Just in case we weren’t busy enough with the run-up to the festive season, I was asked to produce a new beer for release in time for Christmas. My team and I had a discussion and, after a bit of debate, we decided on an English Imperial IPA. I’ve had the idea to do one for a while, and when Eric and his team from Left Hand Brewing came to visit us earlier this year, he brought a bottle of his 400 Pound Monkey EIPA. Not only did it taste great, but proved the idea was viable. Obviously US hops are very much the fashion these days, indeed we are known for using a substantial number ourselves! But I’ve always felt that English hops, when used correctly, can easily give the US hops a run for their money, and an English Imperial IPA felt like enough of a new challenge for us to get right.
The base of the beer was similar to our Halcyon – however, we wanted a bit more maltiness in this beer, so to bring the colour up slightly so we used a touch of British Munich and Crystal in with our house base malt, our Low Colour Maris Otter. Having such great British malt available to us is a real advantage and is something UK brewers should be extremely proud to work with.
It was important we picked the right British hops for the job with this beer; not only would they have to provide a pleasant and robust bitterness, we also wanted the aroma to really shine through. I’ve always been very fond of Challenger, and after chatting with our hop merchants, selected Challenger to be the single hop we would use for this beer. Often single-hop brews can be a bit one dimensional but we felt there were enough other components of the beer, such as the bready maltiness and the yeast flavours, to make this hop’s flavour profile work perfectly on its own. Essentially we have created the perfect showcase for a Great British hop! I would describe Challenger’s hop flavour as a having a smooth, floral character but used in the quantities we have in this beer, I get loads of ripe oranges and citrus too, and definitely enough pungency to provide that all-important hop-hit.
We selected our classic English yeast strain to provide its signature fruity complexity, something that a traditional modern IPA American strain simply cannot do. Again, the fashion these days is to use an American strain to allow the hops to shine through, but we wanted the beer to be more interesting than a standard modern IPA, and our English yeast strain allowed exactly that. However, left to its own devices, it would struggle to attenuate the beer to where we wanted it to finish, leaving us with a touch more sweetness than we would have liked. So we essentially dual-pitched it with an American strain, which is a more aggressive attenuator, to finish the job and leave us with a beer with the desired level of dryness that we wanted.
So, by combining the very best of English ingredients and taking a little inspiration from the Americans, we feel we have created something a little special just in time for everyone to drink it on the bar at Christmas. Be careful though, as it weighs in at 7.4%…