West Coast Beers: Clarity Amongst The Haze
The Story So Far
As much as we're renowned for our full and intensely hop saturated New England hop-forward beers, we have a massive soft spot for the bitter, clean, crisp and laser guided focus of world class West Coast IPAs. We want to absolutely nail any style we produce at Verdant and perfecting a westy is no easy task! Over the various iterations of the style we have honed in on a very simple malt bill consisting of English 2-row and English crystal. We want these malts to provide just enough support for the huge kettle hopping, but not to distract. The best examples of the style we've tasted have a huge assertive but ultimately enjoyable bitterness that coats the entirety of your mouth and builds sip after sip. They aren't crazy aromatic like the New England iteration, however they are more accurate and truer to the flavours of the hop varieties used.
The powerful hopping in these beers is hot side focussed, and to this end, we've worked hard at layering up the IBU contributions through varietal choice, amount and addition schedule. Hops added at the start of the boil impart a very different bittering quality than if added at the end. Hop varieties bitter in different ways also, some provide a lovely smooth quality whilst others are really rough and abrasive. The trick is finding the right ratio between these. These beers aren't about yeast character. In fact you don't want yeast character at all really. Ferment the beer leaving a crisp dry finish and then bugger off. Mouthfeel shouldn't be too full, more medium to light with a tricky balancing act being played out with water chemistry.
We want these beers to be bright, not murky. A slight chill haze is acceptable, but they should look how they are intended to taste. Clean, crisp, refined...classy. This is where we've been falling short. Although we have been brewing exceptional wort with kettle finings and following this up with accurate downstream processes we have found that our dry hop and rousing techniques coupled with our fancy newish centrifuge has been causing an unsightly haze that we couldn't shift...until in package at which point the ugly flocculation occurs.
Proteins and hop polyphenols are binding post package and dropping out. This is a common occurrence industry wide and usually occurs over a course of months gently settling at the base of the can/bottle/keg with the beer becoming progressively clearer. What we believe is happening is that the centrifuge in its efforts to clarify the beer through creation of huge gravitational forces is increasing the molecular weight of said proteins, which if not removed are clumping with polyphenols post package in a matter of days...not months.
With tomorrow’s release, Welcome U-Turn, we believe we've solved it. We have utilised a vegan fining agent that is added post dry hop when the beer is crashed. This addition clings onto yeast, protein and hop particles and drags them slowly to the bottom of the fermenter. We then transfer from above this sedimentation via the centrifuge at zero degrees at a slow throughput velocity but high rpm bowl speed to drag out the majority of remaining chill haze. The result? A far clearer and more stable westy that meets our expectations aesthetically. We are still learning and refining, but we are pleased with the progress.