Vignette 33: Ben Edmunds (Breakside)
Ben Edmunds is the founding head brewer at Breakside and now oversees one of the best teams in the state. As the brewery has evolved, the beers have trended toward hops. This vignette comes from an interview I did in 2015 with Ben for The Secrets of Master Brewers, in which his techniques were featured on the chapter on American IPAs. See all the vignettes in the series here.
“What you have to do to make a successful hoppy ale, bottom line, is you have to start with a very clear flavor profile of your hops in mind and work backwards. Everything stems from the hops. If you want to make a beer with really high alpha aroma varieties, great—but don’t try to make a session IPA that way. Because either you’re not going to use enough hops (because you don’t want to get the BUs too high) or you’ll get your BUs too high from using too many high-alpha hops.”
American IPAs now have their own national character, Ben believes. A German making helles would nod with recognition at this insight.
Don’t use more than five varieties in a beer, he says, and 3-4 is best. With too many, “they taste muddled. You say, that’s hoppy; but it’s indistinct. Over time, we’ve learned which hops we like better as kettle hops, which ones we like better as whirlpool hops, as dry hops. Comet, only a dry hop. Amarillo, El Dorado, Citra great whirlpool hop. Centennial, Cascade we like better as a ten-minute hop.”
“We really need to retool what we use as our utilization for whirlpool and late kettle additions across the board for all the beers. The thing it opened our eyes to was that from a balance point of view, we were way higher in BUs than we wanted. So we started peeling away, peeling away. And the beers all got better. So the way we calculate it is that the 60 minute addition should add no more than 5-10 BUs…. I made an IPA today on the 3-barrel system where the 60-minute addition was 1.1 ounces.”