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Greg mentioned in thread on the forum that he thought it might be worth me doing a blog post on brewing a good New Zealand Pale Ale after winning Champion Beer at NHC. So here is my best effort at some tips that I have found useful for brewing good New Zealand Pale Ales, a style I've probably brewed more than anything else. Much of what I have learned is down to knowledge picked up from resources like The Brewing Network, particularly the content from Jamil Zainasheff, Tasty McDole and other brewers like Matt Brynildson from Firestone Walker and our own Luke Nicholas from Epic, not to mention realbeer forum members and brewers like Stu from Yeastie Boys and Joe from Liberty. All of these people have great information on how to brew good hoppy beers in general.

New Zealand Pale Ale is an interesting style in that it is relatively open to interpretation. In terms of malt and yeast character, it seems to cover the ground between both American and English style Pale Ales. The important and defining characteristic of the style for me is that the beer allows the unique character of New Zealand hops to shine without the beer being overly grassy, astringent, soapy or vegetal in flavour. At the same time, the beer needs to have an interesting malt character that is robust enough to support the hops and avoid the the beer being harsh, yet still be relatively dry. This makes the beer much more drinkable and sessionable, particularly at lower gravities. An easy mistake to make is to treat the beer like it is an American IPA and make it too bitter and dry. The common cliche descriptor of "balance" used to describe many styles of beers really is important with an NZ Pale Ale.

My recipe is largely inspired by the brilliant Epic Pale Ale in its malt profile, but uses quite a different blend and schedule of New Zealand hops. Luke Nicholas was kind enough to give the recipe out a few years ago on the The Brewing Network's Jamil Show if you are looking for the inspiration. I posted my recipe a while back on the "What are you brewing" thread but I have made a few changes here as the beer worked out slightly differently in practice.

Recipe for Deeble's Pale Ale

19 Litres

O.G 1054

4.4 kg Golden Promise

.55kg Caramalt

.36kg TF Pale Crystal

0.2kg Carapils

I added a little acidulated malt (around 50g from memory-I lost the record of my water spreadsheet) and added 1/2 tsp of Gypsum, 1 tsp of CaCl, and 1/2 tsp of Epsom salts. This was to try and achieve a mash ph of 5.5 using the figures the EZ Water calculator gave me and also to get just enough Magnesium ( around 10ppm) and Calcium (around 50ppm) for a healthy fermentation. Wellington water is pretty soft so I usually add mineral salts for ph and and good ferment.

I mashed in with a protein type rest for 15 minutes at 54, then raise by infusion to 67 for another 60 minutes. I mashed and then lautered using the "Brew in a Bag method".

90 minutes boil

At 15 minutes I added 10g Southern Cross, 10g Sauvin along with my immersion chiller, 5g of yeast nutrient and a very small ammount of koppafloc.

At 10 minutes and zero minutes I added 25g of Motueka and 25g mix of equal proportions of Sauvin and Southern Cross. This comes out 38 IBUS.

The beer was then rapidly chilled to 18 degrees with my immersion chiller within around 20 minutes.

I then rehydrated and pitched one sachet of US-05, which was close to what the pitching rate calculator on Mrmalty.com suggested,  and aerated by shaking vigorously for several minutes. 

I fermented the beer at 18degrees to start with, allowing it to gradually rise. By around the 5th day of fermentation it was at 21 degrees, then raised further to 22. This is to help get a nice clean flavour profile and reduce any acetaldehyde in the beer, which I have found can be a problem with US-05. 

At 5 days, with fermentation almost complete and the krausen dropping, I dry hopped straight into the fermenter 50g of Motueka and 10 g each of Pacific Jade and Pacifica. The beer was then left at 22 to condition on the hops for 5 days. After 5 days, I then purged another carboy with heaps of C02, purged the head space of the beer in the primary fermenter and transfered into secondary and added another dry hop. This was 25g of Sauvin and 25g Southern Cross for a further 5 days. I crashed chilled the beer for the final 2 days of this period and finned with gelatine. 

I bottled conditioned the beer, purging the headspace of carboy with CO2 before racking, along with the bottling bucket I was racking to. The beer was then primed with 2 carbonation drops per 750ml bottle. I do this simply because I have had issues with uneven carbonation when bulk priming and I am not keen on having to swirl the sugar solution through the beer as I wanted to avoid oxygen pickup (more on that latter).

My Explanation of my choice of ingredients and process:


Malt Profile:

I love the malt profile of Epic Pale Ale and think it works brilliantly to support the hops, while having an interesting caramel and biscuity British Malt backbone. The other NZPA's I like, such as Tuatara Aotearoa Pale Ale and Galbraiths Antipodean, also seem to use similar kinds of malt profiles that have enough crystal and Pale malt character to support hops without being too sweet. Epic's Pale Ale's malt profile seems to perfectly fit the NZ Pale Ale style description.

Water: 

I think relatively soft water works well for beers like this and that you don't need to go over the top adding gypsum or anything to highlight the hops. However, I think having enough of mineral like calcium in your water is still beneficial for things like fermentation and having a good mash ph.

Hop Schedule and Combination: 

I find New Zealand hops work best with very modest bittering additions and bigger late additions. This beer uses "hop bursting", where all my hops were added in the last 15 minutes of the boil. This still gives plenty of bitterness but helps preserve more aroma and flavour. I also think the bitterness you get is less grassy and astringent than if you add hops a 60 or 90 minutes. In addition to this, a number of brewers think that you actually get more mouthfeel when you add hops late in the boil. This helps when wanting to produce a balanced but hop forward beer like an NZPA.

In terms of developing a hop combination, I think it is easy for some varieties New Zealand hops to produce rather extreme, unpleasant or one-dimensional flavours when used excessively. You can definitely have too much of a good thing. Too much of a hop like Riwaka or Amarillo and you can end up with a beer that smells like diesel. Too much Sauvin and in some cases you can end up with a beer that might be onion-like, vegetal or even smell like cat pee. Even New Zealand cascade can be very grassy and unpleasant if used injudiciously. 

I used Motueka as my main hop in my beer. I find it gives a really citrus/spice character (lime, orange zest, some tropical fruit) that isn't grapefruit-like in the way that something like cascade is. In addition I used Sauvin in a smaller quantity to add its lovely passionfruit/white wine character to the beer. I also added Southern Cross, which I feel is neglected as a late addition in many beers. It is probably one of the more "normal" tasting New Zealand hops, but has a really nice lemon-grass type flavour with some evergreen and spicey notes. I chucked some Pacifica and Pacific Jade in the dry hop simply because I had a small quantity left over and I thought both hops would add some nice background notes, I wasn't sure what this was all going to taste like together, but I think it produced are really nice and complex mix of lemon-lime citrus, tropical fruit and resinous hop character. I've noticed quite a few really good New Zealand hoppy beers like Yeastie Boys Digital IPA or Epic Mash Up use quite complex and varied blends of hops to do similar things. Experiment to find your own interesting combinations, just be careful not to overdo things.

I also think your dry hopping process is really important when using New Zealand hops. They seem to be grassier/more vegetal than many American hops are. I think the key thing is to dry hop for shortish periods of time, probably 5 days or less. A brewer like Matt Brynildson from Firestone Walker only dry hops for 3-4 days to avoid grassy flavours. I think you are better to use multiple dry hops, as a number of breweries like Epic do, rather than one massive addition to produce a good hop character. Another critical thing in producing a good beer is to avoid picking up oxygen when you dry hop. Adding some hops before fermentation has finished can help avoid this, as does purging anything you rack the beer into with CO2 if you have it available. Hoppy beers taste bad when oxidised. Top breweries do as much as they can to reduce oxygen pickup as they know it is critical to beer quality. 

Fermentation: 

Having a good clean fermentation is important for any beer. Pitch the right amount of yeast (mrmalty.com is a great start), try and get a good quantity of oxygen into the beer and control your fermentation temp. I like a rising temperature profile that starts low and rises over fermentation, which helps the beer clean up any off flavours in the end. I think there are probably a range of different yeasts you can use for NZPA, including some English Yeasts, but they need to be managed well to highlight the hops and reduce any off flavours. A clean American Ale yeast like S-05/001/1056  or 1272 is going to be the easiest yeast to manage for a beer like this.

Some other tips:

-I think finning is really useful for some hoppy beers, particularly if there is still some yeast in suspension. An overly yeasty beer is going to taste slightly more bitter, muddy and harsh-not great in an NZPA. I fined my beer with gelatine which seemed to help lots with clarity.

-Avoiding oxygen pickup is definitely a good idea. Purge with CO2, keg, or use some sort of counter pressure bottle filler or bottle condition if you intend to bottle to minimise oxygen pickup. I bottled conditioned my beer.

-A moderate to high level of carbonation helps the hops to "pop". Around 2.4-2.7 volumes is probably right. 

Thanks to everyone who was involved in organising NHC and all the great brewers who are part of New Zealand homebrewing community, particularly online here at Realbeer. Any success I have had with brewing I really just owe to other generous people who have been really forthcoming and helpful with information.


Cheers,

Deeble

Views: 19837

Comment by Flanagan on November 6, 2012 at 9:45pm

Lots of interesting practical information there, especially about the dry hopping. Many thanks for posting.

Comment by Ralph on November 6, 2012 at 10:11pm

Nice post and congratulations. I think from memory you won a number of other medals as well! Hey what was your FG on this? 1.012 or so?

Comment by Richard Deeble on November 6, 2012 at 10:40pm

Hi Ralph

Thanks. I didn't actually medal with the two other beers I entered, one of them ended up being a shocker ( I suspect a bottle infection!). I'm actually a bit of slack and I often don't take final gravity readings if I feel the beer tastes fine coming out the fermenter. My friend James has the last 6 bottles as I gave it to him for a party. When I get some back off him sometime this week I'll de gas a sample and take a reading for you. It tasted about 1012 from memory, not sweet at all coming out of the fermenter. I was actually worried the beer might end up undercarbonated and a little sweet at one stage as I had a bottle before I sent it off and it still needed some conditioning. A few warm days at the post office and in transit actually did it heaps of good, my friend reckoned it was much better when he had one on friday.

Comment by Adam Sparks on November 7, 2012 at 6:30am

Thanks Richard, Insightful post... Looking forward to trying the commercial brew once its done!

Comment by Tilt on November 7, 2012 at 9:59am

A great detailed write up on your process Richard.  Thanks and congrats on your win - I'm also keen to taste the Hallertau brewed version.  Its also great you're using some of the less raved about NZ hops - Motueka and Pac Jade and Pacifica are faves of mine but I'll now be trying Southern Cross for more than bittering.

The specifics you've included on your process are great as its these that make all the difference (more so than the recipe in some cases).  Its interesting to hear that your beer was so fresh it was still carbing as you sent it in to the comp - can't get much fresher and a good lesson for maximising hop effect.

A couple of queries if you don't mind sharing some more ...

  • What's your sulphate to chloride ratio in the water calcs?
  • How important do you reckon the protein rest is for the final beer - have you done it without a rest at 54 and was there much difference?
  • How much and what temp do you sparge at in your BIAB set up?
Comment by Richard Deeble on November 7, 2012 at 11:27am

Hi Tilt

The chloride to sulphate ratio was 0.98, so in the balanced range according to Palmer. I only had 59 and 60 ppm for Cl and SO4 respectively, so its still relatively moderate water.

I did a protein rest simply because that is what Epic do for their Pale Ale and I was wanting to closely follow their malt profile. I had read on Kai Troester's wiki that a slightly warmer rest than the standard 122F rest can be beneficial for more highly modified malts.

I don't sparge at all with my BIAB method, mainly because I like saving time. In this case I started out with most of the water for my protein rest, then added another infusion of hot water heated on my stove to bring the temp up to 67. This gave me me my final full volume of water. For mash out, I just lift the bag slightly up from the bottom of the pot to avoid any possible scorching and tie it to the pot handle and heat to 75. After that I dunk the bag briefly back into the wort and pull it out. I then place an oven rack on top of my pot, with a plastic bucked on top of the rack with holes in it that I place the bag in to drain. 

Comment by Greig McGill on November 7, 2012 at 11:54am

<i>without the beer being overly grassy, astringent, soapy or vegetal in flavour</i> and I think we had a run of nearly 10 in a row which had faults of that nature. Again Richard, massive props and congratulations. I can't wait to drink the commercially brewed version.

Comment by Greig McGill on November 7, 2012 at 11:54am

Whoops, I guess HTML doesn't work here...

Comment by Crusader-Rob on November 7, 2012 at 1:32pm

When and where will it be available?

Comment by Matt Smith on November 7, 2012 at 7:24pm

A good read, awesome stuff bro!

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