Thursday, November 5, 2015

HBC-438 IPA, ie '38 Special

A bit ago, I was reading about a new hop varietal that's still experimental, called HBC-438 (you can read a brief history of the varietal here).  What I read said that it was being released to home brewers for testing, and the characteristics of this hop sounded fascinating (described as stone fruit, lemon, honey, tropical fruit, mint, and herbal), so I ordered 2 oz from Northern Brewer.  The alpha acids are pretty high with this one, so using it for bittering as well as aroma/flavor shouldn't be a problem.

It turns out that NB also has a recipe for The Luckiest Man Alive Pale Ale, which uses these hops...and about a third of each kit goes to benefit research to find a cure for ALS, or "Lou Gehrig's disease".  Brewers are kind of awesome people, aren't they?

Part of the reason I'm looking forward to trying this particular hop is that it's similar to Medusa hops (Medusa doesn't have the alpha acids that the HBC-438 does), a variety I heard about in the spring, and an ounce of which was graciously provided by the good folks at Northern Brewer.  Unfortunately, I lost the initial batch to a cracked fermenter cap, but I was able to use some of what was left with another brew.

Brew Day: 5 Nov 2015

Partial Mash:
1 lb 2-Row malt
1 oz Carapils

*I used the same process for the partial mash that I always use.

Boil (60 min):
1.7 lb Gold LME (@ 60 min)
*I went with a bit more LME this time for two reasons: I didn't want to add any corn sugar, and it was what I had left...better to use it than to waste it.

Hops - HBC-438 (AA: 15.7%, Beta: 5.9%)
7 g HBC-438 (@ 60 min)
13 g HBC-438 (@ 10 min)
7 g HBC-438 (@ flameout)

*This recipe leaves me with a small bag of 14 g of HBC-438 hops (out of a total of 2 oz) to use in a complex IPA that uses multiple hops.

Yeast: Safale US-05

Addendum, 6 Nov: About 13 or so hours after pitching the yeast, the beer is doing very well.  Good activity through the blow-off tube, with some material (not a lot) in the tube and blow-off bottle.

Addendum, 7 Nov: Checked in on the fermenter this morning...after some of things that have happened over the months that I've been home brewing, I tend to check the fermenter(s) on a daily basis...and things are going very well.  There's a bit more activity, with bubbles flowing through the blow-off tube with greater frequency than yesterday.  Also, looking closely at the fermenter, I can see thousands of tiny bubbles flowing up from the bottom of the's very cool to see this kind of positive activity!  In fact, I've been closing the door to the bathroom (the fermenters are all in the tub) and when I go to check on the fermenters, the room has a distinctive aroma of stone fruit.

Addendum, 16 Nov: Dry hopped with 14 g HBC-438.  The brew is doing well...wonderful, orange-golden color, lots of good fermentation activity going on (i.e., the airlock cap was riding high before and after the dry hopping).  If my schedule allows me to bottle no later than 23 Nov, this one will be ready on 7 Dec.

Addendum, 18 Nov: The airlock cap is no longer riding high or floating in the airlock, but I'm not really worried about it and I'm not going to freak out.  I've seen this with a couple of beers so far, albeit not with this yeast.  I'm usually pretty careful with cleaning and sanitizing my gear. I re-used the muslin bag that I put the hops in, and started the way I always do...boiling the bag itself in a cup of water, nuked in the microwave.  After I poured out the boil water, I covered the bag itself in a small amount of sanitizer while I prepped the rest of my gear.  I then put the hops in the bag, and stuffed the bag down inside the fermenter, and then racked the beer on top of it.  I'll give this one a day or two more before bottling.

Addendum, 23 Nov: Bottled tonight, with 1 oz of table sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup of boiling water.  I got nine good bottles out of it...I'm really looking forward to trying this one!

Addendum, 11 Dec: Taste test went very well tonight, very happy with this one.

When I first opened this one, I did a gentle pour, so the head wasn't very thick.  The color is a little darker than others I've done, a dark amber color with an off-white head.  A thick head didn't persist, although there were bubbles left over the whole time it took us to get through the glass.  The second beer I had later in the evening had a thicker head, because I wasn't so gentle with the pour.  In both cases, there was some mild lacing that persisted.

I put my face in the mouth of the glass and caught a definite and pronounced aroma of berries in the nose as the bubbles from the head were bursting.  It was a sweet fruit aroma, not citrus or spicy.

No pine or bitter citrus at all, not even in the after taste.  I did catch what I first thought was cinnamon on the palate, but when I had a second beer later in the evening (no other beers in between), it came across more as something floral mixed in with the malt (from the LME).  This hop is mild enough to allow the malt to be more pronounced.  This definitely one I'd do again as a single hop brew, and next time I'll definitely go for a lighter malt bill, both in color and flavor.

We decided on a name for this one - '38 Special.  The apostrophe is for where the '4' would's silent.

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