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Brewing the Brewer’s Best Hopnog 2009

March 7: When I saw this limited edition brew on the shelf at my local homebrew store, I knew I had to check it out. I’m a lover of all things hoppy, so a wacky organic American IPA was something I had to try!

Brewing on the Hopnog was pretty straightforward. I started out by steeping the grains. This kit had 8oz. of Crystal 60L crushed organic malt and 4oz. of crushed dextrine malt. I let them steep for about 20 minutes at around 150°.

After the steeping, I raised the temperature and got it to a nice 185° boil. I added in my malts and sugars. This kit had Maltoferm organic light DME, a Golden light LME, and corn sugar. Once these were all dissolved I returned the pot to a boil and started adding in my hops.

The hops are really where this kit gets interesting. The bittering hops are a Brewers Gold bittering hop, then the next two additions are both orgainic. First the Palisade organic flavoring hops, then the Palisade organic aroma hops at the end of the boil for 10 minutes.

I gave my pot my standard sink ice bath and let it cool for about 20 minutes before adding it in to my fermenting bucket with the remaining 2.5 gallons of cold water. I made sure to use my strainer on this batch, as there were a lot of hops to get back out of the wort. Next, I topped the fermenter off with cold water to get the level 5 gallons, then took a sample for my hydrometer. My original gravity measure was about 1.052.

I pitched the yeast at 78° and moved the fermenter to my brewing closet.

Bottling the Hopnog 09

I moved the Hopnog to the secondary on March 25, which was 18 days after brewing. I don’t have a set amount of time I like a beer to sit in the fermenter, it’s mostly when I get the time to do it. Same goes for bottling.

I bottled this batch of beer on April 8th, a month after the original brew date. Nothing very eventful for either the move to the secondary or the bottling process. I used a mixture of growlers and 12oz bottles for this batch.

Drinking the Hopnog 09 Organic IPA

I’m writing this WAY after the fact, so the IPA has now had about 3 months to sit and figure itself out. The flavors on this one stabilized after about a month in the bottle. Not much has changed since then.

As an IPA drinker, I may be getting a little too picky, but I can’t say that I love this beer. I should also mention that I didn’t love the last Brewer’s Best IPA that I brewed about a year ago, either. I will eventually figure out what my complaint is, but basically I don’t love the hop taste of the Brewer’s Best IPA’s. They come across a little bit bitter, and just don’t seem to have the right balance of flavors. All that said, this isn’t a BAD beer, just not something you’d compare to an IPA from your local brewery, or a 6-pack from the store. NOwhere near as good as a storebought IPA. (Ranger IPA from New Belgium being my current favorite).

I should mention that the off flavors I’ve produced brewing IPA’s could be all my fault. Maybe I’m adding them at the wrong points of the boil, maybe my temps are off, etc. Live and learn, perhaps.

One more thing to note about this brew is the exteme carbonation. I can only imagine this part is my fault, but I’ve got CRAZY carbonation from these beers. So bad it slowly rises out the top of an opened bottle, or fills the pint with foam before you even get an inch of liquid in the bottom. This wasn’t the case until just recently, so I’m working out some variables to see if I can’t figure out what the heck my problem is. I may not love this beer, but I’m sure as hell gonna drink it!

Addition: I mentioned the carbonation…  About 3 months after this had been in the bottle, I was laying down for bed when I heard a crash in the room above me.  I went up to check it out.  I didn’t see anything, but I could hear dripping.  Sure enough, one of these bottled had exploded.  Luckily I had heard it, and was able to clean up the mess before it got too sticky.  The bottles were boxed up, so the glass shards were contained pretty well.  I wouldn’t have guessed a bottle could explode this long after the fact.  Now I know.  Another weird thing, the crazy carbonation on these has mellowed out a bit.  The last few I’ve had have been okay.  It seems like maybe the sugar didn’t mix in that well, so certain bottles were extreme, while others were not.

  • Jacob September 16, 2010, 4:32 pm

    I just noticed on your article that you thought the IPA was a bit too bitter. This happened to me with the Brewers Best American CREAM ALE. Kind of hard to imagine.

    The longer that you let the hops boil in your Wort, the more bitter the taste. I just cut 5 minutes off of my boils on each addition of hops, and it fixed the issue for me.

  • Jeremy September 17, 2010, 10:29 am

    Great tip! I’ll make sure to take some of the boil time off of the hops on my next batch to see if I can tell a difference. I love hops, but I suppose there is such thing as TOO much of a good thing, right?

  • Jeremy May 10, 2011, 4:31 pm

    UPDATE: I mentioned above that I haven’t enjoyed the IPA’s that I had made. I’ve recently found out that the extra hard water in my area has a tendency to amplify the perceived bitterness of the hops used for brewing.

    I have since started diluting my tap water with filtered water (the cheap 5 gallon jugs). My lighter beers have greatly improved by changing my water.

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