Monday, February 18, 2013

Super Hopped Pale Ale and Peanut Brittle

A few weeks ago, I posted about an all-grain brewing class I taught at my local homebrewing store, The Fermentation Trap.  The class was divided between one night of lecture and a practical brewing demonstration on my equipment.  The goal being to reinforce what the students learned through slides and talking with a brew day, and to let them ask questions regarding the actual process.  Given my goal of brewing mostly session beer recipes, I elected to make a recipe created by a San Diego homebrewer and Stone Brewing Company, called San Diego County Session ale.

As can be seen by the recipe, the beer calls for a ridiculous amount of kettle and dry hops.  The hop bill is more in line with a double IPA, than an approximately 4% ABV session pale ale.  To be honest, I do not think I have ever hopped a 5-gallon batch to this level, and it caused several interesting issues during the brew day.  The most significant of these was that I only ended up with 5 gallons of wort from the kettle - it is amazing how much liquid hop matter can absorb.  Now that the beer is carbonated and ready, I wanted to post some tasting notes on it, along with a peanut brittle I made using it for Valentine's Day (my lovely wife is a huge hop head).  The peanut brittle recipe is from Sean Paxton and has been made in my house many times.  I would encourage our readers to give it a try.

Beer pours a very hazy clover-honey color, with a few bits of dry hop at the bottom of the glass.  The head is off white and about a half inch thick and leaves a nice lacing on the glass.  The beer has a very strong grapefruit aroma, almost like fresh pressed grapefruit juice.  The aromatics are layered with hints of pine needles and something slightly dank or herbal.

The initial flavor impression is very reminiscent of the aroma, with lots of grapefruit juice character.  This fades to a bitterness with the slight character of lemon pith.  The bitterness is present in the end, but nothing like what one would expect given all of the hop matter in the beer.  The bitterness lingers on the palate for some time, but not in an unpleasant manner.  There is little malt character in the beer and its lack of alcohol or malt body leaves the beer tasting a bit thin.  For all the raw hop presence, I feel the beer is missing something.

When tasted with the peanut brittle, the beer holds up surprisingly well.  The caramel sugar flavor seems to fill the missing body component in the beer, as well as the the sweetness of the brittle, the saltiness of the peanuts, and the citrus of the beer combine to make an interesting flavor on the palate.  By itself, the peanut brittle is very good, but I get little of the citrus character that is supposed to come from the beer.  But, tasted with the base beer, I think a flavor in between the two elements comes through and makes it better than either of the parts.

In the end, I think the beer needs some adjustment, if I ever make it again.  But I must say, I love the peanut brittle.




  1. Thanks for the follow-up Tom. As a novice brewer, it makes me think there is a point of diminishing returns especially for a 'bitter.'

    I'm starting to put together my list of equipment to brew all-grain. If you have any recommendations for those of us who took the class and are ready to starting buying equipment, maybe you could do a follow up post on the subject?

    Cheers -

  2. Good idea for a post, Jb. I will see what I can put together for you, as I have a few ideas I could share. Thanks for posting the comment and for attending the class.



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