Kicking back over a recent weekend, I found a good time to sit down and compare my Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA with the original.
I had tasted my version before this and really liked it, but had no idea how it would stack up to the real thing. Turns out, they were both excellent IPA’s, but there were some definite differences…
- colour was slightly darker in my version
- foam stability was about the same
Malt & Body
- malt character was more complex and richer in the original
- body was slightly more full in the original
- This is where I noticed the biggest difference. The h0p aroma was more present in mine due to freshness, but it had an entirely different character than the original. Mine had a very dominant ‘rose’ character to it, something I had never experienced in a beer before. I did read an article in Zymurgy recently that discussed how the finished aroma of dry hopping can be incredibly different depending on how much yeast is present in the beer. There are numerous bio-reactions that happen that convert and change the myriad molecules involved in hop aroma. I was in a bit of a rush to get this one kegged to see whether or not it was worthy of a NHC submission, so I did something I had never done before. I added the hops to the beer after primary fermentation had died down, but without transferring it first. For the second dry hop addition, I racked to another carboy. Coincidentally, they had done an experiment where cascade was added to a beer that had been filtered (ie: no yeast) and one that wasn’t (ie: with yeast). The one that had been filtered displayed the classic hallmark aromas you’d expect from Cascade, but the one that still had some residual yeast displayed more of a ‘rose’ character. I’d never heard of that before, go figure. Since I did a double dry hop as mentioned in the recipe, I was expecting a huge wallop of hop aroma, but there wasn’t. It was more of a refined, well blended hop character, but certainly not as bold as I was expecting. I made sure to fill the carboy with CO2 as not to diminish the hop aroma and oils, but in any case, it still ‘mellowed’ out the hops and changed the character of it significantly. It’s not something I’d do again as I prefer the more pronounced hop aroma that comes when you rack off of the yeast first.
- Now that I’ve been dialing in my water additions for some time, I’m starting to be able to pick out the effects they have on the resulting flavour, and in particular, the gypsum. The amount I put in this beer was good, but there was definitely less sulphate character in the original. After listening to a few podcasts with Matt Brynildson on The Jamil Show’s Can You Brew It, I’ve gained more insight on his brewing process at Firestone Walker, and one of the things he mentioned is that he’s not overly fond of ‘burtonizing’ the water. Although I do see a benefit from adding gypsum to highly hopped beers, I tend to agree with him that less is sometimes more.
I wouldn’t say that I cloned Firestone Walkers Union Jack IPA in this version, but I did end up with a stellar IPA that I’ve been very much enjoying, and one that has some of my beer friends raving. I will definitely be making this beer again, with a few tweaks to the dry hopping to see if can coax out more aroma from those delicious hops.