Last nights meeting went well, a great talk from Chris Ives from Ilkley Brewery, as well as some new faces joining us. Chris gave an insightful talk on the challenges of brewing low abv / hop forward beers, with some irony that the beers the homebrewers presented being upward of 5.8% abv, including an Amber Ale from Matt and Will, a 6.5% Cascadian Dark Ale from Ian, a 7% single hop IPA from Rob, a 9% smoked IPA from Pete and two versions of a 10% Barley Wine from Simon. Safe to say that some hops were harmed in the making of these beers!
Chris made several points on the variables a brewer needs to control when brewing a low abv beer. Interestingly, and from my point of view, each point is important to consider when brewing any beer; sanitation of your kit, water treatment, temperatures of your strike, mash and sparge liquor, boil length, hop addition timings and choice of yeast. However, these principles are arguably more important with a beer which is all about balance between its body and the hop character. I can't speak from experience of brewing this style of beer, but I've drunk a few and any slight mistakes have nowhere to hide.
This is not to say that brewing a low abv beer is necessarily anymore difficult than brewing any other style, but this leads on to what I found to be the most important advice of the evening. Regardless of the style you are brewing, if you are going to produce exactly what you want and to be happy with it, then you will need to brew it a few times before you get it right. Chris was honest enough to share with us that Ilkley beers took some development, no surprise there, but also that it is an ongoing process of incremental adjustments to the variables listed above, that allow them to understand where they need to focus to make the beer better the next time. Food for thought and a big thank you to Chris for joining us.
Looking forward to our next meeting, we will be arranging a meeting sometime in late July (venue to be confirmed). However, between now and July, Chris has extended an invitation to the group to visit the brewery for a tasting session. Before we tackle the logistics of getting us all to the brewery, it would be useful if we can agree on a couple of dates that we can put forward. The best days for this to happen are are
Thursday late afternoon onwards (which could prove difficult for most) or a Saturday afternoon.
So, lets be having your suggestions below.