Conceptual Hybrid Styles

The 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines offer even more in the realm of craft beer and homebrewing as far as style specificity is concerned compared to the older 2008 version.  After the BJCP update, new styles, or in some cases sub styles, were added to further broaden the scope of craft beer, showcasing the overwhelming growth rate of the hobby and beer culture as a whole.  The most notable revisions are apparent for most American styles concentrating on expanding the IPA to include sub styles such as Black IPAs (Cascadian Dark Ales), White IPAs, and Brown IPAs in addition to adding the new category: American Wild Ale.  Not only are the American varieties in the spotlight, but there is more to be seen among the Historic Beer category as well including one of the hottest current styles, the German Gose.

Most homebrewers tend to find a niche well within the guidelines because it offers a great starting place for recipe formulation: however, more and more are beginning to straddle the line between rigid normality and experimentation.  The guidelines are now so expansive that they encompass a wide variety of makes and models of beer.  Most batches brewed may be too quirky to fit into one category but most likely fall into another slot coincidentally.  Although it is quite hard to come up with a true hybrid, or an innovative style altogether, there are quite a few instances that push these boundaries entirely.

A big swing in American craft beer especially is going higher on original gravity.  Double/Imperial IPAs have gone “viral” and a multitude of craft breweries are pushing other styles well above 7%.  I am a fan of big beers and full flavors personally, but sometimes it’s nice to take everything down a notch and go for a more “sessionable” pint.  Regardless, most newer/awkward experimental styles involve the concept of “making it a double,” which indeed can add a nice layer of complexity in addition to allowing the brewer to experiment with more adjunct ingredients and other techniques.  There are plenty of commercial examples of these styles on the market, some just take a little searching and are most likely one-offs brewed for special occasions or seasonally.

Through my obsession of all things research and homebrewing alike, I found that it is quite fun to experiment with the menagerie of styles, more or less combining them into a unique classification where important components of each are combines to form a harmonious end product.  Some of these hybrids are fairly obvious and may not be considered a new style, however certain aspects of the beers can be changed to make it a unique brew.  I have been playing around with some recipe formulation over the last few months and in an attempt to push the boundaries, and with inspiration from other commercial breweries, have decided to try and come up with my own unique hybrid styles, a few of which I plan to share soon in future posts.

Other styles to look into in the future:

German IPA

Germans aren’t necessarily known for their ales, however there is one of note.  Most commonly, the Kolsch, a light, cold conditioned pale beer brewed with a clean fermenting german ale (Kolsch) yeast.  These beers are inherently easy to drink due to their crisp yeast character and “lagering” technique in order to clarify and unlimately clean up the final product to produce a nice, clear, pale and refreshing german ale.  Mostly hopped with traditional german hop varieties like Hallertau or Tettnanger, the hop flavor and aroma is pretty distinct as in other german beers due to their nice spicy/floral characters.

To hop on the current India-everything bandwagon, I thought it would be interesting to showcase these German hops in the American sense of brewing: hop it to hell!  I will however proceed with some restraint to avoid overly grassy flavors and aromas these hops tend to give off in large quantities so I was thinking of producing a hybrid style that combined three different traditions together: 2 German and 1 American. 1) Produce a clean, malty but hop forward, pale to amber beer of moderate strength (5-7% ABV) using the clean fermenting Kolsch yeast; 2) Use a higher than average hopping rate with traditional German variety hops as mentioned previously; and 3) Use current American hopping techniques such as hop bursting during the end of the boil and/or whirlpooling to preserve the delicate flavor and aroma compounds in the hops.  The end product would most likely resemble a hoppier German Pils minus the sulfury lager yeast character those styles are known for.  A work in progress, but a neat idea nonetheless.

Imperial Oatmeal Stout

I have already alluded to this beer in a previous post so I will be brief.  I wouldn’t necessarily consider this a new style yet, mostly because I haven’t completed my first attempt at brewing it, nor have I tried any commercial examples.  My thought on this was to create a heftier version of the beloved oatmeal stout using flaked oats and a nice touch of roasted malts.  I envisioned a thick and creamy full-flavored beer that would be nice served with a desert, finishing at a higher gravity, but staying complex and balanced and not cloyingly sweet.  I used a dry english ale yeast in attempt to preserve some attenuation and a ton of flaked oats. What a sticky mess!

Double India Wit Ale aka Double White IPA

I can’t lie, I became interested in brewing my own rendition of this from a small batch one-off produced by The Veil Brewing Company.  They go into a little detail from what they’ve listed on their Instagram account: “…a double white IPA…which is essential an imperial witbier clocking in at 8%, hopped like a DIPA with Citra and Lemondrop hops.  Soft, no bitterness, tons of citrus character, hidden ABV, and really elegant integration of esters from the witbier yeast and citrus forward hops.”  I’ve never had it, but I thought it would be a great idea to attempt and try to figure it out, especially since the original white IPA is a new sub-style in the 2015 BJCP guidelines.  I started with a typical witbier malt bill, approximately 50% pilsner malt, 30% flaked wheat, and a touch of flaked oats and light crystal for added body and sweetness.  Witbiers traditionally are brewed with unmalted wheat, which is difficult to convert in a single-step mash.  Usually, a multistep mash or decoction mash profile is necessary to allow for the proper conversion of unmalted wheat, both of which I do not care to dive into at the moment.  A good substitute that would convert well in a single infusion mash and still give a similar grainy, bready profile to the beer would be flaked wheat.  Flaked wheat is also unmalted, but it has been gelatinized, which in a sense would take the place of a protein rest in a multi step mash schedule.  The only problem is that you need appropriate malted grains to provide enough enzymatic activity (i.e. diastatic power) provided by the malted portion to convert the starch.  This is an area I forgot to take under consideration when purchasing my grain for the batch, but I believe that I have a high enough percentage of malted barley in the bill to allow for appropriate conversion if given a longer rest time (i.e. 90 minutes).  The addition of coriander seed and caracao orange peel are also traditional ingredients to a wit, and will play a secondary role in this style since the hop and yeast characters will most likely dominate, especially at the hopping rate I will be going for.  As for yeast, a traditional belgian style yeast is obvious, however, there are multiple types that can be used.  Common sense would allude to using a Belgian Wit strain, but there has been a plethora of empiric evidence on the forums regarding the use of saison yeast, which would provide great attenuation and nice spicy ester profile.  All in all, the takeaway here is that this hybrid style is a stronger version of a belgian witbier with characters of an American IPA/DIPA in the hopping department, both with the hopping rate and varietal.

India Pale Lager (IPL)

The IPL has been on the come up as far as American style beers are concerned.  The lagering character of the beer allows for a smooth crisp finish with little in the sense of yeast derived characters.  Lagers can be either malt focused, as in many German styles, or hop forward, as with pilsners.  Most American lagers today use an extremely clean fermenting yeast with little to no ester profile and low enough hopping rates to forgo any hop derived flavor or aroma.  Old American hop varieties such as Crystal or Liberty hops are used, with flavor and aroma resembling most old world continental varieties. The IPL, obviously by the name, would combine the worlds of both lager and ale and can be done in a variety of ways.  One constant would be the hopping rate, which would creep up on the high end of ales, and extremely high with any lager.  Remember, lagers are very clean, and especially dry, so any hop flavor and bitterness would be exaggerated due to the low final gravity.  For example, and IPA with 70 IBUs is about average, but put 70 IBUs worth of “hoppage” in a bone dry lager and it would most likely rip the enamel off of your teeth and render the beer nearly undrinkable.  From the amount of research that I have done, a good starting point would be around 30-50 IBUs for a beer with a final gravity less than 1.08 or so.  As for the hop varietals, there are no limits.  IPA is such a broad category in and of itself that any type of hop can be used, but the rate and technique at which these hops are applied to the process is where the characteristics are derived.  American hops would add a nice citrus, piney flavor and aroma, and german hops could lend a more traditional spicy and floral note.  Yeast on the other hand is fairly consistent.  Some continental strains can add some character to the beer, such as the German and Czech strains which seem to preserve a good amount of maltiness while also enhancing the hop flavor.  American strains tend to dry out the beer and strip most flavors away with it, which would allow the hop character of the beer to shine all the way through.  An interesting style otherwise, the IPL can be done numerous ways, and is becoming more and more common among local craft breweries.


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