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CASTLE ROCK'S SECOND "PILOT PROJECT" BEER IS HERE. KEEP READING FOR MORE ON PILOT PROJECT #002 - IPA, AND THE PROCESS BEHIND THE PINT.

The Pilot Project is a new (to us) brew kit that allows us to brew beer on a much smaller scale. This means greater freedom to explore, experiment and push the boundaries of our existing knowledge. It’s all about research and development, which is how we landed on it’s name, the Pilot Project.

Matt, our lead brewer, shares some notes on the process behind Pilot Project #002 – IPA.

Click here to find out more about Pilot Project #001 – Pale Ale.


PILOT PROJECT #002 –  IPA

So, following PiPro #001, we’d got to grips with the kit and were feeling in control of all the basic parameters. Our decided next step was to brew an IPA.

We aimed to keep the water profile, hop bill and overall process very similar, so we weren’t changing too many variables at once. This time we were aiming for a higher ABV of 7% and a slightly darker colour by using Maris Otter rather than the low colour version we had used for the Pale.  The main variable we wanted to play with and explore for this one was the yeast strain.

We’ve been wanting to try out London Ale III yeast for a long time, and we thought that a more pronounced ester profile to support hop aroma, a higher final gravity for a chewier mouthfeel and a more consistent haze would be ideal for a big IPA.

Brew Day

We filled the mash tun to the brim for this brew and just about managed to fit the lid and sparge arm on the top of it all for run off. It’s always good to find how much you can fit in!

We were surprised at how much of a darker orange the wort and beer came out using standard Maris Otter as opposed to Low Colour Maris Otter. I think not collecting some of the weaker wort during run off led to a more concentrated and therefore a stronger wort. We were super pleased with the vibrancy this added to the wort and beer.

Fermentation was a long process. We underpitched the yeast by too much and struggled to maintain temperature in very cold conditions. This led to a lot more esters being produced, which was a positive, but also led to some pretty stressful moments as fermentation slowed right down. We probably won’t underpitch quite as severely in future but we’ll definitely pitch this yeast strain on the low side when we brew similar styles in the future. The esters that this strain produce are really juicy, slightly tropical and lend themselves really well to higher rates of dry hops, producing a really rounded and full aroma profile. It took a long time, and it almost didn’t get there, but we were really pleased with the end result.

Closing thoughts

We think the beer is very drinkable for 7% ABV, there’s a lot of juice and fruitiness to the aroma and has a lot of residual sweetness which rounds out the bitterness.

We are definitely keen to use this recipe as a base to showcase two New Zealand hop blends we have in the hop store: The Bruce and The Betty. It’d be great to present them side by side in two more big, vibrant, fruity, 7% juice bomb IPAs!

It’s definitely a reminder of how massive an impact a yeast strain has on the entire flavour profile of a beer. We walked a bit of a tight-rope with the yeast being underpitched, it stalled quite dramatically towards the end of fermentation and I thought we might lose this beer completely.  So it’s also a reminder of how important fermentation management is to a beer, that a little bit of stress can produce some good esters, but too much and the yeast might bail on you completely.

I’m hoping we get some time in future Pilot Project beers to dedicate to exploring different yeast strains and fermentation parameters. It’s such a huge and varied world to experiment with and there’s a lot of interesting stuff to find out.

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