent back to you normally with recommendations on what to add to the water when making some styles of beer. This is a great way to go as you then know exactly what’s coming out of the tap at home and you can adjust that water for all your brews and different styles. The other way is to look up the report your water provider will post online, most have a section on their website where you can search by your postcode and get a pretty decent place to start. It will not be as precise as a personalised one but a good way to get going with the concept of water treatment. Once you have done this you can then use some brewing software that lets you put in your water report details and then add adjustments with chemicals and minerals to reach the desired levels for the beer style you are making. The second way to make a difference is by using bottled water from a  super market, this will undoubtedly be better than your tap water and is accessible, so a great way to start with water.

I have personally been playing with water this year and found that the three areas I have focused in on to make an impact on my NEIPA’S are :-

1 – Reduce the alkalinity of the tap water to very low levels, I use AMS to achieve this. This is an acid that removes the alkalinity of the water and easy to dose. 

2 – Adjust the Sulfate levels to around 100ppm (using basic table salts and/or gypsum)

3 – Adjust the Chloride levels to around 150ppm (using calcium chloride flakes)

The addition of the sulfate help to bring out hop character whilst the chloride does wonders for the malt flavour which this style does benefit from. You can find some great reading on this topic if you want and there are great calculators to use that help with your planning such as the brewers friend website or brewfather.

Grain

Now you have nailed the water side of things then you need to be a little particular on the grain bill you want and the beer strength, let’s not confuse this with a Double IPA or other strong hazy ales in the same vein. This beer style suites between 5-6.5% so let’s not get carried away or the higher alcohol content could off set the balance.

To start things off you are going to want a nice low colour pale ale malt or lager malt. I personally like to use Heidelberg or 2-row for my base malt. These I find offer high efficiency and low colour and a subtle yet notable malt backbone and sweetness. Now to add more body and haze to the beer we will need wheat and oats, you can use lots of different versions of these two so again have a play around but try to avoid options with higher EBC/Lovibond. These work not only to up the specific gravity of the beer but also they help with head retention and body. I go for something along the lines of this for a 21l batch:

5.5kg Pale Malt

1.5kg Flaked Oats

600g Wheat

100g Rice Hulls

I like things a little stronger and this will see you about 6.5%, but you can adjust the amount of base malt down if you want, based on your preferences. However do try to keep the proportions of oats and wheat roughly the same to ensure you get the body the beer needs.

 

Hops 

 So this is the fun part right? It’s like being in the grown up version of a sweet shop when it comes to looking at which hops to use. We all know this beer is all about the hops and there are so many to choose from that it can become a bit confusing. I have found that keeping it simple to begin with helps and to further that I went with a regional approach to start. No, not regional detectives but a Bergerac Hop variety would be fun to try… I’m imagining notes of chilling looked and string backed driving gloves. Anyway…Back to real hops… for example choosing southern hemisphere hops all together or American all together. Starting with one Hop variety also really helped me develop my taste for them as you can pinpoint the things you like in in each version really clearly. Some good options to go for if you want to go down the single hop style are: 

Vic Secret 

Galaxy

Nelson Sauvin 

Cashmere

Exp 035

Pacific Gem

Idaho 7

 

The best combinations I have used are:

Vic Secret/Nelson Sauvin/Melba

Mosaic/Simcoe/Citra

Citra/Nelson Sauvin 

 

Again though this comes down to personal taste and what you like, so pay attention to what you see on the cans of commercial brews you like, and get a few batches under your belt and play around. The key to this beer really is how you treat the hops, when you add them and how much you use. Some home brewers you will see use a really high level of hops (over 500g) per batch to try and emulate the hop bombs that come out of the revered craft brewery’s but this comes with some risk as home brewers if you are making relatively small batches. The hops absorb a lot of liquid so waste is high and getting the hops out of suspension can also be tricky when using high levels, lets face it whilst we love dank beers no one wants pea soup in their pint glass. I’ve found that around 300g in total should be enough, maybe 350g max. Once you have decided on the hops and quantity then you need to decide if you want to use any in the hot side of things or not. The schedule I have been using lately is a 60 Min addition to bring in 15 IBU’s (work this out depending on the hops you use for bittering and their Alpha Acid % or try using a product like Co2 hop extract), then at flame out chill to 80c and add another 40g in and whirlpool for 20mins. 

Now the next really important part is dry hopping, this is when the magic really happens and if anything from this read stays with you please let it be this. 

You’re going to need to time your first dry hop well, it needs to be at the point when you have a good Krausen developed on top of your fermenting beer. With most ale yeasts that will be around day 2 or 3 and you are using a Kviek strain then it’s going to be around day 1. Now this dry hop charge doesn’t need to be much, around 50g should do it. All we really are trying to aim for here is to get Bio Transformation to occur…. I’m not an expert on this at all but I think it is a reaction that takes place between some of the essential oils and flavonoids in the hops and the yeast. It can alter the flavour of the hops and bring out more fruit esters but most distinctly it creates the much desired opacity in the beer. 

Lastly in this process you will want to add the final big dry hop, this should be around 200g of your chosen blend. It’s important to do this right towards the end of active fermentation, around day 5-7. Also a big thing at this point is that you want to start thinking about the freshness of the beer so if you are able to you should chill the beer to around 14c before adding this last charge of hops to really bring out the best from them and avoid cooking them at a higher temperature. This now needs to sit for around 3-5 days for the hops to work their magic.

 

Yeast

Well as with all aspects on this beer you can go down a few routes. This could be a minefield of choice so I’m going to make some clear recommendations for you but basically you want an ale strain that is low-medium flocculation and medium attenuation. This will again help with the haze and body of the beer as well as leave some residual sweetness behind that this beer style does benefit from. The other option to go down is a Kviek strain as this can rip through the fermentation and impart even more fruity esters when fermented at high temperatures, around 30-35c. Here are some of my recommendations:

Dry Yeast 

LalBrew New England

Safale S-04

 

Liquid Yeast 

White Labs London Fog

The Yeast Bay Vermont Ale

The Yeast Bay Hazy Daze I or Hazy Daze II

Imperial A24 Dry Hop

Imperial A38 Juice

Imperial A43 Loki (Kviek)

Omega Yeast Hot Head (Kviek)

Omega Yeast Voss Kviek 

Omega Hornindal 

 

Packaging

The very final thing that you need to consider with this style is how you will package it for consumption. No one wants to spend all the time, effort and money on a beer like this and ruin it whilst getting it ready to drink. The main issue with this style is oxidisation of the beer. When you expose it to too much air this can turn the beer brown/grey in colour and dull in taste and is heart breaking. This can happen in a number of ways but too much splashing when filling your keg or getting too much hop matter stuck in the bottling wand are the main culprits along with transferring over to a secondary to mix with additional sugar for priming bottles. I’m going to be blunt… kegging this style is absolutely the best way to go, you can always then bottle from keg as needed if you want to give some away (you wont). My main words of advice if you are bottling are to cold crash the beer really really well before hand to get as much of the hop matter to the bottom. Use a good bottling wand that’s attached directly to the FV and not on a hose, cap the beer immediately and don’t over prime the bottles with sugar. I have used around 1/2 a teaspoon per bottle in the past and this works ok. The last thing would be to not get too greedy and try to bottle every last drop as the closer you get to the bottom the more hop gunk will come through the wand.

So there you go, hopefully this will help you on your way if you are thinking of brewing your first NEIPA or have been making a few already and need a little inspiration on what to try next. This style is really rewarding when you get it right, mainly because its commercial alternatives can be a pricey habit. Knocking one up of your own that competes with the commercial versions is far more cost effective and really satisfying. As I said I’m no expert and I’m sure there are loads of ways to achieve success. These tips are the things that have made the biggest difference to my batches over the last year or so and I hope they do the same for you! Happy Brewing!

 

Thanks for Jim for the post and if you feel you have something you want to share or want to write a post for us then please get in contact with us at hello@themaltmiller.co.uk

 

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