Author Topic: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance  (Read 1938 times)

Offline brewmichigan

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Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« on: August 22, 2011, 08:25:54 AM »
Okay friends and brewers, I need some help. I just got back my score sheets from the Michigan Beer Cup this year and once again my IPA received high honors (41.5 this year) but lacked one quality, balance. I hear this time and time again with my beers, IPAs especially. I need some hints, tips, tricks, or ideas on how to take my beer to next level.

What I hear from judges who blindly taste my beer in comps and from people who know me and are willing to give me honest feedback is that I have a clean tasting beer with no off-flavors and tastes great. There's just one thing missing, the malt. I hear many comments about the hoppiness is great and the flavors and aromas are good-great for and IPA but there isn't any malt to balance the beer.

A little background on my setup. I batch sparge using a cooler (bluish-grey color since that matters) and I do single infusion mashes. I usually boil everything for 90 minutes and will routinely do a 2 hour boil if necessary. I like to add 5-10% Munich malt in my IPAs to try and achieve that "maltiness" I am looking for but never really seem to get there. I have tried mashing anywhere from 149-156 degrees to vary my final gravity. I usually reach 1.008 to 1.014 for a final gravity on my IPAs.

If you need any more info before you'd like to critique my process or recipes just let me know. Thanks for all the help!!
Mike --- Flint, Michigan

Offline mabrungard

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2011, 09:48:46 AM »
That is a great score.  Anytime you get into the 40's, you've done well.  I question if the beer actually needs any more malt flavor if it scored in the 40's.  You must have done something right.  Maybe lack of malt was the biggest fault the judges could prescribe. 

It sounds to me that maybe backing off the bittering level might be in order while keeping the flavor and aroma hopping at or above the current levels.  IPA's should be assertively bitter, but is this beer bittering too assertive? 

The other thing could be the water profile utilized.  How high are you taking the sulfate level in the brewing water? If you're above 300 to 350 ppm sulfate, back it down to that limit.  If you're already at that sulfate level, trying backing off another 50 to 100 ppm.  Another consideration is the concentration of carbonates in your water.  Excessive carbonates can make the bittering harsher which may be covering up the malt.   

Finally the malt question.   I see base malt and munich in the grist.  Are there more than 1 other crystal malts in the grist?  I find that trying to create maltiness with multiple crystal or color malts can create a muddiness in the flavors that does not play well in well hopped beers.  A very simple grain bill works best for me.

Enjoy!
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2011, 09:59:58 AM »
My current house IPA is a Union Jack clone.  It uses 14% munich and about 1.5% carastan, and 5% cara pils.

You don't say what the base amlt is, so I assume NA 2-row.  If that is the case, try a different 2-row maltsters product.  Some of the best from the West use Rahr and/or Great Western as base malts.

Yeast selection can influence the malt/hop perception.  What do you use?  The Union Jack clone uses WLP-002/Wyeast 1968 as the yeast.
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Offline blatz

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2011, 10:11:44 AM »
Try it with the base malt switched to Maris Otter - I use that as my house ale malt and I usually score very well in the IPA category (40+)
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Offline brewmichigan

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2011, 10:18:24 AM »
bittering level - In this particular bee, the IBUs were in the 50's so not overly high. And remember, this beer was the latest of many I have made where I have received these comments. I have received them on both very bitter beers, and what I would call, mildly bitter IPAs and Pale Ales.

Water profile - I have a high carbonate water so when I make and IPA I dilute 50/50 with RO water. My carbonates range in the 95-105ppm range during the seasons so I dilute down to <50ppm. I also add sulfate because my water ranges from 30-40ppm during the seasons. I add a few teaspoons of gypsum to the mash to try and bring the sulfate over 100ppm up to 150ppm. I have used the water spreadsheet provided by you Martin.

Malt - I have used many different types over the years. I find pils gives me the least amount of "maltiness" and I don't use it in IPAs meant for a competition just for that reason. I also use a lot of Canada Pale Ale malt and Breiss Pale Ale malt as my base malt for IPAs. I have also tweaked my recipes over the years to use less and less crystal malts. I usually end up with and IPA around 6-8 SRM now. I find I prefer this flavor profile better.

Thanks
Mike --- Flint, Michigan

Offline brewmichigan

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2011, 10:19:19 AM »
Try it with the base malt switched to Maris Otter - I use that as my house ale malt and I usually score very well in the IPA category (40+)

I like Marris Otter but can't shell out over 20 dollars more per bag routinely. I might try that to make an IPA for competitions only though.
Mike --- Flint, Michigan

Offline denny

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2011, 10:29:16 AM »
Water profile - I have a high carbonate water so when I make and IPA I dilute 50/50 with RO water. My carbonates range in the 95-105ppm range during the seasons so I dilute down to <50ppm. I also add sulfate because my water ranges from 30-40ppm during the seasons. I add a few teaspoons of gypsum to the mash to try and bring the sulfate over 100ppm up to 150ppm. I have used the water spreadsheet provided by you Martin.

Do you check your pH after adding the gypsuum?  I add gypsum to the kettle for hoppy beers so it won't effect my pH.  I don't need it any lower, which adding gypsum to the mash would do.
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Offline brewmichigan

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2011, 10:46:08 AM »
Water profile - I have a high carbonate water so when I make and IPA I dilute 50/50 with RO water. My carbonates range in the 95-105ppm range during the seasons so I dilute down to <50ppm. I also add sulfate because my water ranges from 30-40ppm during the seasons. I add a few teaspoons of gypsum to the mash to try and bring the sulfate over 100ppm up to 150ppm. I have used the water spreadsheet provided by you Martin.

Do you check your pH after adding the gypsuum?  I add gypsum to the kettle for hoppy beers so it won't effect my pH.  I don't need it any lower, which adding gypsum to the mash would do.

I do Denny but I need new ph strips because my old ones don't register very well. I need to buy some colorphast strips. Would the ph affect the "maltiness" of the finished beer that much?

Also, because I know my water profile to start, and I use the water spreadsheet provided by Martin, I figure I'm very close to the ph that I should be. Am I making a bad assumption here since I cannot effectively test the ph?
Mike --- Flint, Michigan

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2011, 10:48:03 AM »
bittering level - In this particular bee, the IBUs were in the 50's so not overly high. And remember, this beer was the latest of many I have made where I have received these comments. I have received them on both very bitter beers, and what I would call, mildly bitter IPAs and Pale Ales.

Water profile - I have a high carbonate water so when I make and IPA I dilute 50/50 with RO water. My carbonates range in the 95-105ppm range during the seasons so I dilute down to <50ppm. I also add sulfate because my water ranges from 30-40ppm during the seasons. I add a few teaspoons of gypsum to the mash to try and bring the sulfate over 100ppm up to 150ppm. I have used the water spreadsheet provided by you Martin.

Malt - I have used many different types over the years. I find pils gives me the least amount of "maltiness" and I don't use it in IPAs meant for a competition just for that reason. I also use a lot of Canada Pale Ale malt and Breiss Pale Ale malt as my base malt for IPAs. I have also tweaked my recipes over the years to use less and less crystal malts. I usually end up with and IPA around 6-8 SRM now. I find I prefer this flavor profile better.

Thanks

You call that high?  Man, I wish I had that water!  Flint's water comes from Lake Huron IIRC.

WIth Bru'nwater, I have been within 0.1 pH most times, once was within 0.2.  Always good to check, though.
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Offline brewmichigan

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2011, 10:56:51 AM »
bittering level - In this particular bee, the IBUs were in the 50's so not overly high. And remember, this beer was the latest of many I have made where I have received these comments. I have received them on both very bitter beers, and what I would call, mildly bitter IPAs and Pale Ales.

Water profile - I have a high carbonate water so when I make and IPA I dilute 50/50 with RO water. My carbonates range in the 95-105ppm range during the seasons so I dilute down to <50ppm. I also add sulfate because my water ranges from 30-40ppm during the seasons. I add a few teaspoons of gypsum to the mash to try and bring the sulfate over 100ppm up to 150ppm. I have used the water spreadsheet provided by you Martin.

Malt - I have used many different types over the years. I find pils gives me the least amount of "maltiness" and I don't use it in IPAs meant for a competition just for that reason. I also use a lot of Canada Pale Ale malt and Breiss Pale Ale malt as my base malt for IPAs. I have also tweaked my recipes over the years to use less and less crystal malts. I usually end up with and IPA around 6-8 SRM now. I find I prefer this flavor profile better.

Thanks

You call that high?  Man, I wish I had that water!  Flint's water comes from Lake Huron IIRC.

WIth Bru'nwater, I have been within 0.1 pH most times, once was within 0.2.  Always good to check, though.

Yeah, Flint's water comes from lake Huron through the Detroit system. I called last month to shore up my numbers with the guys at the water plant and he gave me all the ranges through the year for our water.
Mike --- Flint, Michigan

Offline richardt

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2011, 11:15:32 AM »
All good suggestions above, BTW.  We're just trying to help you nitpick a really good beer recipe and make it even greater--that's quite a challenge.  Some ideas:

Increase malt complexity with small %'s of Victory, biscuit, Vienna, Munich, or Aromatic malt
Slightly higher mash temp (e.g.152 F)
Shorter mash 60 min or less
shorter boil (60 min)
Faster chill (might be getting more hop utilization if it is taking longer to chill)
Less attenuative yeast.

Perhaps a little higher sodium and chloride levels to help the malt flavor.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2011, 11:24:25 AM »
First of all, if you've hit scores in the 40s, you're done.  The only reason it doesn't score higher and that the judges nitpicked is because judges are afraid to score anything too highly (i.e., a score of 50 does not actually exist) and they usually feel like they need to suggest *some* sort of improvement.  I know this to be truth, or if it isn't, then tell me what *is* true.  I'm a BJCP Recognized judge myself.  So anyway.... scored in the 40s?  Yeah -- you're done.  No improvements required!

If you want to play around with the recipe, change just one thing at a time and taste it side by side with an unmodified control example.  I like the Maris Otter idea.  Also you could probably kick up the Munich into the 25-30% range if it doesn't turn out too dark for style.  Keep the hops as they are.  Yeast strains are another great idea for experimentation -- split a batch and try dozens of different yeasts if you can and taste them all side by side -- it's so easy to do.  But truly, like I said, you're done.  You're really just splitting hairs at this point, if it's that awesome already.
Dave

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Offline brewmichigan

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2011, 11:28:47 AM »
But truly, like I said, you're done.  You're really just splitting hairs at this point, if it's that awesome already.

I don't want to say it's "awesome" already. I understand that once you hit a certain point you just start nit picking but I really do feel like I have some work to do on it to get it to the awesome level.

I like ideas of more munich and I have also been given the idea of trying aromatic malt in place of or with the munich to amp up the malt.
Mike --- Flint, Michigan

Offline denny

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2011, 11:37:45 AM »
I do Denny but I need new ph strips because my old ones don't register very well. I need to buy some colorphast strips. Would the ph affect the "maltiness" of the finished beer that much?

Also, because I know my water profile to start, and I use the water spreadsheet provided by Martin, I figure I'm very close to the ph that I should be. Am I making a bad assumption here since I cannot effectively test the ph?

It could affect it, but I've found Martin's spreadsheet to be very accurate.  If it says your pH will be OK, it likely will be.
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Hops and malt.... a delicate balance
« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2011, 12:24:03 PM »
I think you need to back off on the gypsum.  My own water is 100ppm sulfate and I could never get a really good malty flavor even with a generous chloride addition to balance the sulfate.  I've since gone to RO water and keep my sulfate down to 50ppm and with 50-100ppm chloride I'm getting much better malt flavors.
Lennie
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