A few months ago, I posted a review and recipe for Russian River Brewing Company’s “Pliny the Elder”. I was impressed, and since that time, I’ve been thinking about making up my own recipe for a big, high gravity, profoundly hoppy, Imperial IPA.
I like the grain bill from Pliny. The color is right. And, I like the hops in Pliny too, but I have over nine pounds of hops that I’m trying to get rid of, none of which are those used in the Pliny recipe.
This recipe makes use of three hop varieties: Bravo, a high alpha acid bittering hop (17%) that is similar to the CTZ that forms the backbone of Pliny; Cluster, a noble bittering hop native to California (this was widely grown throughout the Central Valley over 100 years ago); and Mt. Hood, a hybrid variant of Hallertau.
Typical beer recipes call for boiling the “wort” (the sugary liquid that turns into beer after fermentation) for at least an hour. Centuries ago, people did not understand that beer was safe to drink when the water was not, because the water contained all kinds of nasty bugs that could make you very sick, but died when you boiled the water. Normally, at least some hops in the recipe (bittering hops) are added at the beginning of the boil. Later hop additions can be added to impart flavor and aromas to the beer. The overall “bitterness” (or IBUs) of the beer can be computed based upon the amount used, the total alpha acids present in the hops, and the length of time the hops are boiled in kettle (more time means more alphas are released, meaning more bitterness in the beer).
This recipe employs a brewing technique known as “late hopping”. Essentially, rather than adding the bittering hops at the start of the boil, the wort is boiled without hops for most of the time. In this case, I boiled the wort for 75 minutes before adding any hops. Then, to achieve the 102 IBUs (theoretical), I added 14 ounces to the boil at the last fifteen minutes, and another 6 ounces at the last five minutes. Truly, this is an outrageous amount of hops for a 10-gallon batch of beer. For contrast, if you added the same amount of hops at the start of the 90-minute boil, the theoretical IBUs would be 270! [I say theoretical, because the human palette can’t really get more bitterness than 100; it’s really closer to 60 or 70 that we stop being able to pick up that much bitterness].
Why did I do this? Late hopped beers are described as more floral, more tea-like, because the hops aren’t boiled as much as steeped for short duration. After flame-out, I allowed the hops to steep for ten minutes. After fermentation, I will dry-hop with another four ounces.