This is one of those beers that straddles the line between saison and “Belgian IPA”. I have a considerable amount of citra left so I have to a make a few beers, I’d hate to waste it, plus it is one of my favorite hops. I am not exactly sure which harvest these hops were from, I thought the most recent but now I’m doubting that (see below). This was meant to be similar to Recipe #1 – Citra Saison from the genesis of this blog. This isn’t a repeat (different malt, different hop schedule) but I wanted to draw some attention to this first post since there are several hundred new people following the blog and I will make a direction comparison to that beer at the end of this post.

It isn’t hard to make a good beer using this hop. I fell in love with this hop originally when I had Kern River’s Citra double IPA…one of the beers that put Citra on the radar. Now breweries like Three Floyds in Indiana drive citra’s popularity into the ground with their Zombie Dust pale ale. Locally, just about every brewery utilizes citra hops in pale ales or IPAs….it is a no brainer. Never has a hop appeared on the scene and as quickly seized a place on top of the pile. Hops like this is one of the reasons I search so hard for those experimental hop varieties (see Azacca and Experimental Pine Fruit)…hoping to find the next “it” hop. Amarillo had a similar explosion but nothing has been as successful as citra in recent memory. In case you are brand new to beer / homebrewing / or just woke up from a coma and haven’t heard of this hop…go get some or a beer that uses some…you are missing out.

Ultimately, I set out to make a citra forward bomb of a beer using my house yeast blend. I missed that goal (see below) but I landed on a great beer nevertheless. This beer serves as a reminder to me that no matter how many times you brew, there are “mistakes” to be made but you can still end up with a great beer, even if you miss your mark.

Batch # 2014.05

5 Gallon Batch
Brew date: March 15th, 2014
Keg date: April 2, 2014 
OG: 1.065
FG: 1.010
ABV: 7.2% (estimated)
SRM: 3.7 L (estimated)
IBU: 88 (calculated)

10 lbs 2-row
2 lbs wheat

A little more wheat in this one than before.

Mash Conditions:
Mash with 4 gallons of water at 150 F for 1 hour. Sparged with about 6 gallons of water at around 160 F (ran out of gas heating the sparge water, that’s the reason for the low sparge temperature). A pH stabilizer (5.2) was added to the mash water, nothing was added to the sparge water. Water was commercially distilled water.

Brewing Procedure:
Wort was brought to a boil quickly but it was windy and I had a hard time keeping the rolling boil going. The overall time of the boil was 80 minutes, other than the strong winds there was nothing to note.

Hop Schedule:
1 ounce of Columbus (AA% 15) at start of boil (80 minutes total)
2 ounces of Citra after 65 minutes (15 minutes total)
2 ounces of Citra (AA% ) at 75 minutes (5 minutes total)
2 ounces of Citra (AA% ) dry hopped at kegging

All hops are pellets.

Fermentation Conditions:
Yeast from Azacca hop saison was used for this batch, about 1/2 the yeast cake from that beer was pitched. The fermentation took off in a few hours and continued for several days. The beer started to clarify after about 2 weeks, the gravity reading at the time was 1.010…so it was finished. The beer was transferred to the corny keg and dry hopped after three weeks in the fermenter.

Other than the bad weather on the brew day, this beer was well behaved at every step. I cannot express the joy I feel now that winter is behind us and brewing can be enjoyable from start to finish again. Of course I can’t chill my beer by placing the kettle on the ground now…but I still prefer spring, summer, and fall to winter. Although, I am considering upgrading my chilling process this summer, long chilling times and wasted water will motivate me to make that a reality.

Citra Saison 2Tasting Notes:
Beer served in one of those new IPA glasses, for some reason. Beer is yellow to light amber with some haziness, nice white head, decent retention. Nice lacing on the glass, moderate carbonation.

Aroma is hoppy and a little sweet. The yeast cuts through more than I expected. The level of the citra / passionfruit aroma is lower than expected. It is still a nice aroma but maybe about half the total I wanted / was expecting.

Beer is light in body, nice and soft on the palate with a clean finish, a nice beer overall. Again, the hop presence is more subtle than I hoped. I can tell it is a hoppy beer but it is not the hop bomb I planned on. Overall, the soft bitterness and nice fruit character from the hops that are there are really clean throughout…I’d have this again for sure, I’ll have no problem finishing this keg myself. I missed the mark on this one for some reason and landed on a really nice saison. There are worse things for sure.

There is some fruitiness to the nose, a mild bitterness on the back end, pretty hoppy just not citra hops. I still love the beer and I’ll drink it, easily.

Possible improvements (for future batches):
This beer turned out less Citra forward than I hoped, and due to a few conversations, it could be that last year’s harvest wasn’t as fruity, the hops may be old, or I might have not treated them with the amount of respect they deserve. I keep them in vacuum bags but who knows what could have gone wrong. While this beer tastes fine, easy drinking and wonderful, I wish the hops shined through more.I think in general, I should start fermenting really delicate hop forward beers in corny kegs so I can purge all the oxygen out of the fermentation chamber and they can ferment in the dark. I use clear carboys for all of my fermentations so I do nothing to prevent “light struck” hops…I do need to address this eventually. A friend of mine uses corny kegs for all of his hoppy beers and recommends it. I will look into it and get back to you. All of that being said, I don’t think the hops in any of the hoppy saisons are oxidized or taste “skunky”….maybe the Experimental pine fruit a little but some hops just have that character…nevertheless, something to keep in mind when dealing with hoppier beers.

Upcoming brews:
There is a lot coming up. Currently in fermenters are Mosaic / Simcoe Saison, Paradoxus Ale (new yeast species), and Hibiscus Brett saison (more on those soon). There are also multiple “sours” in carboys, so more posts on those coming up. In addition, it is spring and harvesting of dandelions has begun, hoping to repeat and elaborate on last year’s Dandelion saison made with Brett c. In fact, now that the garden is growing, we have several flower beers to look forward to including chamomile, marigold, dandelion, and yarrow saisons…these will be done in series like the experimental hop saisons. Lemon Basil IPA is on deck for brewing and I’m thinking about doing a larger stout and dip my toe into barrel aging for the first time…we shall see. I’ve been researching how to make smoked malt at home…if anyone has any advice I’d love to hear it. I’ll be using my Bourbon Barrel smoker and some special B malt I picked up a few weeks ago, but that means the first DIY posts are going to start going up on the blog this spring, also there will be a smoked beer in the future.


“I would give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety.” – Shakespeare, King Henry V



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s