• We have a new forum and it needs your help! Homebrewing Deals is a forum to post whatever deals and specials you find that other homebrewers might value! Includes coupon layering, Craigslist finds, eBay finds, Amazon specials, etc.

Achieving a silky/pillowy/creamy mouthfeel (a la Hill Farmstead)?

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

kaz4121

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2010
Messages
543
Reaction score
76
Location
USA
So I had my first Hill Farmstead experience on tap last this past weekend (What is Enlightenment? and Citra Single Hop). Amazing.

Anyway, besides the incredible balance of these hoppy beers, I was most intrigued with the mouthfeel. It was so soft and pillowy. It's hard to even explain, actually. Just a frothy creaminess that enhanced the drinking experience ten-fold.

Truth is, I've had very few hop-forward beers that have such great mouthfeel. And I'd like to pick the brains of HBTers who may be able to help me enhance my own hop-forward beers to achieve something like HF.

Now, there's certainly more than just one variable at play here. I know HF is very secretive about their recipes, process, and especially water. But I've tried the c-pils and flaked oats route previously in my IPAs, and they enhance mouthfeel, but do not even sniff the likes of the HF beers (obviously).

Do you think it has more to do with ingredients or water chemistry? Any ideas or suggestions would be much appreciated!
 
Last edited:

Quaker

Beer Missionary
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 4, 2011
Messages
1,053
Reaction score
135
Location
Burlington
I find the same thing with Perennial's beers, so I sent an email asking them what was at play to achieve it. They responded with bottle conditioning. They started it about a year prior and were also ecstatic with the results.

I mostly keg, so that didn't help much. I have started shooting for lower carbonation on many beers on tap, and that has resulted in a smoother, creamier, tight foamy head.
 

babcoccl

New Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2015
Messages
4
Reaction score
2
I was at Hill Farmstead this weekend and pondering the same thing myself (actually enjoying the Citra Single Hop right now).

Shaun Hill describes his goal when brewing is creating "rounded, polished" beers with no sharp edges (some Beer Advocate article). I think this roundness ties very close to what we perceive as mouth feel. I would personally say that 9 out of 10 high IBU PA or IPAs I drink have what I would call "sharp" edges and in these beers any mouthfeel is really blown away by the edge.

That being said things that will improve "smoothness or creaminess" in mouth feel are:

- Flaked oats
- Flaked Barley
- Some yeast strains (Wyeast 1450)
- Any wheat
- As said by Quaker, bottle conditioning for the perfect amount of time

When I was there I also observed that any keg that was changed out was immediately sampled and "quality checked" for taste. I don't think this was merely the growler filling looking to maintain a buzz but a legitimate quality check that may lend creedence to the perfect amount of conditioning.

Also, they were only using CO2, no nitro anywhere in sight.

Edit: When tasting the Citra single hop I'm also realizing that the beer might not actually be (what I would consider) fully carbonated. To describe it I would almost say that the CO2 bubbles are "smaller" than what you might find in a beer out at the bar. Not as fine as Nitro mind you but I'm not getting any CO2 "sting" like that you might find in a highly carbonated soda for example. You get the bubbles when you initially taste the beer but they quickly dissipate and the head after sitting for 20 minutes is quite meager.

Edit 2: Also, the Citra Single Hop is super cloudy, like weizen level cloudy, with a really white head when you abusively dump it out of the growler. If it was a little more orange (rather than yellow) and you asked me to identify it visually I would say a weizen.

Last Edit I swear: Speculation thread
 
Last edited:
OP
kaz4121

kaz4121

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2010
Messages
543
Reaction score
76
Location
USA
@Quaker - I've heard bottle conditions creates "finer" CO2 bubble (or at least that impression), but I've had bottle conditioned beers that were not nearly as pillowy as HF (think SNPA). It may be a factor, but I think it would be a minor one.

@RM-MN - the beer was not on nitro. Regular CO2. Oldsock recently posted that "low dissolved carbon dioxide tends to mute aromatics, so I shy away from IPAs served this way (which seem to be a popular choice)." So somewhat doubtful HF uses nitro in any beers, especially since they were super-fragrant, especially for what they call Pale Ales.

@babcoccl - I have tried wheat and flaked oats in my standard IPA. It has definitely helped, but it seems like I'm not there yet. I've also used hop-bursting and FWH to try to take away the sharp astringency that I despise from so many commercial IPAs.

Low carbonation could definitely be a factor, but I've had cask IPAs that weren't as pillowy either. So it can't be the sole reason.

I've been scouring the web for any info, but it seems like this question has been asked many time, even to Shaun himself (http://www.reddit.com/r/beer/comments/1cea2d/i_am_shaun_hill_brewerowner_at_hill_farmstead/), to which he said "...it has to be a result of many, many factors..."

As I said initially, I think it is a combination of things. So far this is what I've (potentially) gathered:
  • specialty grains (oats, wheat, etc)
  • higher FG (as a result of higher mash temp of 156ish)
  • higher calcium chloride levels
  • lower carbonation levels
  • natural carbonation vs forced carbonation
  • dialed in pH at all levels of brewing

I am brewing my house IPA in a few weeks and will do a bit more research and make a few changes to my process to see if this improves. Any other suggestions would be helpful. I'll share whatever information I find!
 

Callacave

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Oct 5, 2012
Messages
349
Reaction score
95
Location
Atkinson
First off, Hill Farmstead is THE BEST beer in my humble opinion. I'm possibly heading up there again this weekend. Luckily my wife is from the area, and she has family that we visit.

I've chased that mouthfeel dragon for a while. Trying to figure out what Shaun is doing to achieve this amazing mouthfeel.

I've used a small amount of gypsum with a big amount of CaCl. I think somewhere in the low to mid 200 ppm range, along with higher final gravity readings, and I think I come close at times, but at other times I still think I'm so far away. I've also used WY1318 which is reported to be what he might use.

There's definitely a soft, pillowy mouthfeel, and the carbonation feels soft, but also falls off the tongue quickly. It's freaking amazing. It's got to be a combination of many factors like what's already been discussed here, but we're obviously still missing something.

It's been a little while since I've been up there, so I need to get a taste of his beers again to remind myself if I'm getting close to what he's doing.

I hope we can keep this discussion going because there needs to be more of it. Shaun is making the best beer in the world, and we'd all benefit from learning things from this.
 

bierhaus15

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 4, 2008
Messages
1,901
Reaction score
370
High finishing pH, moderate to hard water, high sodium, decreased organic acid production... over-pitching your yeast, and your well on your way to pillow-y, airy mouthfeel.

Easy experiment. Dissolve a bunch of cacl2 in a really hoppy beer. Taste. Then do the same with sodium bicarbonate. Taste. See a trend.

Twenty years ago you'd learn at Seibel that pillow-y, airy mouthfeel was indicators of bad brewing practice. Now we add a ton of hops to pillow-y beer and suddenly its great. How things change.
 

Callacave

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Oct 5, 2012
Messages
349
Reaction score
95
Location
Atkinson
Bierhaus15, this is interesting. Especially the part of over-pitching.

Is the idea of overpitching to help reduce the production of organic acids?

Edit: I wonder if Shaun Hill is also adjusting his pH post ferm too?
 

fermentology

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2013
Messages
65
Reaction score
10
I think the secret is years of dialing in your recipe and beer. The big thing I get from HF beers is that they all have perfect mouthfeel, IPA, Stouts, Saisons, etc, but they are all different.

I think a lot of it has to do with his water treatment and pH along with fine tuning bottle conditioning. I'm assuming he also keg conditions.
 
Joined
Jan 19, 2012
Messages
515
Reaction score
85
Location
Westfield
High finishing pH, moderate to hard water, high sodium, decreased organic acid production... over-pitching your yeast, and your well on your way to pillow-y, airy mouthfeel.

Easy experiment. Dissolve a bunch of cacl2 in a really hoppy beer. Taste. Then do the same with sodium bicarbonate. Taste. See a trend.
.
That certainly makes sense. Any idea of what kind of finishing pH you'd expect in Hill's beers? 4.7 - 5? Not that extreme?
Apart from adding additions post-fermentation, are there other methods that impact finishing pH? Overpitching alone?
 
OP
kaz4121

kaz4121

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2010
Messages
543
Reaction score
76
Location
USA
Just to fill everyone in, I measured Edward's pH to be 4.41 here: http://thirdleapbrew.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/HF-Edward.jpg

Seems to be in line with some other reportings.

I doubled my flaked oats addition for this latest batch of my house IPA, also mashed at 156. I am shooting to dial in my final pH at 4.4 also. I'll see how things go and then start looking into other variables too. The more HF i've had, the more I really believe natural conditioning and lower carbonation is key. I'm planning to bottle condition a portion of this batch to assess that variable as well.

If I could attain 1/1000th of the mouthfeel of HF, I would be a happy home brewer!
 

J343MY

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2012
Messages
149
Reaction score
124
Location
Waterloo
I believe somebody asked Phil, and he said that every beer they keg is force carbed. It really doesn't make any sense to be naturally conditioning kegs. Especially hoppy beers. Lower carbonation is definitely one of the things that contribute to a softer mouth feel.
 

lbond2

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2013
Messages
96
Reaction score
10
I have actually been working on this same thing (creamy mouth feel)...If you look at things such as heady topper and 2x4 IIPA (which both have a great mouth feel, epically 2x4) they use either white wheat or golden naked oats or a combo of both, yeast strain also makes a big difference. I have been messing around with a combo of the 3 things mentioned above and have achieved exactly what I was looking for. I also push my beer with beer gas, that seems to help as well.
 
OP
kaz4121

kaz4121

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2010
Messages
543
Reaction score
76
Location
USA
...they use either white wheat or golden naked oats or a combo of both, yeast strain also makes a big difference...
I agree that these can held with a silky moutfeel, but Hill Farmstead claims that most of their beers are just pale and caramel malt, indicating that the other factors (water chemistry, pH, carbonation levels and method, etc) have more to do with it.

I'm still shocked at how hazy most of their beers are.

Any idea if sending a sample of Edward into Ward Labs to analyze mineral content would be beneficial? I'm assuming the fermentation process will impact the final mineral report, but to what extent? Could it be possible to work backwards knowing what the final mineral content in the beer is?
 

Callacave

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Oct 5, 2012
Messages
349
Reaction score
95
Location
Atkinson
I'm not shocked how hazy his beers are. Tons of dry hopping, and his beers are super fresh. No filtering, fining. I honestly could care less about haziness when you get the best beer in the world from them. I actually like the haziness you get. To me it adds to the rustic/farmhouse feel of his beers.
 

gotbags-10

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2013
Messages
576
Reaction score
30
Location
Indy
So for a typical 5g batch what amounts of oats and white wheat would you recommend using?
 

lbond2

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2013
Messages
96
Reaction score
10
2-8% oats or wheat per grain bill..expect haziness when using these methods. Again, as said previous, this is craft beer. If you want the best haziness is expected on some styles.
 

lbond2

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2013
Messages
96
Reaction score
10
You can try it...I think the haziness due to protein contributes to a good mouthfeel.
 
OP
kaz4121

kaz4121

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2010
Messages
543
Reaction score
76
Location
USA
I'm not shocked how hazy his beers are. Tons of dry hopping, and his beers are super fresh. No filtering, fining. I honestly could care less about haziness when you get the best beer in the world from them. I actually like the haziness you get. To me it adds to the rustic/farmhouse feel of his beers.
I agree - I don't care for beer clarity so long as its delicious. But my point is that there are hundreds of aggressively hoped and dry hopped beers without haze, so I am not sold that it is from any one ingredient, specifically dry hops or oat/wheat.
 

Callacave

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Oct 5, 2012
Messages
349
Reaction score
95
Location
Atkinson
I agree - I don't care for beer clarity so long as its delicious. But my point is that there are hundreds of aggressively hoped and dry hopped beers without haze, so I am not sold that it is from any one ingredient, specifically dry hops or oat/wheat.
You're right, it's not always from one ingredient. In Hill Farmstead's case it's basically from his beer being so fresh. He doesn't bottle his hoppy beers. Just his Saison's and Stouts/Porters at times. None of his hoppy stuff sits at all.

Another great case is Trillium out of Boston. Amazing beers, and if you've ever had any of his hoppy brews they look like swamp water. Same deal here. All super fresh, no time to wait or bother with anything to clear them.

There are a multitude of ways to get clear beer. Some places even have centrifuges to spin the solids to the bottom.

Not saying you can't get a hoppy brew clear, but it's just not what's happening at Hill Farmstead. It's all about the freshness for him.
 

JKoravos

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 24, 2009
Messages
1,206
Reaction score
77
Location
Chelmsford, MA
Is pillowy a new term to describe mouthfeel? That's a new one on me. I don't know about you guys but i don't want my beer tasting anything like a pillow.
 

The_Gerbil_Brewer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2013
Messages
76
Reaction score
8
Location
Boston
Is pillowy a new term to describe mouthfeel? That's a new one on me. I don't know about you guys but i don't want my beer tasting anything like a pillow.
I feel it's a very soft mouthfeel, and "pillowy" is a great descriptor IMHO.

I'm sure a number of factors play into it but I feel the wheat/oats piece can play a lot into that mouthfeel. Jack's Abby's Leisure Time Lager has a pillowy mouthfeel that is similar to HF.
 

njviking

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 11, 2014
Messages
155
Reaction score
54
Location
Down the shore
On a ski trip to stowe 2 yrs agoa friend convinced me to go to hill farmstead. Having not heard of them before i was hesitant, but knew my friend was on to something when he said i would not regret it.

I spent 3 days there And bought eveverything i could.

Im convinced in this case that they do not produce craft beer; they produce beautiful, drinkable art.

But as stated earlier, the water profile is definitely different and carbonation was indeed muted. I would not be suprised if there were more oats in the bill.

I'm basically convinced that beer deities bestowed knowledge not proper for common folk to them.
 

gotbags-10

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2013
Messages
576
Reaction score
30
Location
Indy
What about flaked barley? I've read a lot of good things about using that as well. Would white wheat, golden naked oats and flaked barley be too much? I'm trying to get a grain bill together for a brew this weekend to work on this. Going to use golden promise as my base grain, just trying to figure out this part.
 

The_Gerbil_Brewer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2013
Messages
76
Reaction score
8
Location
Boston
I feel there is more to it then just oats/wheat/etc. Definitely feel that too much could lead to a silky mouthfeel and not the soft fluffy one hill farmstead is known for. Just postulating though.
 

brewkinger

Testing... testing...is this frigger on?
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Sep 20, 2012
Messages
2,463
Reaction score
490
Location
NEK
But as stated earlier, the water profile is definitely different and carbonation was indeed muted. I would not be suprised if there were more oats in the bill.

I'm basically convinced that beer deities bestowed knowledge not proper for common folk to them.
Living close to HF and seeing Shaun on a fairly consistent basis at some local establishments, I have gathered this information:

One of the main "secrets" of his beers is the water supply. Family farm for generations.

The other main secret (which is not really a secret) pertains to the bold comment from above.
Shaun did not just wake up one morning and decide to make one of the world's best beers.
He spent years under the wings of some of the best Belgian brewers, the beer deities that are referenced.

All I know is that a 21 mile trek for his beer is well worth it....
 

JKoravos

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 24, 2009
Messages
1,206
Reaction score
77
Location
Chelmsford, MA
I feel it's a very soft mouthfeel, and "pillowy" is a great descriptor IMHO.

I'm sure a number of factors play into it but I feel the wheat/oats piece can play a lot into that mouthfeel. Jack's Abby's Leisure Time Lager has a pillowy mouthfeel that is similar to HF.


Sorry, it's the engineer in me, but way not just say 'soft'? Pillowy makes me think of polyester stuffing.
 

MrFeltimo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2013
Messages
1,079
Reaction score
49
Location
Easton
ive been using GNO in my brews lately, about 7%.
this stuff has always lent an EXCEPTIONAL mouth feel.
 

Callacave

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Oct 5, 2012
Messages
349
Reaction score
95
Location
Atkinson
Shaun doesn't use Oats, Flaked Barley or Wheat in his standard hoppy offerings. There are other things at play that I wish I understood better.

Check out the website and you'll see he lists for say Edward, just Pale and Caramel malts.

I believe it's a combo of well water, pH, use of more calcium chloride than you'd typically expect, higher FG than typical, and whatever magic he's got make the most amazing beers I've ever had.

I'm lucky that my wife is from that area, so we visit family on occasion. It's been a while, and can't wait to get up there again.
 

Weezy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2013
Messages
2,677
Reaction score
626
Location
Pittsburgh
Flaked barley and oats at 3-5% (I think they're better than wheat imho), moderate attenuating yeast, and calcium chloride in otherwise soft water will go a long way towards a creamy beer experience.

Yeast is critical yet still a mystery, until we've tried and learned them all. WLP008 has become my house yeast for most things. mash an IPA very low (146) with few unfermentables for a dry beer on a moderate attenuating yeast makes for great effect. I'm not saying every should run out and do this, but recognize that lots of things can lead to the effect you're looking for.
 
OP
kaz4121

kaz4121

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2010
Messages
543
Reaction score
76
Location
USA
Sorry, it's the engineer in me, but way not just say 'soft'? Pillowy makes me think of polyester stuffing.
Don't be that guy. I am an engineer too, but I know there is more than one way to describe something.

Polyester stuffing is light, fluffy, airy, and soft (read: pillowy).
 
OP
kaz4121

kaz4121

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2010
Messages
543
Reaction score
76
Location
USA
Shaun doesn't use Oats, Flaked Barley or Wheat in his standard hoppy offerings. There are other things at play that I wish I understood better...
This was the point I was trying to make a page or so ago. There is more than one way to achieve that mouthfeel, but malt bill is not how Shaun achieves his.

What we know (for certain) is:
  • higher FG

What is speculated is:
  • higher calcium chloride levels (water chemistry in general)
  • lower carbonation levels
  • natural carbonation
  • dialed in pH at all levels of brewing

The pH of Edward was not out of the ordinary at 4.4.

The magic is certainly in the mash.
 

Braufessor

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Dec 27, 2011
Messages
4,185
Reaction score
1,780
Location
NE Iowa
I have been honing a basic IPA/APA recipe down and am looking forward to getting it right where I want it and then experimenting with the water. I think the water is the key thing here that differentiates the "typical" east coast IPA and west coast IPA.

The grainbill I have been using is:
92% 2row
2% each of Wheat, Flaked oats, caramel 20 and Honey malt.
**I like the idea of golden naked oats and/or flaked barley too.

Generally, I have been using Conan yeast.

I have been using RO water and going 275 Sulfate and 30 Chloride. It makes a great beer. But, I have been able to sample a lot of the vermont beers, and it does not have that feel to it.

When I get my recipe right where I want it, I am going to brew 3 beers on the same weekend. All 3 exactly the same but with water differences:

Beer 1 - 275 sulfate/30 chloride
Beer 2 - 150 sulfate/150 chloride
Beer 3 - 30 sulfate/275 chloride

Just to see what the different extremes and middle ground do. If I was going to randomly guess at something and try one thing, that was different, I might go 100-125 sulfate and 175-200 chloride.

mash ph I would be shooting for that 5.3-5.4 range.

All RO water.

At any rate, I hope to find time for this experiment in the near future.
 

Barley_Bob

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 7, 2013
Messages
975
Reaction score
471
Location
Paxton
^@Braufessor awesome (and daring) idea. Bravo.

I've never had Hill Farmstead. I'm not even close to being close to within its distribution. However, I think I can contribute a little on this.

I've been chasing a silky, light (dare I say "pillowy") mouthfeel for a while, especially after trying 3F's Gumballhead. Wow, does that have great mouthfeel (if anyone can compare that one to Hill Farmstead's mouthfeel, I'd be really interested).

Anyway, I use red wheat, rolled oats, and/or rye (often a combination of two), in almost everything, and it does really help. Recently, though, I did a German pale ale (kottbusser), that traditionally has wheat (I used rye) and oats, but I also accidentally undershot my carbonation by a lot. I was aiming for 2.2, and I ended up at 1.9 because I ended up with a lot more beer than I planned. It's plenty carbonated and has a fine head, but the carbonation is a lot more tight, with smaller bubbles, a more fluffy head, and it has a fantastic mouthfeel (round is the word I like to use).

So, even though I've been using the adjuncts we're talking about for a long time to chase this dream, it really was the carbonation that got me there. I of course don't know if I have Hill Farmstead quality mouthfeel, but I think this one is pretty darn impressive. I can't wait to try it on the APA I have fermenting now.
 

Callacave

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Oct 5, 2012
Messages
349
Reaction score
95
Location
Atkinson
This was the point I was trying to make a page or so ago. There is more than one way to achieve that mouthfeel, but malt bill is not how Shaun achieves his.

What we know (for certain) is:
  • higher FG

What is speculated is:
  • higher calcium chloride levels (water chemistry in general)
  • lower carbonation levels
  • natural carbonation
  • dialed in pH at all levels of brewing

The pH of Edward was not out of the ordinary at 4.4.

The magic is certainly in the mash.
Agreed....and he doesn't naturally carb in his kegs. Only in most of his bottled brews. This has been confirmed already.

He already said that he favors more calcium chloride than usual in his own cryptic way.

It's also known he's a stickler on pH in every part of the process.

I'm not sure about the lower carb levels. I actually think a normal or slightly higher carb might help with that soft/pillowy/airy mouthfeel.

I've used WY1318 a handful of times since this is speculated to be the yeast he uses, but I'm starting to believe it's not.
 
Joined
Oct 12, 2012
Messages
457
Reaction score
77
Location
Oswego
My $0.02:

Relatively soft water with the majority of the mineral balanced towards Calcium and Chloride.

A yeast that leaves a soft texture to the beer like Denny's Fav 50.

Proper carbonation that reduces carbonic bite.

Lots of hops and fresh fresh fresh or well taken care of post-harvest.
 
2
Top