2013 is coming to a close and I decided to brew several batches of “pale ales” with my saison blend that showcased either hops or the yeasts…or the combination I suppose. This is not the hoppiest beer in that series but this is a nice “pale ale” of sorts that utilizes one of my favorite but a fragile hop, Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand. This beer is dedicated to a good friend who is in the middle of spending a year in New Zealand…I hope you are drinking some great beer Matt.

I love New Zealand hops and this and the next post will be all about them. Nelson Sauvin hops are pretty popular in modern commerical brewing. I’ve used them a few times in the past but they are usually on the expensive side for hops so they are few and far between. Nothing is greater than a FRESH Nelson hop utilizing IPA (probably most notably Nelson from Alpine Brewing Company…a truly great beer) but … things turn bad for Nelson quickly. An old Nelson hop tastes horrible…an automatic drain pour for me. This makes Nelson a gambling hop in my mind. I like how this beer turned out but I’m still cautious it will turn the corner on me at any moment. Also, interestingly the hop profile of this beer accents the Brett c character more than any other hop…more on that in the tasting notes section.

This beer is tentatively called “Snow Day IPA” because it was brewed on the first bad snow storm of this winter…little did I know that the polar vortex would freeze the planet and drive me indoors for nearly a month. LAST BREW OF 2013!!! Bring on the NEW YEAR!


Batch # 2013.22
5 Gallon Batch
Brew date: December 8th, 2013
Keg date: January 16th, 2014
OG: 1.065
FG: 1.010
ABV: 6%
SRM: 4 L
IBU: 65 (estimated)

10 Pounds 2-row
2 Pounds Wheat

Mash Conditions:
Beer was mashed for 60 minutes at 150 F with about 5 gallons of water with a pH stabilizer (5.2) added. Sparge was nearly 6 gallons with a final collection volume slightly north of 9 gallons.

Brewing Procedure:
This ended up being about an 80 minute boil. It was so bitter cold and sleeting the propane tank froze to the ground. I killed the tank as well so the last 15 minutes of the boil shouldn’t be described as “rolling”….I should learn to not brew on severely cold and windy days but the show must go on.

Hop Schedule:
1 ounce Magnum 14.7 @30
2 ounces Nelson 12.5 @10
2 ounces Nelson dry-hopping

Fermentation Conditions:
Fermentation was done at room temperature (70-74 F) with the yeast cake from Recipe #3, which is the “low mash” selected blend dominated by the Saison Dupont yeast strain with low Brettanomyces claussenii character. Fermentation on this one was fast. It was fermenting after a few hours and fell in a few days. This beer was one of the fastest pitch to keg beers yet. The gravity was at 1.010 after 6 days. This beer sat in the fermenter for a little longer than it probably should have but I was busy and couldn’t be bothered to transfer it. Eventually it was transferred to a secondary fermenter so I could wash the yeast. It was kegged after nearly a month in fermenters…this was way too long.

Other than the horrible weather and the abnormally long time in the fermenter for such a simple beer, this turned out to be a rather uneventful beer in all honesty. I’ll be sure to have enough propane next time and try to prevent everything from freezing shut (including the immersion chiller damn it) in the future but otherwise I’m pretty pleased with how this all turned out.

Tasting Notes:
Nelson Pale Ale
Beer is amber and hazy, not as hazy as some of these batches but it is definitely cloudy. Soft white head of small bubbles, lots of lacing, decent levels of carbonation.

Aroma is tropical fruits and Brett…lots of brett coming through on this one, more than expected since this was a low temperature batch.

Beer is light in body, really hoppy, fruity and grassy. Earthiness comes though. Beer is really thin and finishes a little dry where there is a Brett c sort of fruity funk on the backend. It is really nice overall, 4 out of 5 stars from me, not my favorite beer but the Nelson is doing his job and the beer is doing well.

Possible Improvements (for future batches):
The biggest surprise for me here is that the Brett is breaking through in a big way…I guess because of the extended time in the fermenter but maybe Nelson just complements it in such a way that Brett c is easier to detect with this hop profile. I’m going to file that away in really interesting observations and see if it is true in future batches. I will be doing a few more of these NZ hop beers…I have a Moteuka hop saison that I will post the write up in a few days but one thing I’m pretty excited about it is…I have a half pound of Waktu hops….that is going to be a nice beer for sure!

“Don’t drink to get drunk, drink to enjoy life.” ― Jack Kerouac


8 thoughts on “Recipe #5: Snow Day IPA w/Nelson hops (Batch #2013.22)

  1. I always love to see more people playing around with Brett and discovering neat things about it. I’ve only done a couple of Brett beers so far, but they are among my favorites. Brett definitely seems to have a positive interaction with hops, if my 100% Brett IPA is any indication- it really brought out the tropical fruit of the hops (mosaic, falconer’s flight, cascade). I need to make more of something similar soon, but I have dedicated this winter to big beers, including a english ale yeast/ brett L barely wine. I have the recipe and tasting notes up for the IPA, but the barley wine still has another 8 months in the fermentor…
    – Dennis, Life Fermented Blog

  2. Thanks for the comment. I love Brett beers. All of hte recipes on this blog currently are beers with Brett in them, although I’m planning on two beer that will be just Sacc coming up in February.

    I looked at your recipe and I’m excited since this weekend I’ll be using Mosaic hops with this yeast cake…something to look forward to.

    I want to do two high gravity beers this year, I was thinking of a barleywine and a RIS…any advice on higher gravity beers? I’ve been brewing for a long time but I’ve never made something that was >8% ABV…and even that was a long time ago. I have been making saisons and IPAs for several years…never getting much higher than 6%.

    1. For all grain brews, you should expect a bit lower efficiency for starters- I’d keep a pound or two of the lightest DME you can get just in case, but if you just throw in an extra couple of pounds of grain to your mash you should be fine (my RIS I bottled about a month ago was something like 23.5 lb of grain for a 1.110 OG, the barley wine 22.5 lb for 1.100 or 1.105). You want to mash a bit lower than usual to keep it nice and fermentable, then warm up your mash for the last 15 min or so to 155-160F- this will really boost your eff, as barley starch isn’t completely soluble under this temp. If you can’t raise your mash temp, another lb or two of grain is probably a good idea.

      To get the extra gravity, you only really need to scale up the base malt- scaling up specialty malts too can give you a low-fermentable cloying mess quickly.

      Since these are usually beers that age for a while, you might consider bringing up your hop charge a bit, as perceived bitterness tends to drop something like 50% a year (don’t quote me on that number, but something like that).

      Fermentation is the hardest and most important part. Its a struggle to keep the temp in a reasonable range once it gets going, which is why I only brew big beers in the winter. Pitch in the cooler range for the yeast, and pitch big. I like dry yeast for beers this big, because you need ridiculously large starters past 1.080 or so. See the Mr. Malty pitch calculator if you haven’t been there yet.

      Also, you’ll really need a good dose of O2. I just bought a pure O2 system for this winter’s big brew extravaganza, and I try to dose them twice. Otherwise, shake the crap out of the carboy after pitching every hour or so until you see activity. The oxygen is vital to keeping the cell healthy with a strong cell membrane.

      For my first RIS (actually my first brew ever- terrible idea), I pitched a single vial of irsh ale yeast and shook it once to oxygenate, and I ended up with a bubble gum bomb that took forever to clean up enough to be drinkable. If you like, shoot me an email and I can send you my recipes for the winter; I won’t post about them until I get tasting notes, so it’ll be awhile.

      Oh, if you use Brett for these, keep your roast malts minimal. Brett can do funny things with roast flavors (see this post on the Sui Generis Brewing blog.
      – Dennis, Life Fermented Blog

  3. Thanks for advice. I am planning on doing a large starter (read an ESB) before I do the barleywine. I wash and reuse all of my yeast from batch to batch so it makes the most sense to never do a “starter” the way most people do. I just brew small test batches of beer and roll those into the next one. I’ll look into an O2 system…it has been on my list for a while.

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