Hi folks. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had crazy amounts of feedback about our New England style IPA “So Hot Right Now”. Some drinkers have reviewed it as their all-time favourite UnBarred beer. However, you may also have seen a few images of bad cans on social media, and we know that it’s not acceptable for our customers to be drinking beer that isn’t up to scratch. At UnBarred we always aspire to be as open and honest as possible about our brewing ethos and process, so we’re letting you know the story of what has gone into this beer, what might have caused some sporadic problems, and what we will be doing differently in the future to make our beers even better. If a bit of beer geekery isn’t your bag, then please just skip to the last section ‘Going Forward’. As always, thanks for your support and feedback. We couldn’t do this without you all.
About the beer
So Hot Right Now is a very hazy New England style IPA with big tropical notes of passionfruit and mango. A super silky mouthfeel with low bitterness.
How we achieve this
For the base of this beer we need a lot of protein and it’s very common to add a lot of oats and wheat to achieve this. We back this up with a low attenuating yeast (that eats less of the sugars) so as to get even more of the soft mouthfeel we are trying to achieve.
For minimal bitterness and lots of flavour and aroma we add high doses of big oily hops during the end of the boil and during fermentation. Fermentation hops add a different dimension to the flavour profile you achieve when dry hoping solely at the end of fermentation, but it brings with it some extra risks. For this style in particular we don’t cut any corners in choosing big expensive hops and using as much as we can to achieve our goals.
Issues we’ve encountered in the final product
5 days after the beer was canned and kegged, we got one report of an oxidised beer (brown in colour, low hop aroma and sweetness). We instantly replaced the can and tested the cans from the rest of the case to find no other cans were affected. We then did a lot of backtracking over processes and initially concluded it was a random can. Over the last few weeks though we’ve had 6 more reports of the same issue and noticed the common feature in affected cans is that they hadn’t been refrigerated from cradle to grave. So we experimented with heating cans up to 30°C and held them there to speed up any possible oxidisation. The results show that if the cans are held in a high temperature for a long enough period, then they will eventually prematurely oxidise. It seems as though the hottest summer on record for decades has meant a few cans have gotten too hot before reaching their drinking glass, making for a spoilt beer.
After turning the brewery upside down, sending cans for lab testing, speaking to leading New England brewers in the UK and doing a lot of research we have learnt the following about New England styles in particular. They:
- are extremely susceptible to picking up oxygen;
- contain more protein than pretty much any other style of beer;
- contain more polyphenols (hop oils) than any other style;
- use low flocculating yeast (meaning there’s more yeast in final product) and
- are unstable with much shorter shelf life (so need to be kept refrigerated)
The benefit of un-filtered and un-fined beer is the full flavour of all the ingredients that have gone into that beer are still there for you to enjoy. This is something we always wanted to promote. But there is a reason the big guys strip out yeast and dry matter and that is to help stabilise the beer and increase shelf life.
However, sometimes the mixture of methods that are used for New Englands can lead to more yeast and protein ending up in the can, along with the polyphenols from the high hopping rates. This can create an interaction that speeds up the oxidisation process, hence the occasional bad can.
At Missing Link Brewing (our laboratory|kitchen|recording studio), we have been fermenting, sounding and conditioning our beers in single vessels to reduce oxygen pick up. Our cans are a very low 20-50ppb and having spoken to loads of brewers in the industry, they would all be happy with this result. The cans are leaving the Brewery in good shape, but we know that its our responsibility to make sure that they reach you in tip top condition, and are really sorry if you’ve unfortunately received a sub-standard beer. We pushed the boundaries really far with this one but the science bit back.
Life never sits still at UnBarred. A whole load of new kit arriving this month and our massively exciting new brew house starts its installation this week. Once it’s all complete, conditioning tanks will take the beer off the yeast pre-packaging, a new can rinser will be used (even though cans are delivered sterile), a centrifuge will reduce the yeast and debris, and a hop gun will decrease hop debris left in the beer but increase flavour and aroma.
All of these processes are taking place right now, and we are genuinely excited to see what new opportunities the new gear will open up for us. We will keep pushing boundaries with our beers and stay true to the ethos of being “UnBarred” in our recipes, techniques and beers. With So Hot Right Now we have learned lots from the experience, but promise not to play it too to safe with future beers and will continue to share our journey with you all.
We hope you keep enjoying the beer with us and will let us know if you’ve had any issue with So Hot Right Now. If you have had a bad can, get in touch with us or your retailer, and we’ll make sure you get a fresh and tasty replacement in your hands asap. Otherwise, drink beer, have fun and enjoy in good company. Cheers guys.