Brew date 27/6/14
This was my entry for The Great British Homebrew Challenge 2014, a competition run jointly by Thornbridge Brewery and Waitrose. The winning entry would see their recipe scaled up and brewed by Thornbridge and stocked in Waitrose stores nationwide. Quite a prize!
The first major hurdle with competitions is deciding what to enter, so I thought hard about what kind of beer might have a chance of success. I figured the beer would have to appeal to a wide cross-section of drinkers and therefore be commercially attractive. So no rhubarb and marmite-infused saisons then. I thought it should also be at least a bit different to any of Thornbridge's current offerings.
I narrowed it down to two possibles that appealed to me; a Belgian golden ale or an IPA made with Vienna malt. As I had never used Belgian yeast before, I opted for the Vienna IPA as a safe choice because I could just use WLP001 yeast and hopefully hit the numbers pretty well.
I wanted to make it quite full-bodied, not too dry and quite dark in colour for an IPA, with a complex flavour so I added a bit of biscuit malt and some caramalt. I decided upon using Columbus, Citra and Ahtanum hops as I thought they would create a good range of taste and aroma, from dank through to floral. A pale ale water profile was used, high in sulphates to keep the bitterness from becoming too harsh.
Again, I went for just three hop additions; at 60 minutes, 0 minutes and a dry hop. The bittering addition was a small amount of Columbus and the big 0 minute addition was 1/3 Columbus and 2/3 Citra, providing about 60% of the IBUs.
I'd been a bit disappointed not to hit the numbers very well when making my last beer, so I put some considerable effort into researching brewhouse efficiency and attenuation rates and such things. It turned out that to end up with a 5.9% ABV beer I would need to collect 32 litres of wort with a pre-boil gravity of 1.046. There should then be 26 litres left in the kettle after the boil is complete, with an original gravity (OG) of 1.057. This should then ferment down to 1.012, giving a 5.9% beer. Quite a tall order!
Happily, this brew behaved itself impeccably and hit every number spot on. Seeing the hydrometer bobbing about at 1.057 after hours of toil was a very nice sight. The pH of the mash was even 5.2, exactly as it should be. It was as though the stars had aligned and everything fell into place.
I bottled with 100g of dextrose, enough to get a carbonation of about 2.4 vols. After two weeks it was lovely and fizzy and tasting delicious. This beer definitely has the best hop aroma out of any I've made, with the Ahtanum quite prominent. The Columbus and the Citra seem to play very nicely together as well. I'm really pleased with how it turned out and hopefully the judges think so too. Fingers crossed!
Edit: They did think so!