I’ve been researching and brewing the NEIPA style exclusively for the past year. So much to the point where I’m starting to get burnt out with constantly testing new things. I’m cramming what feels like several years of brewing into several months, however, I’m learning a tremendous amount brewing what many say is the most difficult style of beer to master—and I would have to agree.
Hops and yeast are of course the two biggest characteristics of the NEIPA. Yeast selection along with dry hop amount and timing will ultimately dictate the final appearance and overall flavor profile.
The purpose of this experiment was to see how the exact same batch/beer recipe would differ if it was split 5 ways with 5 different strains. I did not want to brew 5 subsequent batches and use a different yeast every time. For starters, it would take a lot longer and I would never get a true comparison. I wanted instant side by side results with beers of the same age and variables.
Before I jump into this, I want to express that I realize not every variable is 100% controlled in this experiment. I tried to keep as many variables as consistent as I could without overcomplicating the process. After all, this is not a laboratory experiment, this is beer, fellas.
The hardest part of this experiment was narrowing down which yeast to use. While London III has become an incredibly popular strand for the style, there are dozens of yeasts being used to produce NEIPAs. The more I taste and really think about the commercial examples I drink, the more I can identify strand commonalities between different breweries. Yeast imparts a very distinct flavor profile in beer, which is a huge part of the reason I wanted to do this experiment in the first place. Could the exact same base recipe produce 5 unique beers by just changing the yeast?
I knew the answer would likely be yes, but I wanted to taste for myself and see what I liked the best.
- Wyeast London Ale III – 1318
- Gigayeast Vermont IPA – GY054
- Wyeast British Ale – 1098
- White Labs Dry English Ale – WLP007
- White Labs Saccharomyces “Bruxellensis” Trois – WLP644
I’ve brewed several batches with WY1318. I’ve also used WLP007 and a very similar strain to WLP644 (Omega Tropical IPA OYL 200). As of this experiment, this would be the first time using GY054 and WY1098. I went back and forth on keeping any previously used strains but I also wanted some I was familiar with as a baseline. Consider these strains as my ‘control’ of sorts. 5 totally new strains might actually make it more difficult to identify differences from what I’m used to.
I designed a standard 5.5-gallon NEIPA recipe brewed with a heavy whirlpool addition of Cryo Hops® Citra, and T-90 Mosiac and Galaxy. I distributed the wort into 5 1 gallon glass carboys (purchased via Northern Brewer) and fermented all at the same temp (except one), and dry-hopped each with 1 ounce of Citra on day 5. I chose a grist of Pilsner malt, flaked oats, white wheat, and some Carapils/Carafoam for body and head retention.
Crystal malt is typically avoided in NEIPAs because it adds too much sweetness. Trillium uses C-15 in several of their beers according to their website so I decided to add 4 ounces for color. More than anything, I was curious to experiment with it because I drink a tremendous amount of Trillium. Below is my BIAB recipe and general brew day stats.
|Mash Temp: 154°F
|Mash pH: 5.2
|Fermentation Temp: 68°F*
|Batch Size: 5.5gal
10 lb – Pilsner Malt 1.8 °L (71.4%)
2 lb – Oats, Flaked 1.6 °L (14.3%)
1 lb – Wheat White Malt 2.3 °L (7.1%)
12 oz – Carapils/Carafoam 2 °L (5.4%)
4 oz – Crystal 15L 11.6 °L (1.8%)
1⁄2 Whirlfloc® tablet (15 min)
Water Profile (Treated tap)
25 min 180 °F – 3 oz – Mosaic Whirlpool
25 min 180 °F – 1 oz – Citra (Cryo Hops) Whirlpool
25 min 180 °F – 1 oz – Galaxy Whirlpool
5 oz Citra – Dry Hop on Day 5
#1 Wyeast London Ale III – 1318
#2 Gigayeast Vermont IPA – GY054
#3 Wyeast British Ale – 1098
#4 White Labs Dry English Ale – WLP007
#5 White Labs Saccharomyces “Bruxellensis” Trois – WLP644
The picture above is actually just before pitching the yeast. You can clearly identify a disproportionate amount of trub floating in samples #1 and #5. Believe it or not, #1 was the first carboy I filled from my boil kettle. I’m guessing this has something to do with the Whirlfloc and the progress of settling proteins. I was a little concerned this was going to complicate things but to my surprise, the trub levels settled and equalized through the week. You can see this on day 4 in the next picture. Next time I suppose I could rotate filling all carboys to get a more even distribution of trub, but luckily it worked out.
I pitched about half a pouch of each yeast. I figured this would be slightly overpitching but it couldn’t hurt. Now, I understand pitch rates are going to vary from sample to sample because I eyeballed everything. Not to mention Gigayeast was actually a double pitch pack so I pitched even less of it by my estimation. For my purposes, I’m really looking for how an adequate pitch of each strain will result in a final NEIPA. Plus, I did not want to risk contamination by trying to measure out liquid or introduce more variables and make a huge mess.
Fermentation looked nearly identical between all 5 batches in terms of the visual stages. Lag times and peak fermentation varied between all batches. Both Wyeast packs took off the quickest. I did hit the smack packs on both Wyeast packets however I did not give either ample time to swell.
WY1318 was the most aggressive fermentation and actually blew through the airlock twice. The rest were reasonably calm. GY054, WLP644, and WLP007 seemed to be the most similar in terms of schedule, with WLP644 being the slowest to form a healthy krausen on top. You can clearly notice a color variance between all 5 batches. WLP644 looked the most brilliant gold and appealing to me at this point.
Final Gravity and ABV
Everything finished about where I expected it to (based on Brewfather predictions) with the exception of WY1098 and WLP644. WY1098 attenuated on the higher end of the manufacturer’s attenuation range. All batches finished fermenting in 4 days except for WLP644. That batch reached 1.022 by day 4 and crept down to 1.016 over the course of the next week. It may have gotten down lower had I fermented hotter, but I’d rather have a higher FG to be honest. Research suggested WLP644 should have finished around 1.010.
In general, all of these beers turned out as a pretty standard IPA in terms of ABV. Most NEIPAs I drink are typically doubles, but I think this will help create a simple clean profile and modestly dry hopped beer for evaluating yeast.
|Wyeast London Ale III
|Gigayeast Vermont IPA
|Wyeast British Ale
|White Labs Dry English Ale
|White Labs Saccharomyces “Bruxellensis” Trois
It would appear most of the big-name NEIPA producers I read about dry hop at terminal and terminal only (basing this off lots of research and first-hand convos with breweries). I’ve tried just about everything in terms of hop timing and distribution but until I run a true side-by-side experiment (something like this one), it’s difficult for me to say which I like best. For now, I’m sticking with the advice of the pros at the breweries I love. Each beer was dry-hopped with 1 oz of Citra on day 5 at 60°F.
In this particular experiment, I actually focused on slightly ramping up the whirlpool and doing an equal quantity of dry hops. According to Scott Janish’s research in his new book (The New IPA), homebrewers may need to do larger whirlpool additions to actually match commercial scale results. I know there is a lot of advice to save the majority of hops for the dry hop (which I’ve typically done), but I’m not sure it has rendered the best results for me. Furthermore, Scott’s research has shown that homebrewers can get much better hop utilization during the dry hop than at the commercial scale. Just some food for thought.
WLP644 Will Not Conform
One last thing to mention here if you haven’t already noticed. All batches were dry-hopped at terminal with the exception of WLP644. WLP644 has certainly been the black sheep of this experiment. The suggested fermentation schedule and temperature are different from the rest. I decided to go with the lesser of two evils and dry hop on day 5 regardless of it not quite reaching terminal gravity.
The other option would have been to wait several days for it to finish and then dry hop. This would have decreased dry hop duration in comparison to the rest. Regardless, this variant has been treated differently, but it’s how I would treat this strand if I was fermenting with it alone. I’d rather each strand perform in its optimal environment rather than forcing it to comply to what would probably be my own detriment.
Early fermenter/post dry hop samples from WLP644 were really good. Honestly probably the most drinkable and flavorful uncarbonated wort I’ve ever made. I was so excited about it I drank the entire sample from my hydrometer tube. I’ve never been able to achieve this level of flavor at 10 days.
Before packaging, I sealed each carboy tightly with tape and foil and cold crashed overnight in my fridge at 35°F. NEIPAS are more susceptible to oxidation than any other style. I typically keg my beers and run a completely closed system so bottling a NEIPA was very new territory for me. I don’t have 5 free kegs nor do I have the ability to chill, store, or dispense 5 kegs at once.
To minimize oxygen exposure I bottled directly from the primary carboy via auto-siphon hooked up to a bottling wand. Because of this approach, I opted for fizz drops to individually carbonate each beer without the risk of over carbonating or failing to carbonate with priming sugar. While a bottling bucket would have been the easiest route to fill each bottle, I did not want to risk the additional oxygen exposure. This method worked great once I got the hang of it. The hardest part was starting the flow of the auto-siphon with the bottling wand nozzle open. After that, I was able to easily fill each bottle and start/stop on demand without releasing the siphon.
Bottling in general is not the best way to create stable NEIPAs, however, that was not the goal of this experiment. My only hope was to taste a few decent bottles of each that I could accurately compare and rank before any signs of oxidation ruined everything. I fermented these beers for 11 days and then carbonated for just about 2 weeks before sampling. They were 21 days old on tasting day.
I can’t even tell you how much the anticipation of the experiment ate away at my soul for several weeks. I’ve never eagerly awaited a batch(s) of beer in my entire life. Especially since I was going to be able to try 5 beers at once. A true homebrewed flight—and probably the coolest thing I will ever do.
To eliminate any biased feedback I actually conducted this experiment blind with the help of my wife. We sampled one by one and recorded notes on each beer. Below are both of our tasting thoughts compiled. I will say I wasn’t crazy about the color of the beers. They looked much brighter in direct sunlight than under my kitchen lights. It’s hard to tell if these beers are already suffering from a little bit of oxidation or are in the early stages of it. They are pictured above in the same order as all other pictures and also in order of my tasting notes!
All beers were super soft and really balanced. I’d attribute this to general finishing gravity, a 3:1 chloride to sulfate ratio, and my use of dextrin. In terms of mashing, water profile, and grist, they were right where I wanted them to be (with the exception of maybe caramel). If I had to make any adjustments next time, it would be ramping up the dry hop to 2 ounces per gallon.
#1 Wyeast London Ale III – 1318: Tropical fruit, subtle esters, strawberry, guava, light butterscotch, maple, very light overall with a fruity aroma. I felt like I was the most familiar with this yeast heading into this but it tasted very unrecognizable to me.
#2 Gigayeast Vermont IPA – GY054: Very slight caramel taste, apricot, candied mango, sweet fruit, maybe watermelon?, overall one of the fruitiest samples. This tasted the most similar to 1318 but with less buttery/caramel flavor.
#3 Wyeast British Ale – 1098: Dank and funky aroma. Very light mango notes, dirt, (and my favorite note from my wife, “day after a college party“). Our least favorite of the 5 by far. It was almost a little offputting in comparison to the rest.
#4 White Labs Dry English Ale – WLP007: I had this as my top two with GY054 and potentially favorite. Most raw Citra notes that tasted like fresh hops. Very mild with a touch of pineapple with subtle bread-like character. Even though it was the darkest in terms of color (and likely oxidizing), I liked it a lot.
#5 White Labs Saccharomyces “Bruxellensis” Trois – WLP644: Banana, esters, clove, apricot. Very light and fruity and def the most carbonated. This may have initially thrown off my taste buds. I may come back and edit notes as I try them again. Despite the picture looking hazy, it cleared the most in the bottle. I would be curious to use WLP644 again and also ferment it a little hotter next time.
In terms of the buttery notes with 1318, it’s either diacetyl or general English yeast characteristics. I feel like diacetyl is probably unlikely however I did not have the ability to heat my fermenters above 66-67°F. I also did not experience this pre-bottling, which is likely a sign of diacetyl.
I liked 1098 the least throughout all samples both pre and post bottling. My wife and I both agreed it was the worst and I’m hesitant to use it ever again. My favorites were WLP007, GY054, and WLP644 (potentially in that order however I could probably go back and forth all day as they were very close). Tasting notes generally are really difficult for me. Our taste buds ability to detect flavors vary from day to day and can be altered by what you have or haven’t eaten that day. My wife and I agreed that both WLP007 and GY054 stood out to us the most in terms of preference.
I will say that both 1318 and WLP644 were bursting with the most flavor from early fermenter samples. Both had desirable esters and fruity characteristics. In hindsight, these were likely the freshest samples with no oxidation factors at play. So take it for what it’s worth, but I really liked those early samples the most.
I’d really love to do this one more time with 5 fresh strains. Basically everything I considered the first time around as options. This was a relatively easy experiment to do. The 1-gallon carboys were a bargain ($9.99 a piece) and came with airlocks and caps. The only other recommendation would be a mini auto-siphon, which plugs into a standard bottling wand. It’s a little tough to say if oxidation was a factor, especially this early on.
I’m sure different strains lend themselves better or worse to different hops. I don’t think this can be used as blind knowledge that strain X will always perform better than strain Y. That being said, it’s incredibly interesting to see how much yeast dominates a beer’s character.
Other yeast considerations:
- Imperial Yeast – Juice
- Omega Yeast – OYL061 Voss Kveik
- LalBrew® Verdant IPA
- Imperial Yeast – Dry Hop
- White Labs English Ale Yeast – WLP002
- White Labs East Coast Ale – WLP008
- White Labs Burlington Ale Yeast – WLP095
- SafAle English Ale – S-04
Overall, I hope this was interesting and eye-opening. I’m likely going to brew a full batch of one of these next and see how it compares in a fully closed system. I have a new BrewBuilt conical on the way and its maiden voyage is screaming for a NEIPA (obviously).