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:
Well, the Stone Pale Ale that I brewed is in, and man, this is a seriously good beer. The flavours are very balanced, with a definite caramel flavour to it from the generous amounts of crystal malt (19%). The Ahtanum hops are a unique contribution. Even though I’m expecting the signature citrusy flavours associated with American hops, it’s flavours are slightly illusive, as they seem to really blend in well with the surrounding malt body. I’ve always remembered the saying that “if you can pick out one particular ingredient, then there’s too much of it”. They’re in there for sure, they just don’t jump out and hit you in the face. This beer is quite complex for having such a straight forward recipe.
30ppm Ca / 85ppm SO4 / 12ppm Mg / 40ppm Na / 40ppm Cl
These numbers are not very far off my own water here from Lake Ontario, but the sulphate level is a bit higher at 85ppm as compared to mine of 28.6ppm. I’ve noticed that by using Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salt) as opposed to Calcium Sulphate (Gypsum), the resulting enhancement is slightly different. I’m not finding it as ‘harsh’ as I sometimes get with having too much gypsum in my beers. Maybe it’s just all in my head, because sulphate is sulphate, right? Maybe it’s the sulphate/chloride balance? I’m not sure. My point is, I think the water profile definitely made an impact on this beer in the form of added complexity.
I’m happy to say, this first attempt at brewing a Smashbomb Atomic I.P.A. is fantastic. I actually ended up drinking more of it than the original over the weekend. (sorry Peter! we still love Flying Monkeys!) Truth be told, I had a LOT of info to go on with this one. Yes, I did have to actually brew it myself, but, there were a lot of numbers to shoot for, so thank you once again Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery.
I really wish I could just pour you one and have you taste it for yourself and not have to describe it, because it’s just plain delicious. If you like Smashbomb, or citrusy IPA’s, you should definitely brew this and see for yourself. For me, there’s nothing like the Centennial/Citra combo.
I was unsure how my hopping schedule was going to stand up against the original, but it nailed it. Perhaps a tiny addition around 30mins might put a little more in the middle, but it’s not something I missed. My brother in law and I put away a few of these before Easter dinner, and despite trying to, we could only split hairs on the differences.
I am constantly humbled and grateful for the lovely people at Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery. From the kindness and generosity they showed my friends and I when we visited the brewery for my stag, to the inspiring beers they produce for all of us to enjoy. For me, they are simply one of the best craft breweries in Ontario.
Their highly acclaimed Smashbomb Atomic I.P.A. was an explosion from the start. The LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) had a beef with it’s packaging, saying that it was in bad taste and/or violent. [as a side note, the unfortunate tsunami and resulting events in Japan had just occurred around the time it was to be released, complicating the LCBO's decision I'm sure] After some slight revisions to the packaging, Flying Monkeys was able to retain it’s unique style of branding and release Smashbomb to the masses.
I have no illusions that I’m going to be ale to nail this recipe the first time. The complex malt character and incredible velvety hop profile that Flying Monkeys get in their beer is, to me, the pinnacle of brewing. If I’m able to pull a beer out of my keg that tastes like that, it will be the ultimate brewing reward for me. So in an attempt to capture a Flying Monkey, bear with me, this may take a few attempts!
As a demonstration of the enthusiasm and sense of community that Flying Monkeys has, on their website they not only have a description of the beer and how it came to be, but a list of ingredients they use in the beer, including malts, hops, and even the hopping schedule. I’m blown away that a brewery would share this with the world. Continue reading →
After trying Creemore Springs Brewery‘s seasonal Kellerbier for the first time last summer, it quickly became one of my favourite go-to beers. I stocked up as much as I could before it disappeared, but it nonetheless did anyways. Having started brewing by this point, I thought I would take a stab at trying to brew a clone of it. (see article titled “Caveman Kellerbier”) Not really knowing much of the history, or the style at the time, I was lucky enough to come across an article in Brew Your Own Magazine titled “Kellerbier – Style Profile“, that gave me a bit more of an insight. I imagined that this style could vary greatly from region to region, so I wasn’t sure how close to Creemore’s version I would get. After waiting about 4 months to taste the results, I have to say, I am pretty blown away! Here is what I’ve found:
Colour: As you can see from the picture, it’s 95% there
Body: The original has more of a body to it, the difference probably due to us brewing it from extract. I can only imagine how good the all grain version would be. Ours also tasted a bit sweeter.
Head: Our version had slightly less foam to it, again, an all grain version would probably help with that.
Bitterness: The “traditional german hops” they refer to on the can must be Hallertrauer, because the hop character & flavour is totally the same, although I would add a touch more to ours next time.
ABV: The original sits at 5.0% ABV, and even though the recipe called for a higher alcohol content, we came in at 5% as well.
One thing I would change is the amount of ‘oak’ flavour. To simulate aging in oak casks, as would have been traditionally done, we added 4oz of oak chips to the fermenter. It came out a little too pronounced for me. Oak really isn’t my thing, even in wines. Perhaps if it were more subtle, then maybe I could appreciate the complexity it brings. Next time we’ll try it from all grain, I can only imagine how good it will be! I guess we’ll find out next winter!