by Robert Earl Reynolds
The first weekend in June marks the start of the summer beer festival season as well as my favourite beer event of the year in Victoria. Phillips Brewing hosts Hopoxia, a celebration of everything hoppy. The event takes place in the backyard of the brewery with 45 breweries participating. Hopoxia has become known for some whacky experimental IPAs over the year. Bitter suds flow through dual Randall’s packed with leaf hops to add that little something extra right before the beer hits the glass. Experimental hop varieties. Beer with 100+ IBUs. Zero IBUs. Ales dry hopped in their cask. Quadruple dry hopped beers. The mood is always a little bit silly.
I have a reputation for making outlandish beers. My motto is “I can buy great beers, so I make weird beers”. I was lovingly nicknamed “RobFishHead” by a fellow homebrewer due to some of the similarity in what I brew with the wilder beers Dogfish Head is know to produce. With this reputation proceeding me, Garritt Lalonde, a friend and head brewer of Sooke Oceanside Brewery (SOB) of Sooke BC, asked if I wanted to collaborate on a “special” beer in the spirit of Hopoxia. I of course jumped at the chance.
After spitballing about recipe ideas for a while, we settled on a few characteristics. Our goal was a very pale, very bitter, very strong citrus forward hop bomb. We both wanted to stay away from the current hazy IPA trend as we were sure Hopoxia would be full of them, and we wanted to stand out. We both dislike crystal malts, so we used only base malt. We wanted a strong IIPA, but the SOB mashtun is small, so we were limited in the amount of grain we could fit, and therefore limited in ABV. I decided to borrow a trick from Russian River Brewing—we would slowly feed the fermenting beer dextrose over the course of fermentation to increase the ABV and lighten the body. I had recently had great success bittering with CO2 hop extract in my homebrew IPAs, so we decided to bitter entirely with CO2 extract. While the calculated IBU’s are massive, the extract tends to stick to the kettle and trub and isn’t fully dissolved in the wort, so the actual IBU’s are likely much lower. The bitterness from the CO2 extract is incredibly smooth and pleasant, without any harshness you might find with a beer bittered to an equal IBU from traditional hop pellets. Aroma hops were limited to the whirlpool and dry hopping only. For hop varieties we were limited to what SOB had on hand, Citra, Azacca and Meridian. LOTS of Citra, Azacca and Meridian! To amplify the orange and pineapple character of the hops we selected, we pitched Escarpment Labs Voss Kveik and fermented at 35°C to encourage the tropical orange juice vibe this yeast is known for. Dry hopping would be a double dose of Citra and Azacca as we had exhausted SOB’s supply of Meridian.
The finished beer was pale straw in colour with a rocky white head. A slight haze is present from the dry hopping, but a milkshake this is not. The aroma is like drinking a tall glass of orange juice in a Hawaiian pineapple field. The hot fermented Kveik yeast is tropical and bright without any harsh higher alcohols. Flavour is shockingly smooth bitterness that in no way overpowers or detracts from the beer. The simple malt bill is crushable on a hot summer day. The beer hides its strength well—it would be impossible to guess the true ABV lurking below the surface of your glass. It is a good thing the tasting glasses are only 4oz, drinking a pint might shave a day off your life.
A Day Off Yer Life IIPA
Pilot batch 100L
Carbon filtered water
100ppm SO4 from Gypsum
Mash pH adjusted to 5.2 with Lactic Acid
80% Pilsner Malt
20% Dextrose (added slowly to fermenter over 7 days)
100g CO2 Hop Extract 66.7% AA @ 60mins, theoretical 300 IBU
Whirlpool Hops (wort chilled to 80°C to stop isomerization)
454g Meridian @ 6.3% AA
250g Citra @ 12.0% AA
200g Azacca @ 15.0% AA
Target Original Gravity (pre-Dextrose) 1.075
Ferment with Escarpment Labs, Voss Kviek at 35°C
Starting at high krausen begin adding a Kilogram of dextrose to the fermenter each day.
End of fermentation Target Final Gravity 1.010
Target ABV 11.9%
Dry Hop #1
250g Citra 3 days
250g Azacca 3 days
Dry Hop #2
250g Citra 3 days
250g Azacca 3 days