Bringing Union Jack IPA to Canada; comparing my version to the original…

Uinion Jack IPA

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…

Appearance

  • 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

Hops

  • 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. Continue reading

The 2013 Ontario Brewing Awards…

OBA

After recently receiving my certification as a “Recognized” BJCP Beer Judge, I had the chance to judge at my first competition, the Ontario Brewing Awards. It proved to be a great experience as I got to sit with more seasoned judges at the Beer Academy and go through some of the amazing beers that are coming out of this province. On the first of two nights we judged the Honey/ Maple category and the Amber Ales. On the second night we judged the Cream Ale category and the final round of the American IPA’s.

Beer Academy

Last night was the Award ceremony at the beautiful Gladstone Hotel on Queen St. West. I was very eager to see which beers stood out as being the best of the bunch. Some of them were surprising, others were not. It was also great to see some new up and coming brewers/breweries make their mark.

If you haven’t tried some of these beers, maybe you should!

Congratulations to all of this years winners! Continue reading

Brewing a west coast classic: Firestone Walker’s Union Jack I.P.A….

Union Jack IPA Firestone Walker is not a name you hear too often up here in Toronto. We kind of live behind an iron curtain of sorts when it comes to the amazing selection of craft beers in the United States.

As my interest in the American craft beer scene deepens, I’ve been hearing more and more about them. It seems like they have something very special going on out there in Paso Robles, California. For starters, they are the only brewery in North America that uses a “Burton Union” style fermentation system, aptly titled the “Firestone Union“.

Of their many award winning beers, one has become a classic example of the west coast style IPA, Union Jack IPA. I’ve been reading Mitch Steele’s IPA book and For The Love of Hops by Stan Hieronymus recently, which has got me very inspired to brew some heavily hopped beers. Lucky for us, in both books, the brewers at Firestone Walker have been kind enough to let us in on how they make it.

First, let’s hear what Firestone Walker’s Brewmaster, Matt Brynildson, has to say about Union Jack IPA:

What I found most interesting about this recipe was Continue reading

Welcome to Brauhaus… a celebration of homebrewing in Toronto

Brauhaus2_GenericToronto’s beer scene is exploding at a furious pace. Beer related events are happening all across the city. Most of them are duly celebrating the commercial breweries, but that is not the whole story. Homebrewing is taking Toronto by storm, and few of these events, as of yet, have celebrated this burgeoning homebrewing scene. Brauhaus is here to change that.

Founded by Doug Appeldoorn, Crystal Luxmore, Scott & Nicole Stewart, and Carlos Santos, Brauhaus was created to celebrate homebrewers and to introduce people to the amazing beers that are being brewed in people’s kitchens and backyards in and around the city. They are a wonderful group of people who are passionate about their beer and are working hard to spread the gospel to all who will listen.

Homebrewers by nature push the envelope in ways that bigger brewers may find difficult, due to financial restrictions and/or the potential loses involved. Throw a bunch of strange herbs or fruit in there? sure! Throw 1/2lb of hops in at 10mins? sure! Use up some pumpkin from the fridge? Well you get the picture…

Brauhaus GlassI had the honor, along with my fellow homebrewers, Zack Weinberg of Toronto Brewing, Brad Clifford, now head brew master at Get Well Bar, and Richard Sigesmund, to pour my Muddy York Porter and Hoptomology Pale Ale at the first inaugural Brauhaus this past November. We all had a blast sharing great beer, and meeting lots of new friends who share the common love of our favourite beverage.

To find out what Brauhaus has in store for future events, you can become a member by joining here.

So get out there and experience the forefront of home brewing right here in Toronto!

Cheers!

 

So how did our Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout Clone turn out?

Samuel Smith'sWell, the temperature has definitely dropped here in Toronto, and winter has  arrived after much delay. At this time of year, a look in my beer cellar has me seeking out the darker side of the spectrum. In particular, a nice dark stout. That would do the trick nicely to warm up my cold bones. Just so happens I have the Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout clone myself and fellow homebrewers David Thompson and Peter Caira brewed back in November.

Question is, is it any good?

As you will recall from the original post, we tried out WhiteLabs’ Platinum Series Yorkshire Square yeast which we had hoped would bring out a complex yeast character reminiscent of Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. We also attempted to mimic the water from North Yorkshire (or at least our best estimate of it’s make up) with generous amount of chalk and gypsum.

Tasting Results

This time around you won’t have to just rely on my opinion, Peter & David, both avid, award winning homebrewers in their own right, have given us their opinion on our collaboration brew.

Hoptomology:

Straight out of the gate it was evident that there was a massive yeast/chalky character. To me it was pretty overwhelming. My guess it’s from the water additions that we added to the boil and the unique character of the Yorkshire Square yeast. The original has a very subdued yeast presence compared to ours. There are so many factors affecting fermentation, that it would be incredibly difficult to get it exactly as Samuel Smith’s does; open fermentation in slate tubs, pitching rate, oxygenation rate, temperatures, etc. The reason I’m citing this is because yeast performance and the resulting flavour characteristics are dependent on these factors. Perhaps we aerated the wort too much, which brought out a greater amount of esters? Over pitched? Underpitched?
Another thing I noticed is that it’s not as full tasting as the original, and it lacks the rich, chocolatey flavour. There is a touch behind the chalky/yeast character, but it pales in comparison to Samuel Smith’s. I thought for sure with all those oats and minerals in the water that it would have a much bigger mouthfeel, but it doesn’t. Then again, we did mash low at 150F. Next time I’d like to mash higher and see how much it changes things. The head didn’t last as long as I’d hoped for either.
 
David Thompson:
 
I have found that the estery quality has subdued a bit; gone is the initial slight banana notes, but has developed into a pleasant fruityness.  It’s nice drinker for sure, but misses the rich chocolately notes of the real deal.  Not sure how to quite account for that; use some brown malt or pale chocolate?  Either way it’s fine beer.

Peter Caira:

Everyone who’s tried it says something like “this is mild for a stout / I could drink that all day” and in one case, a well-informed friend of mine asked if it was a schwarzbier! When I let a pint warm up a bit I get some faint notes of raisin or fig but very subdued.  Roastiness is also in the background there but again, very subdued.  Mouthfeel is nice – I like the level of carbonation and the oatmeal certainly smooths things out.  Aroma is mostly roast/nut quality but again, subdued.

Conclusion:

All in all I’d like to try this one again. I’d omit the water additions, bump up the mash temperature, and try a more standard yeast like White Labs 002 – English Ale. Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh on my assessment of this beer, as David & Peter enjoyed it. Although I thought we had made an honorable attempt at cloning Samuel Smith’s Original based on what we knew, I don’t think we succeeded this time around.

Cheers!