Friday 26 March 2010

14. Dangerously unbalanced session IPA

Did anyone see In search of the perfect loaf on BBC4? I like bread, I make my own and eat a loaf every day. I have met and socialised with a few bakers and have always found them to be good blokes. I won’t go too deeply into it because it’s not really something I should blog about but this programme and ‘baker’ (Director of daddy’s business which will shortly do several lucrative national deals for the supply of bread to large multiple retailers) made me so angry that I had to break something. Why does everyone in food television have to be a Nigel or Nigella? Do only ponces care about what they eat and drink?

This particular Nigel didn’t turn his oven up he ‘rocked it up’ and he referred to CO2 as ‘yeast exhalate’. Yeast being a single celled fungus hasn’t got lungs so using the phrase was stupid as well as smug. I’m sure that the bread his workers make is very good but if people like him start brewing beer I’m going back to the lifeguarding. Sorry if that passage offends or alienates anyone.

(I’ve just broken my office punch bag.)

Anyway I digress. This week’s brew is dangerously unbalanced session IPA. This raises the question of what is balance in beer? Balance according to my dictionary is “A harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements, as in a design”. So the brewer arranges the elements of beer flavour to ensure that they are in a satisfying arrangement. As we all know satisfaction is a subjective concept. What satisfies one may horrify another. I have found that the notion of balance in beer is a fluid one. These days you even hear of double IPAs which are by their very nature skewed towards hop notes and bitterness being described as balanced. Balance, when I was at school was when the taste sensations of sweet, bitter, fruit, dry, sweet etc were equal. If you were brewing a strong beer which was going to be sweet you would use more hops. If you were brewing a moreish session beer with a dry finish you would hang back on the hops to allow the drinker to appreciate the fruit and malt in equal measure.

In new and exciting beers balance is passé, hops, spices, fruit and dark malt need to standout like an African at a BNP meeting. These beers are new and they are exciting but in my experience most palates prefer balance so they are not likely to contribute too much to the history of great beer. I like that because making balanced beers is difficult. A shaven monkey can make a beer which is very bitter/sour/sweet/burnt, it takes skill and training to master balance.

So for my dangerously unbalanced session IPA I am going for brutal hoppiness allied to bone dryness. I am setting out to appeal to the hophead’s hophead and horrify people who aren’t cool and down with it. I’m sure this has never been done before especially not in America, so I can honestly claim to be breaking the mold in brewing and eschewing the dreaded average beer concept. I feel like I am at the top of a ladder looking down on all the other brewers as I push on to new heights in innovation. Check me out!

Malt and sugar: low colour pale ale, glucose

Hops: Phoenix (14.4% α), Herkules (16.1% α), Summit (17.1% α), Apollo (19.5% α)

Yeast: Sharp’s

OG: 1036


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