Recently, I wrote an article about trying to recreate one of my favourite beers: Sgt. Major India Pale Ale. (Read article here) From all the information I was able to gather about it, I had to butcher the recipe quite a bit to accommodate the ingredients I had in stock. This obviously had an effect on the final product, but this is what I found:
- Original is slightly darker in colour, perhaps around 10 SRM
- IBU level was about the same in both
- Hop aroma was very similar, but the original had a bit more ‘grassiness’ or ‘depth’ to it
- original had a thicker head
- malt body was a little richer in the original
The biggest problem I had with our version was the harshness of the bitterness. I have to admit, it’s been a while since I’ve had a bottle of Sgt. Major IPA as it’s not being brewed anymore. I had saved one bottle specifically for this comparison. It was more bitter and sharper than I remember. I have two assumptions of why ours was so harsh. First, I think the Chinook hops need to be used very sparingly, if at all, for flavour, aroma or dry hopping. Secondly, I thought I would save myself a few minutes and an extra transfer by heating my sparge water in one of the 7.5 gallon aluminum turkey fryers a friend of mine had given me for free. (I usually heat the sparge water in my stainless steel pot and then transfer it to an insulated bucket for sparging while draining into the kettle.) Big mistake. After I finished, I noticed that the inside of the pot had greatly discoloured. This is strange because I didn’t think water would have any effect, but whatever reactions happened, I think it may have contributed to the harsh taste. I’ve been adamant in the past about not using any aluminum pots for brewing, I think I will stick to that.
What I would change:
- use Marris Otter instead of domestic 2 row
- change the crystal 45L to crystal 120L (which I should have done anyways)
- increase the wheat malt slightly
- dry hop with fuggles (as suggested)
I’m happy to have tried a simple recipe using wheat malt to see how much of an impact it has on head retention. It’s good to know, because now I have reference point that I can refer to in the future. I’ve always said, “you learn something every time you brew”, and this is no exception. Hopefully next time, this recipe will be better!
UPDATE: It’s been a month now since I bottled this beer. I was very close to just dumping it down the drain and starting anew. I didn’t need the bottles and was too lazy to dump them anyways, so I just left them in my fruit cellar as per the suggestion of my brewing partner Eric. Excellent choice. The harshness of the hops has mellowed considerably, and although it’s still a highly hopped beer, the flavours have had time to mingle and develop, resulting in a much more pleasant experience. I’m glad I kept it because I think I will enjoy drinking these!
I’ve revised the recipe in the original post if you’re interested. (See it here)