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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
4.4 kg Golden Promise
.36kg TF Pale Crystal
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:
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.
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.
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.