Loral hops is a variety I read a lot about when it was first released. With all hop variety, the hype can be a bit much. Loral is a great example for taking the time to brew with them and examining their flavor and aroma. View this video we put together of our evaluation of a SMaSH brewed with Loral hops:
Loral hops are not a fruity variety like the other ones that we have encountered over the past 10 years. They are more like traditional, Noble hops with spicy and herbal aromas and flavors.
There may have been a little citrus pith that we picked up in the bitterness; otherwise, it was pretty subtle. It is definitely a candidate for blending with other more fragrant hops.
From the makers of the IOT airlock, PLAATO now has a new device that can monitor the volume of beer in your keg. We got a prototype of their Keg monitor and we took it for a spin. Learn how it works and our thoughts in this video:
Homebrew Keg Monitor
The PLAATO Keg is a scale that can be calibrated to the volume of beer you have in your keg. As beer glasses get filled and the amount of beer in the keg lessens, the device sends information to an app on your phone where you can see a readout of how much the last pour was and the number of pints you have left.
Jeff from Colorado from The Lucid Buddha Brewery sent us two beers. One of them was a Blood Orange IPA and the other was a Chocolate Raspberry Brown Ale Winter Warmer. See what we had to say about both of them:
Blood Orange IPA: What a great blend of fruity hops and the strong, sticky aroma and flavor from 10 pounds of blood oranges. The Mosiac and Citra hops were present and played nice with the beer. That aroma was so powerful.
Chocolate Raspberry Brown Ale Winter Warmer: Outside of cherry, chocolate doesn’t pair better with any other fruit than raspberry. I think the chocolate/cherry combo is harder to showcase in beer but the raspberry flavor easier to express in the final flavor. It was a very nice brown ale with a fruit addition.
We have asked ourselves this question from time to time. There has to be a hops flavor limit in beer, right? Looking over the large amount of homegrown hops in his freezer, John set out to push the boundaries and see if he could figure out if there was an answer. Watch this video that explores an over-hopped beer:
What Did We Learn?
John brewed a pilsner with over a pound of homegrown hops added to a 60 minute boil. The beer had no strong hop aroma but the bitterness was a little overwhelming in the taste. It had to be endured. There wasn’t too much pleasure in it.
As compared to a 1990s style IPA, it wasn’t terrible. The hops were spicy and didn’t cause too many grimaces when we were tasting it. Mike started to say it was OK. The soft malt profile and extended lagering probably helped.
Was just over a pound of hops too much? No-ish. The beer was drinkable but not enjoyable. Next time, we’ll try it with 2 pounds.
Mike has struggled with hitting his final gravity on his beers. Not every beer finished fermenting before the target gravity was met. It was intermittent and enough to sound the alarm for Mike to take action and fix it.
His troubles started with his switch to direct fire mashing but he didn’t know if that was the problem. His solution was to put into action a five beer, ten pound project. Because there were some many variables in his brewing process, he streamlined his process so he could find out what the issue was.
He picked one process for mashing, boiling, and chilling and stuck with it for 5 brew sessions (beer) using 10 pounds of base malt each. With the base malt the same (another factor he made less variable), he followed the same process to track mash pH, efficiency, and attenuation.
Watch this video to learn more about his process and his findings:
Mike’s five beers:
English Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
American Pale Ale with Homegrown Hops
Here’s what Mike concluded:
He feels like we (as hobbyists) have over-complicated water chemistry. There are two things that we need to focus on – water chemistry as it pertains to mash pH, which is the most important thing, and water chemistry in the kettle for flavor.
If you need to adjust your tap water to maintain a 5.2 to 5.4 pH for the mash, then you will be set up for excellent beer.
Don’t worry about trying to emulate water from a different part of the globe. The brewers from those areas were probably adjusting their water too!
Based on our water analysis and the Bru’n Water calculator, Mike added lactic acid to his mash to get the pH into the sweet zone of 5.2 and 5.4. He saw a big improvement to his efficiency of extracting sugar from his grains to his wort. With that, his attenuation was better as well.
So – the big lesson was to work hard to get your mash pH in check. Everything else down the line will fall in place.