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Apimyces

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I'm looking for some tips elaborating a session IPA. Or Session APA, or EPA, or pale ale, or however one wants to call it (google-fu seems to suggest some controversies ;)). I've looked through google and the search engine here, but with mitigated results.

For of all, to describe what I'm striving for a little better, I want something that's pretty crisp, refreshing, and with strong hop aroma. Not restricted to noble nor citrusy hops. I've seen some "session" examples that are almost 6% ABV... to me that's just a regular ale. I'm aiming for something in the 3.x % ABV range.

I've looked at a few styles for inspiration, like Kölsch, Ordinary Bitter, English Pale Ale, American Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, etc. They fall into some of the windows I'm aiming for, but I don't care to respect any specific style.

For an extra layer of complexity, I'm looking to work only with local malts, but let's just ignore that for the time being and I'll try to figure out conversions later.

IBU to OG ratio, what should I be looking for? I'm thinking of something along 0.5, but I'm not sure if the low AVB will influence the ratio I'm looking for. 0.5 fits most pale ale styles, being the lower limit of the most bitter IPAs. I'm wondering if maybe it should be even lower. Goal is drinkability, here.

Grain bill, I'm looking at the equivalents of 2 row pale malts and marris otter. Alone this gives me a very pale result, though, so I've also added some 20L crystal malt, representing 2.3% of the grain bill. Grain bill is 65% 4SRM malt, 33% 11SRM malt, and 2% 20L crystal, on my first draft. This gives me an 1.043 OG for an est 3.8% ABV and 7.7 SRM color.

To get that 0.5 IBU:OG ratio, I've added Magnum hops to 60 minute boil to reach 22 IBU. Post-fermentation, I'm looking at a 4g/L dry hop addition of an undetermined aroma variety.

On the yeast side, I'm not quite sure. I've done some good brews with WLP590 French Saison and WLP028 Edinburgh Scottish, but I'm thinking the former might be too attenuative for a session beer. Ideally I'd like something pretty clear, so the very flocculating WLP002 English is rather tempting. I'm probably going to run a number of small batch trials to test the yeasts, but I'd still appreciate some input on the choice. I've read not to select something that's too "clean" fermenting for a session ale, but I also want the hop character to come first, not yeasty flavors (all while remaining a balanced and flavorful brew, of course). I'm probably going to try both WLP028 and WLP002 alone and combined.

Fermentation temperatures will be fairly stable, at around 16°C to 38°C, depending on where I decide to leave it to ferment. I've read some somewhat conflicting tips on whether I should strive for the low end or the high end of the recommended fermentation temperatures, 65-68°F for WLP002 and 65-70°F for WLP0268 (18C-21°C). That said, my temperature choices are mostly about 18°C, 25°C, or 34°C, unless I figure something out to keep it at something else.

Finally, for carbonation level, I was thinking of about 2.8 volumes of CO2.

I've brewed a good 3.5% ABV ale before, but it wasn't really anything like this, so I'd appreciate any input from people of experience to see if there are tweaks I should be looking into.
 
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Apimyces

Apimyces

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Well I converted that recipe to extract, with some pilsner LME and Crystal20, maybe a tad less IBU (closer to 20) and a tad more ABV (closer to 3.8%), but it was pretty good. Slightly thin, but really acceptable. I'd probably add just a hint of dextrin. In this version dry hopping was with Nugget hops.

Fermented at 25C, WLP002 gave a lot of esters. Me and the tasters were not huge fans. Prefference among tasters were split pretty evenly between purely WLP028 and the WLP002/WLP028 combo.

Easy drinking, aromatic and flavorful, light but really not bland. A perfectly sessionable beer, would have been perfect for the hot days of summer. One of the rare recipes that I'd be happy to brew again with no more than tiny adjustments.
 

brew703

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I've brewed a few session ales before but nothing in the 3.x range. Mine have all been in the 4.2-4.9 ABV range.

I find session ales are on the thin side so I usually add Munich to go with either Maris or 2 Row. I've also split with Golden Promise. Some wheat and flaked rye will help with body. I usually mash in the 155-158 range. As for yeast, I like Hornindal Kveik as you can ferment warm or hot and for me brings a lot to the table, especially with session ales or IPA's.

As for hopping, I either go with FWH or a 30 min addition to add some bitterness then a WP addition then 1 dry hop.
 

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Almost all of my beers are sub 4% beers and I like them dry and bubbly.

For me it's straightforward. 10% wheat flour or spelt flour for the foam, 20% to 50% Vienna or Munich, maybe ten percent melanoidin for extra for and then the rest pale.


Ibus up to 30, more doesn't fit imo. Hopped with only one 15 minute addition, that's it. Yeast, anything clean works well, like the classic, us05, a little English flavor also works well.
 

brew703

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S04 is also a good yeast to try if you want a dry yeast.

I'll have to play around with adding Vienna and increasing the amount of Munich. I usually stick to about 15% but may try 20-25% to see how that turns out.
 

Miraculix

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S04 is also a good yeast to try if you want a dry yeast.

I'll have to play around with adding Vienna and increasing the amount of Munich. I usually stick to about 15% but may try 20-25% to see how that turns out.
For me, Munich is much stronger but Vienna can be used as much as 100% without any issues. I love Vienna malt for session beers!
 
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Apimyces

Apimyces

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It'd be pointless to lengthily debate semantics, but to me, 4.5-5.5 ABV is just a regular beer. 3.8% and fairly dry makes the brew much less caloric, which is great when one's spouse tends to guilt about that (ethanol is a huge source of beer's calories, the other being residual sugars).

I've not actually brewed many regular strength beers, though. 3.5-3.9 or ~6.5 on most of my batches.

It was a little thin, but not unenjoyably so. Not like any of the light or non-alcoholic beers I've tried (though most of the latter are on the other extreme, being too sweet), who tend to taste diluted. This did not taste diluted.

The hop character, while absolutely present and fairly strong, did nonetheless feel lower than I'd expect from the hopping rate. I suspect that low ABV reduces the utilization of hops, as many volatile compounds are poorly water soluble, but readily soluble in ethanol. I'll probably test this variable in a later brewing trial.

Flaked cereals could certainly be something worth considering. I'm never used them, but from what I've read I do believe oats or rye could indeed add body. I'd probably research them more and try them in a later iteration of this recipe.

Other yeasts would probably work great too. But I've had consistently good results with WLP028 scottish ale yeasts, so I'll probably stick with that. It did not give me any esters despite a hot fermentation (unlike WLP002), it actually always seems to ferment pretty clean. The lower attenuation probably helps with a brew like this one, too.

Here's a pic to give an idea on the color. No filtering or fining agents, just a cold crash. It was fairly clear, though not perfectly so. Also, absolutely no head, sparkled like a cider or champagne.
 

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Northern_Brewer

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Hey, good to see you knocking around the brewing side of things. So is the intention to act as a showcase for your own hops, or is this just for making something nice to drink?

I'm looking for some tips elaborating a session IPA. Or Session APA, or EPA, or pale ale, or however one wants to call it...I'm aiming for something in the 3.x % ABV range.
...or beer as we call it in Britain. Seriously, for this kind of alcohol level, it's hard to beat the beers coming out of the UK that combine modern hops with our tradition of proper multiple (20-oz) pint session drinking. You're pretty much describing something like the 3.9% Wylam Galatia, of which Jeff Alworth said

"The remarkable thing is that it managed to create the kind of balance I’ve never encountered in a session IPA. Putting it on cask allowed the malt to emerge, both as a flavor note and textural element. Session IPAs are comparatively top-heavy: all hops with nothing underneath to support them...The presence of malt is what makes this beer sing, but I suspect we can taste and feel it on our tongue largely because the hops additions have been dialed back. On keg, I wouldn’t be surprised if everything seemed a bit pallid and sad. But putting it on cask, serving at 55 degrees, and allowing those hop aromatics to blossom, changes everything. You get intense juiciness, but not just juiciness. Less hops on cask means more flavor—of both malt and hop. Amazing. I don’t know if Americans will ever drink cask, but they’d damn sure drink Galatia."

IBU to OG ratio, what should I be looking for? I'm thinking of something along 0.5, but I'm not sure if the low AVB will influence the ratio I'm looking for. 0.5 fits most pale ale styles, being the lower limit of the most bitter IPAs. I'm wondering if maybe it should be even lower. Goal is drinkability, here.
Galatia is bittered at the kind of level you're talking about, BU:GU 0.5 - a different take is provided by Fyne Jarl which is a 3.8% showcase for Citra but with 40 IBU. Coming from the north, I prefer a more bitter beer - and that doesn't come at the expense of sessionability, we're not talking 100 IBU nonsense. Jarl is on the bitter side, but my personal taste in session beers would be somewhere in the 0.85 region. Upping the bitterness (and sulphate) increases the perception of dryness, which helps the drinkability. In turn that means you don't need to ferment it so fully, so you retain more body.

Grain bill, I'm looking at the equivalents of 2 row pale malts and marris otter. Alone this gives me a very pale result, though, so I've also added some 20L crystal malt, representing 2.3% of the grain bill. Grain bill is 65% 4SRM malt, 33% 11SRM malt, and 2% 20L crystal, on my first draft. This gives me an 1.043 OG for an est 3.8% ABV and 7.7 SRM color.
It's OK to be pale. But in Britain it means something slightly different, as our maltsters do cook their malts a little more than most North American base malts. But honestly, most of my brews are just 100% Maris Otter pale at around 5EBC/3L and aside from the fact that it makes inventory management almost non-existent. But yeah, do a little crystal if you want.

From a lifetime of drinking <4.5% beers, I'd make the comment that there's a big difference between say 4.2% and 3.8% - bests are pretty forgiving and you don't need to be too clever to get something that works, but dropping to 3.8% makes it much harder to keep everything together and in balance (qv eg helles).

Certainly if you're going below 4% I'd consider a more conscious effort to maintain body with things like mash temperature and attenuation, and maybe start getting cute about grists in the way of some modern table beers like this award winner which ended up at 55% Maris Otter, 20% golden naked oats, and 7.5% each of melanoidin malt and flaked wheat and then 10% lactose at 10 minutes.

To get that 0.5 IBU:OG ratio, I've added Magnum hops to 60 minute boil to reach 22 IBU. Post-fermentation, I'm looking at a 4g/L dry hop addition of an undetermined aroma variety.
Personally I'd have something in the boil and whirlpool as well - for my hop trials I tend to have 30IBU-ish of bittering and then spread a 100g pack in 12 or 16 litres across 5 min, flameout, whirlpool and dry hop.

Fermentation temperatures will be fairly stable, at around 16°C to 38°C
!!
my temperature choices are mostly about 18°C, 25°C, or 34°C, unless I figure something out to keep it at something else.
Unless you using kveik at 34C, then you want 18C, assuming that's air temperature? Liquid temperature will be a degree or two more than that. It's a classic British profile, to pitch at 17C or so and then allow a free rise of 2-3 degrees. A lot of yeasts go a bit unpleasant at 25C, unless you're deliberately doing a saison or something.

As for yeast, WLP028 is a solid choice for a fairly neutral house yeast, I wouldn't argue against it if that's the kind of profile you want. If you're looking for other ones to try, WLP041 gives an appealing drinkability. If you want the convenience of dry then give Verdant and Nottingham a go - they're not for everyone but they work for a lot of people. Or try the Lallemand Voss at 34C, or 34/70 or Mangrove Jack M54 at 18C.

Finally, for carbonation level, I was thinking of about 2.8 volumes of CO2.
Too much. When you're dealing with these kinds of low-ABV beers, too much CO2 completely wrecks the balance. If I was to change one thing about your original post, it would be to get the carbonation below 2 vols - or even better bottle/cask condition. And as per Jeff's article above, don't overchill them either.
 
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Apimyces

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Thanks for the reply. I've been brewing beer for a few years (mead since much longer), and always happy to experiment new stuff. Either for my own personal leisure, or as a potential vessel to showcase my hops. After doing a first try, though, I'm not leaning more for the former than the latter, even though the latter was definitely in mind when I drafted it up.

On paper, a lot of the English styles look like they'd please me a lot. Thing is, I can't really find any around here. NEIPAs all over, sure. Sours, pilsners too, now (though I have no idea if they are true to style), and of course a few west coast IPAs. European styles are for the most part not very common. So I'd have a hard time claiming I brewed an English-style ale, for example, knowing I never actually tasted an English ale.

To clarify on the temperatures, that's just a question of what floor I let the fermentation take place on. Temperatures are pretty stable on each floor, but they get fairly stratified (basement vs living floors vs attic). I wasn't really considering doing it at 34, just enumerating it as a possibility I could do, if desired.

WLP028 was indeed pretty neutral, even if fermented moderately hot. Turns out my tasters and I mostly preferred that to the more peperry/pear/clove esters I seemed to get from WLP002 fermenting hot. Thanks for the recommendation on the WLP041, next time I order yeast I'll probably try it out. To be honest I'm a bit biased for WLP028 being a nod to my scottish ancestry, though. ;)

What's the hop character you get on those session IPAs? Because I got the impression my hops were under-utilized due to low ABV. They were definitely hoppy, but it felt like I would have expected more from the dosage. Maybe boiling some lower AA hop than Magnum for bittering would have helped give more hop flavor, though, but I'm not sure, and it's more the aroma which I felt was fairly short-lived.
 

tennesseean_87

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You could definitely up the crystal. When going to lower gravities I don't like to think in percentages as much as take a standard IPA recipe and cut base malt. You have the same amount of specialty malt in the glass, but less alcohol. I find this helps combat the thin-/wateriness without being overwhelming like 15% crystal in a 6%abv beer would be. As noted above, mashing higher and less attenuative yeasts also help.

For hopping, I tend to use a similar IBU:Gravity ratio as I would elsewhere (~1:1 for IPA), and scale late hope additions similarly. If I did a 1.060 IPA with 8 oz of hops split between 15min, whirlpool, and DH, I'd use about 4 oz in a 1.035 beer.
 

Northern_Brewer

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I'd have a hard time claiming I brewed an English-style ale, for example, knowing I never actually tasted an English ale.
I wouldn't sweat it too much, as long as you don't go wildly off-piste with the recipe you should be fine.

Avoiding too much crystal is the key thing for British styles as it wrecks the balance of flavours which is at their heart, the body comes from the yeast and base malt rather than lots of speciality malt. Fuller's use 7.2% light crystal and that's about as much as I'd ever want even for a southern-style bitter, up north we'd have half that or less.

To be honest I'm a bit biased for WLP028 being a nod to my scottish ancestry, though. ;)
All the more reason then, I use a bit of EKG in everything as a similar nod to my personal terroir, I could justify a Scottish yeast on similar grounds...but I like playing with yeasts too much. :)

What's the hop character you get on those session IPAs? Because I got the impression my hops were under-utilized due to low ABV. They were definitely hoppy, but it felt like I would have expected more from the dosage.
My standard test brew is 30-35 IBU of bittering (with aforementioned EKG) and then 100g (standard pack size here) in either 3 or 4 (imperial) gallons depending on how intense the hops look like being, smeared across 10/0/whirlpool/dryhop. So in the 6-7g/l range and I think it comes out OK - not super-crazy hoppy, but that's probably because most of the time I'm not using particularly intense varieties, and you certainly get a good sense of the hops.

I'd imagine that if you did 6g/l of Galaxy or Sabro then you'd certainly know about it!!!
 
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