My favorites beers have all tended to fall into two camps:
- California style IPA’s – heavy on hop flavor and intense
- Belgian Dark Ales- crazy flavors, crazy fruit
The beer that we are really focused on perfecting here in El Salvador is our take on a beautifully hoppy California style IPA. We came up with a really phenomenal recipe and brewed it well in the US. Here we have taken that recipe and used it to learn a great deal about the challenges and awesome pantsness of brewing in El Salvador. Plus we have made some studly beers. Technically we have brewed this same basic beer four times. However one of those was an exercise in going towards a more Belgian style with added coffee and citrus to accent the citrus hops.
So far all of the beers have been really great. And the best part is that by repeating the same basic beer but making changes based on the flavors of the previous batch we have learned a tremendous amount about the unique characteristics of brewing in El Salvador. Every beer we make we learn a bit more, improve our process, fine tune the details and make better beer. It pays to be a beer nerd.
For this our fourth California Style IPA/APA and third version of the core recipe we again made some changes to test new ideas, leverage the things we like and minimize things we don’t like.
A few things we have learned about brewing here:
- The water here is relatively hard and loaded with minerals
- however it is actually less hard than the water we had in California
- BUT the main thing is that the water is loaded with Sulfur, magnesium and Bicarbonates (volcanic)
- That means that the water accentuates the bitterness of hop flavors, needs some darker malts to acidify the mash and tends to produce minerally flavors
- say hello to a cross between Burton on Trent and San Francisco
- You can NOT be to sanitary. the levels of wild yeast here and bacteria is mind blowing.
- We are no longer doing secondary fermenting because the risk of infection is to great
- we are using WAY more sanitizer than we ever have just to stay ahead
- The wild yeast here is amazing and LOVES to ferment
- We feel the calling of our Belgian Lambic and Geuze brothers and will for sure be doing some wild Lambic style beers- Belgian sours and saisson ales we love you
- Temperature control during fermentation is the most critical factor to control
- We have solved it two different ways and will write an article about how each one worked
The most interesting thing has been exploring the effect of the water on the beer flavors. We have done a lot of experiments with balancing PH, adding brewing salts, modifying recipes etc to account for the specific minerals we taste in the water. We do not have our trusty water tester so we only have our taste buds and beer flavors to analyze the water besides PH testing. But every beer we have made has had WAY higher apparent hop bitterness at the same IBU level. So a IPA we brewed in California that was say a 48 IBU beer and was fruity, sweet and well balanced bitters. Here that same beer is a bitter minerally hop bomb. To get the same “apparent” hop bitterness we have had to drop the hop bitters way down to more like 36 IBUs to get the same bitterness and flavor levels. Water is way cool
For this batch we made a full 60 liter batch because we keep drinking all our beer! We already need to move to a bigger system as 60 liters is just not enough. We also decided to do a mostly extract batch and only do steeped grains rather than our typical mini-mash. (this also saved two hours of time) We wanted to eliminate the variable of mashing and in particular we had no more 5.2 PH balancer and wanted to eliminate the PH issue and only taste the effect of the minerals in the water not the alkaline/acid nature required for mashing.
Again here is the overall goal of the beer:
- Appearance: APA style deep golden orange red with depth and a smooth creamy head of fine bubbles
- Aroma: tons of warm and sweet hop aromas focused on citrus, pine and fresh green notes with a solid malty nose and a hint of fruity malt notes
- Flavor: intense but balanced hop flavors with an emphasis on clean citrus, a touch of fresh pine and strong sweet but not heavy malt flavors with good fruity malt notes, a long lingering finish of hops, bitters and sweet
- Mouthfeel: relatively thick and syrupy but with an effervescence and sparkle, refreshing and satisfying at once
- Overall: strong, hoppy, malty, balanced bitter and sweet, lots of citrus and fresh pine notes, hints of apricot and raisin to bring balance
The beer brewed really well. It so far has hit every target we set from O.G. to F.G. to IBUs. It is still in the conditioning fermentation stage in our secondary fermentation room so we have only tasted the unfinished beers, but they are stellar so far. One other experiment we did was t split the same beer into two different fermenters and test two VERY different yeasts to taste the effect of the yeasts. In one we put our favorite yeast which is a Northern California style yeast, CA-05, that is super clean and a bit fruity and very flocculent and attenuates high and fast. it works really well with fruity flavors and accentuates hops well. Then we did the other fermenter with a Belgian style yeast that produces slightly less attenuated and flocculent beers but adds a decadent, slightly earthy and more complex flavor with a touch of tangy sweetness.
The beer is in its second week of fermentation and already the Ca-05 yeast is at the end of the conditioning phase and has met the F.G. target of 1.014 and tastes almost ready to bottle. The Belgian style B-33 however is a MUCH slower leisurely yeast. It is only at a F.G. of 1.020 and needs at least another week or two to be ready to bottle. This Belgian style yeast is VERY slow but produces very complex flavors. We expect the CA-05 bottles to ready to drink within two weeks and the Belgian ones to take at least 6 weeks before they are ready to drink.
But both seem like they will rock. Can’t wait! Viva Cerveza Artesanales!