Designing A Beer Recipe To Test Hop Flavours

Single hop beers are a great way to test and explore the flavours of different hop varieties.

Here are some ideas for developing a base recipe.

designing a beer recipe

As you may know, I recently challenged myself to find out how to make better beer.

My idea’s to explore each aspect of brewing in isolated detail, before recombining everything in the future to brew beer with more confidence.

I’ve started with a series of simple brews each showcasing a single hop type. I want to compare the hops side by side in beers which are otherwise the same.

(By the way, if you’re interested in hops there’s a new series just started on Mash Sparge Boil: it begins here with Admiral).

Rather than just presenting the outcome, I thought it would be useful to explain how I’ve come up with a base recipe for testing hop flavour.

The same process applies to all recipe design because I’ve planned it as I would any other brew.

Although I’m mainly testing hop flavours, I still want to create tasty, drinkable beer.

Choosing A Target Beer

Because I’m eventually going to develop a solid bitter recipe as a regular brew, I’m basing this experiment on a bitter.

Hops are the focus so the grain bill is straightforward: one single malt. For a bitter, pale ale malt is the obvious choice.

I’m not worried about lack of flavour. The pale ale single malt strong mild I brewed as part of the International Homebrew Project was very flavoursome.

This time I’m aiming for a light, easier drinking bitter. A commercial beer that immediately springs to mind is Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, a great mid-strength beer.

Using that as a starting point for my recipe, I found this information about Landlord on The Mad Fermentationist’s blog:

Gravity

  • O.G. 1.042
  • F.G. 1.009

Bitterness

  • 30 IBUS

Colour

  • 6 SRM

I also found out from Timothy Taylor’s own information that the abv is 4.3%.

This gave me plenty to work with.

Developing The Recipe

I’m not trying to clone Landlord, just produce a beer that’s similarly drinkable.

Malt

As I said, I’m using 100% pale ale malt. Ideally a British malt, such as Golden Promise.

Using Brew Target I adjusted the quantities to get into the gravity and alcohol ranges for my target beer.

designing a beer recipe: malt

Adding the malt as a fermentable, I tweaked the weight until the gravities were on target. By chance exactly 1 kg gives me what I need.

For the gravity calculations to work, you need to set your batch size and water volumes. In Brew Target this is done in the Mash tab:

designing a beer recipe volumes

I don’t want to end up with hundreds of pints of single hop beer so I’m making 5 litre batches. You just tweak the starting volume until it gives the target batch size.

As you can see, I’m starting with 9.2 litres.

Hops

This is the interesting part.

Taking an idea from Brewing Better Beer by Gordon Strong, I’m going to push the hops right to the front. The strategy uses first wort hopping and late aroma additions.

First wort hopping is a technique that adds hops to the wort as it’s draining from the mash. This early steeping is said to give a big flavour boost and a smoother bitterness.

I’ve also got an addition twenty minutes from the end to enhance the flavour even more, as well as aroma hops at flame out.

Each time I brew I’ll adjust the hop quantities to achieve 30 IBUs, with the three additions each representing a third of the total hop amount.

For the first batch, the Nugget hops come out like this:

designing a beer recipe hops

Yeast

I don’t want strong yeast flavours.

With that in mind I’ve chosen Nottingham, a neutral tasting ale yeast that I’ve used a lot before.

Mash

I need the beer to ferment fairly dry, but not bone dry, so I’ve chosen a medium mash temperature of 66°C.

Single Malt and Single Hop Recipe

Recipe Volume
5 litres

Fermentables
Pale ale malt: 1 kg (100%)

Mash Time
90 mins

Mash Target Temperature
66°C

Hops
Hops (X%): 1/3 FWH
Hops (X%): 1/3 for 20 mins
Hops (X%): 1/3 at flame out
(30 IBUs)

Yeast
Danstar Nottingham

Original Gravity
1.042

Assumes 70% efficiency

After brewing several of these, I’ll better understand hop flavours.

There’s plenty of potential for exploration by varying the base malt or looking at hop blends, amongst other things. The possibilities are endless.

I’m really looking forward to tasting these beers. I’m hoping to have a variety of flavourful, easy drinking pale ales to get through.

If you’ve tried single hop brews like this, do you have any tips?

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