RAB Sabro Club Competiton

Earlier this year Sam managed to secure 5 kg of fresh 2019 Sabro hops and we decided this was a great opportunity to set a challenge to brew a beer that showcases the unique characteristics of this exciting hop as our first ever club competition.

Fast forward to our March meetup and it was time for our panel of esteemed judges to face the daunting challenge of deciding RABs first ever champion brewer!

Our panel of judges consisted of:

  • Dane White – Owner/Head Brewer, Phantom Brewing
  • Matt Crook – Taproom manager, Phantom Brewing
  • Jamie Duffield – Head Brewer, Wild Weather ales
  • Mike Harrison-Wood – By The Mash Tun
  • Cal Noble – By The Mash Tun

After some careful deliberation our panel managed to reach a unanimous decision:

1st place – Charles Read – Sultans of Sabro – Brut IPA
2nd place – Sam Illingworth – Sabrador Denali – Sabro and Denali NEIPA
3rd place – Richard Crutwell – Sabrosy – Sabro SMASH beer

We also awarded a prize for best label to Antonio for his very slick looking label for Coco Bongo – a mezcal/sabro IPA.

Charlie kindly wrote a piece about his prize winning beer for us but before I hand over to him, I would like to thank our panel of judges for giving up their time and to Phantom Brewery for providing some awesome prizes for the winners – cheers gents!

RAB competition winner Charles Read:

It’s Monday 23rd December, just a couple of days before Christmas when Sam jumps into the club chat with a proposition….

“Ok, Sabro 2019 hops are finally available but they’re either really expensive or need to be brought in bulk. If I pick up five kilo’s, would anyone be interested……if enough are interested maybe we should do a sabro brew-off!”

RAB WhatsApp:

The seed was sown and over half the club stepped forward to take their share of bale and the first RAB brew competition was set with just a single criteria, to showcase the hop in all it’s glory.  

Since joining the club last year I’ve been making more of an active effort to brew for competitions. Something I realised pretty quickly is stay real close to the style guidelines if you stand any chance of a high score. Whilst the criteria for this comp was pretty open, I was firm in my mind that this was going to be all about the hop. Everyone will have their own process when designing a beer but for me, this needed to start with the hop profile itself.

‘Sabro is an aroma hop that is notable for it’s complexity of fruity and citrus flavours. It imparts distinct tangerine, coconut, tropical fruit and stone fruit aromas with hints of cedar, mint and cream.’

Yakima Hops

My first observations were that a few of these notes felt like they could be easily lost behind a strong malt or confused by a funky yeast. My second observation was that several of those aroma profiles might do well with a little help from some complimentary hops. So….the beer needs a very light grain bill, probably almost entirely pilsner or very light pale malt, it would probably do well with a higher carbonation level in order to lift the more subtle aroma’s out the beer and the yeast need to be super clean, contributing as little as possible to the final finish.

I wanted to brew a pale ale but the pilsner grain bill and high carbonation was pulling me towards a larger or pilsner style. Pale would be easy enough but I felt like there would be a lot of other pales in the comp. Conversely a larger would be much harder to get right, finish clean and I just wasted sure I had enough time to larger it sufficiently. There was however another less well known style that could combine all the characters I wanted from a pale ale, with the dry, effervescent finish of a larger…..a Brut IPA.

‘Brut IPA has only been around for the last 18 months or so, still not enough time to coalesce into a defined ‘style’ but it has a few hallmarks. It’s pale, it’s bone dry, it’s highly effervescent. In short, it’s as close to champagne as an IPA can get and it’s nothing like the fruity, hazy, creamy IPAs that now dominate the scene.’

Beer advocate

For me, this ticked several boxes…..not just a light, clean base beer that would allow the hops to shine but also likely different to any other IPA’s, Pale Ale’s and Largers that the rest of the club might be brewing. I was decided, sold even. The only issue now….I’d never brewed an Brut IPA before. Time for some more research.

My first go to for style guidance is nearly always byo.com. In this case I very quickly found a great article by Vito Delucchi titled ‘Brut IPA’. In this article Vito breaks down the history of the style along with recipes and interviews with three different head brewers in the US. Some key observations come out of the article….

The ‘bone dryness’ comes from a very low final gravity finish….in some examples the FG moving below zero. This low gravity comes as the result of an enzyme called Amyloglucosidase (commonly found in homebrew suppliers as Amylo 300 or WhiteLabs Ultra Ferm). The enzyme attacks the ends of starch strands and breaks them into smaller chains….with enough time, the starches in the wort can be reduced entirely to simple sugars which our brewing yeast can now convert quite happily (more science here). The enzyme can be added to the mash or added to the fermenter, the former is easily controlled with the enzyme being denatured in the boil. The latter option appeared to be harder to accurately predict and was affected by a whole bunch of variable factors that felt harder for me to get right first time. For those interested, the guys over at Brulosophy run an experiment to determine if there’s a notable difference. I made my mind up pretty quickly, i’d stay of the side of caution and opted for the mash addition. I reviewed a bunch of other recipes online and the dosing range varied between 3 ml and 12 ml of Amylo 300 in a 5 gallon batch, suggested temps of 58-61 degrees Celsius seemed to be the norm. I plumped for 6 ml.

Many of the recipes I found shared a common grain bill……mostly pilsner with some flaked oats and flaked corn/maize which I assumed was to help with some body. Some had Vienna malts, dextrose and carapills but it was the exception. In the case of all these options I decided to shoot straight down the middle of the ranges. For my yeast this was an easy choice in SafeAle US-05, my go to yeast for a clean, well attenuated finish that is pretty tricky to mess up. At this point I had enough to start building the recipe and fired up BeerSmith. I created a new yeast profile to account for the lower FG. It wasn’t going to be an exact science and that’s fine as long as I could dial in to an ABV +/- 0.2 either side of target which I’d already decided was going to be 6%…..just because you know, IPA. Started with 4kg of premier pilsner then added 300g of maize and 200g of oats.

Now to the task of hops and schedules. When I’m designing big hoppy beers like IPA’s and Pale Ale’s I tend to work in reverse and plan my aroma hop additions backwards from the dry hop before then looking at what I need to add at whirlpool and late boil to get the IBU’s I’m after. In this case I started with a big lump (160 grams) of Sabro that would go in after 4 days and sit for 4 days through cold crash. Most of the recipes I’d found all reflected similar dry hopping quantities. They also all indicated that we’re looking for a low IBU profile, even more so I figured with the Sabro so I dialled in another 56 grams at flame out. The IBU was still mid teens and I needed something else a little earlier to bring it up to low thirty something. I was already happy that 216 grams of Sabro was plenty enough to qualify as a showcase….a final little finesse and we’d be done. At 5 minutes I elected to drop in 34 grams of Idaho 7 for a few reasons (other than it was already in my freezer). Firstly it’s very well regarded as an IPA hop in general, secondly for me it’s got nice piney, earthy and floral notes. I wanted those piney, earthy notes to add a bit of depth on the Sabro’s own hints of pine. At the opposite end I also wanted to raise up the citrus tones in Sabro and just happened to have a bit of Citra left over in my freezer so another 28 grams alongside the 160 gram dry hop felt like the right place to compliment but not overshadow Sabro.

The stage was now set….I had plans to dial in a custom water profile from RO specifically to accentuate the style but like so many of us, my brew day window of opportunity came up rather suddenly and I elected to go the bottled water route instead. Everything went pretty much as planned. I start by acidifying my mash with lactic acid and bringing it down to 5.5 Ph before doughing in the grains for a fairly watery consistency at a strike temp of around 65 Celsius….for a mash temp of 61 and a Ph of 5.3. I added the enzyme after 5 minutes and ran a full 60 mash. Fly sparged with non acidified water at 76 Celsius, to end up with roughly 24 litres in the kettle. I normally run a short boil for pale malts but pushed the full 60 minutes for the pilsner just to be sure.

Irish Moss at 10 minutes closely followed by my first hop charge of Idaho 7 going in at 5 minutes remaining. The only hot side Sabro goes in after 5 minutes off the heat, I use a big stainless spoon to manually whirlpool the kettle then leave that to settle for 15 minutes whilst I clear up and empty the mash tun. After chilling with my counter flow I ended up with around 19.5 litres in the FV which I then oxygenate with a stainless steel air stone for 20 seconds before dumping both packets of yeast straight on the foam. Moving it to my ferm fridge in the house tends to agitate it enough to disperse the yeast granules adequately, I’ve never had any issues so far.

FV goes into the fridge at 19 degrees, on day 3 that’s raised to 20 and day 4 up to 21. Gravity reading shows we’re already down to 0.008 so in goes all the dry hops. I hold the beer at 21 for two more days before cold crashing it to 4 degrees and holding it for another 2 days to settle. Final gravity is 0.002 when I rack to keg. I started the force carb at 15 psi and left it for 4 days to see how it developed. The first pour from the keg had be grinning like a cheshire cat, aroma was fantastic, bitterness spot on, colour was exactly what I’d hoped for….now I was starting to feel pretty bullish. It needed just a bit more on the carbonation so I pushed the psi to 18-19. Three days later it was ready and like a few others in the group we were all pretty happy just to have a keg of great beer in the fridge….as to who would win, well that was still to be seen.

The rest everyone should know by now, I wouldn’t be here writing this otherwise. When the virus clears and we get back to normal I’ve got a date with Phantom’s pilot kit! Come down try it for yourself when it goes on tap.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *