Hamilton Honey Harvest IPA: Now in Bloom!

06 October 2015
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Hamilton Honey Harvest IPA: Now in Bloom!

 Can you spot the 3 bees?

 

This special beer with three H's in it's name owes it all to three B's, err- sorry, Three Bees Honey Company!

Three Bees is an awesome apiary in our hometown; Hamilton. The beekeeper who looks after all those bees (I think there are actually a lot more than three? If I had to guess??) is none other than Brandi Lee MacDonald! Brandi is big into Beer, Bees and Banthropology, but I think beer might just be her favorite. Brandi loves beer so much in fact, that she created the Because Beer Craft Beer Festival and Homebrew Competition! Hmmm, but she loves Anthropology enough to complete an entire PHD on the subject...  which must be a lot... and on further reflection, she loves Bees so much that she sometimes actually prefers to be called "Bee" by her friends!! Well, I guess we may never know her favorite subject, but what is certain is that Brandi is an actual doctor of knowledge, a judge of beer, and a master of bees, so she is basically the only person you need to know in a post-apocalyptic situation. She has already appeared on this blog several times on account of how she is an awesome person and friend! We go back quite a ways, which explains THIS:

 
 A twitter post!!

 

That was three years ago. We made a batch of Honey IPA together, big enough to share! Three Bees Honey Company was only about a year old at the time, and Garden Brewers was still just a bunch of crazy notes in a binder. 

THIS binder- found it!
When planning a brewery, is it fair to call it a...  pipe-dream?

 

Three Bees is still going strong in 2015- and so is our friendship! Coincidence?? In any case, we felt it was high time for another Honey IPA, and this time around, we made a big enough batch to share with the whole city! I have to say, that is pretty...    sweet.

When fermenting Honey, it tends to ferment out almost completely, leaving little evidence of its flavour. It can leave some subtle notes, which will reflect the source plants. Honey is essentially condensed flower nectar, so which flowers are the source of that nectar can make a dramatic impact on the honey's flavour and colour. The "standard" Honey-as-commodity flavour that we are used to is typically Clover honey, or sometimes, in the most dubious of cases, honey cut with other mild-tasting sugars such as corn syrup. But honey, just like beer, has a wide variety of potential flavours if you venture beyond the commodity stuff, and some honeys are quite dramatic and flavourful indeed!!

Still, even the most intense honey does tend to ferment almost completely out, leaving only residual flavours, so the flavour impact it creates is similar to that of other sugars: it is able to add to the ABV without adding to the heaviness of the beer. It lightens and thins the body. So if you want a big, boozy beer, and you want it to be thick and full and rich, go all-malt. But if you prefer it to be "Digestible", as the Belgians do, add some sugar. Think English Barleywines V.S. Belgian Triples.  Both styles could very comfortably occupy about 8-9% alcohol by volume, but put those equally big beers side-by-side and a considerable difference in mouthfeel will become obvious. The first will be thick and sumptuous, demanding a fireplace to be sipped beside, and the second will be light, dry, and dangerously easy-drinking. Both are great! It's horses for courses. But why the difference in body and texture? It's the sugar, sweetheart.

With the ABVs of American IPAs climbing steadily into similar territory, it has been somewhat of a trend in the last couple of years to add a portion of sugar to IPAs in order to achieve similar effects.

Which is precisely what we do with our Green-Thumb IPA!
It is 7.2% ABV and a little over 5% sugar in the grist bill.
 

Brewers seeking to keep their IPA's more like the sessionable Triple instead of resembling an American Barleywine (or Imperial IPA) have brought sugar into their recipes, which in America, can constitute an act of bravery!  Sugar has a complicated history in craft brewing. It is stigmatized almost to the point of taboo. The sentiment may stem from the early beginnings of modern North-American Homebrewing, which saw recipes of malt extract calling for huge additions of sugar and little else. These saccharine early experiences of many brewers left a bitter memory, and when they went on to build the modern American craft brewing culture, they brought their distaste for sugar with them. You can see this anti-sugar prejudice at work every time someone boasts of using only malt, and derides the use of any adjunct (or "Add-Junk" as some will say.) Or when someone knee-jerkingly accuses a brewery of being motivated by scroogish penny-pinching the moment that they learn of that breweries use of sugar. The fact that most big brewers use sugar, rice, or corn to lighten the body and flavour of their hugely popular products is surely a factor as well, but these are all just ingredients! We need not fear them! Sugar is neither inherently good nor bad, just like Rice, Corn, Wheat, Oats, Rye, or Brettanomyces for that matter. Ah, but I digress. Back to Honey!

The honey and the hops.
Using these ingredients together is rather...  bittersweet. 

 

We are using the honey in this IPA just like the cane sugar in the Green-Thumb; to boost the ABV, dry out the beer, and lighten the finish. You might be inclined to think "Sweet" when you hear "Honey IPA" but it is in fact the opposite! You know, I think that many people describe rather dry IPAs as sweet because the juicy, fruity flavours of the hops can create an impression of sweetness, which may certainly be the case with our HHH IPA as well. In fact, that impression will likely be enhanced by our use of BruMalt, or "Honey Malt", which creates a flavour reminiscent of Honey! This IPA will likely create a sense of sweetness for you, but I can promise you that it will not be cloying or syrupy. I think that you will find the HHH to be dry, juicy and refreshing!

The brewday went very well, but I knew that it would when a flower appeared in the mash tun: 

How appropriate for a honey IPA! It must be a good omen.
...though the flower quickly began to look more like a fruit cut in half... Hmmm. I have been practicing "Masheomancy" for many years, but the only thing I can reliably predict is "You will have a nice lunch soon" from this, or any, image that appears in the mash. 
The students happened to be harvesting hops from the fields that day, so they left me a little present of fresh Cascade bines!
We put them right into the sparge, why not, in what some call "Mash Hopping" and what others call "A crazy way to use hops".
The Hot Break! Hey, why do bees have sticky hair?
Because they use honey combs.
The Whirlpool hop addition!
Hey, where did Noah put the all of the bees for long-term preservation?
In his Arc-hives.

 

 We used 7.5 Kilograms of Honey in the HHH IPA. It was so viscous it went in hilariously slowly, but here's a GIF that will speed the experience up for you:

Not pictured: giving up on trying to pour honey, and just scraping out the bucket like a reasonable person.
 
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Brewer. Hmm. How about "A Selfie, Worts and all"?  Uh, listen, a man walks into a pet shop and says "I'd like to buy a bee please."  
The shopkeeper says "A bee? we don't sell bees." 
"Well, you've got one in your window."

 

I'm occasionally asked about our beer recipes, and since this brew began life as homebrew, it seems appropriate to share this recipe now! If you'd like to make your own version of HHH IPA, you can buy Three Bees honey at The Hamilton Store and at Dillon's Distillery!

HOMEBREW TIME

Scaled to a 5 gallon/ 19ish L batch, assuming about 70% efficiency, you're looking to get:

1.6 Kg of Maris Otter

1.6 Kg of Pilsner

1.6 Kg of 2 Row

0.75 Kg of Honey Malt (or BruMalt)

0.25 Kg of Three Bees Honey!  Added at Whirlpool.

15 g of Chinook at first wort

15 g of Summit at first wort

4 g of Chinook at Whirlpool

4 g of Summit at Whirlpool

4 g of Cascade at Whirlpool

4 g of Amarillo at Whirlpool

Target OG is 16.8 Plato or 1.069 specific gravity.  Ferment with BRY-97 at 19-20°C until completed. Then add,

20 g of Pacifica at dry hop after fermentation is complete- for 4 days- then remove and add

17.5 g of Cascade, and

17.5 g of Citra, for an additional 4 days.

..and look, this is just what we did. Feel free to switch it up! We change things too. This isn't the same recipe we made in 2012! That one used hops grown by a Corktown neighbor!

I think that just about wraps it up for this blog post. If this post has made you, like me, rather thirsty, you should know that a special lil' cask of this beer has already been delivered to Brü restaurant in Oakville, and it will be tapped this Friday! If you can't make it out for that, we'll be tapping a FULL FRIGGIN' FIRKIN of HHH IPA with our friends at Lansdowne Brewery next Thursday, the 15th! It'll be a party! There will be Garden glassware to giveaway, cask ale and comestibles to consume, and good times to be had. Our brewer will be on site from 5pm to 7pm to give a brief presentation on the beer, and then to answer questions and mingle. Full 20oz pints of fresh cask ale will only be $6 during Cinq à Sept -AND- that special price will run all night to encourage the draining of the cask. Come help us "Finish the Firkin"!

We'll be kegging up the rest of the batch next week, and you can look for Hamilton Honey Harvest IPA to go on tap all around Hamilton shortly after that. Try it! I think you will go "Apis" for this beer!  At 7% ABV, a pint or two of HHH IPA will certainly give you a "Buzz".

And if you miss it, you could always brew your own! You can brew anything in Hamilton :)

Cheers!

-The Garden Brewers

 

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