Elderflower IPA

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Things have been pretty flat out with starting the brewery and it’s been a bit too long since I did my last homebrew, but there was one brew I absolutely couldn’t bear to miss, and it really couldn’t wait.

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It’s my IPA with elderflowers (fläder) and it is one of my absolute favourite recipes. I normally try to stick with the traditional beer ingredients but I’m really glad that I broke the old laws for this one.

The base recipe is my single-hop Amarillo IPA recipe (which was also the inspiration for 15 Minutes of Flame); it’s late-hopping only, plus a pretty ridiculous dose of elderflowers which go in right at the end of the boil.

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For elderflower cordial it’s pretty typical to pour boiling water over the flowers (and lemons in that case) and leave them to steep for 5 days, so at first I was pretty tempted to put them in the primary fermenter to try to get a similar effect. But there were two reason I decided against this – one is that they don’t feel like the most sterile ingredient, and unlike hops I don’t think they have any antibacterial properties of their own, so throwing them only in the fermenter seemed crazy. I guess you could hope that their time in kettle would be enough to sterilise them, but that still wouldn’t get around the 2nd reason, which is that they are really bulky (at least if you use as many as I did) and if I think that if I’d put them in the fermenter they would have soaked up about 4-5 L of beer that I really would like to drink instead… So yeah, they went in at the end of the boil, then I let them steep for about 10 minutes (I think it’s a bit optimistic to call it a whirlpool when there is so much in the kettle that the spoon floats, so it wasn’t exactly like stuff was forming a neat cone in the bottom of the kettle!).

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Then I actually fished them out during the beginning of the transfer so that I wouldn’t lose too much liquid (I prefer to fish out early as I figure that the wort (which is still about 95C) has a better chance of remaining sterile than if I go fishing around and squeezing the dregs at the bottom of the kettle.

As usual for my homebrews I used a british liquid yeast that I think gives some nice fruity characters and is quite low in attenuation, which is pretty much the opposite of a conventional IPA yeast. Over the years I’ve tried quite a few different yeasts and this was one that I originally only used for darker beers like porter and amber ale, but I really liked it in my IPA so I stuck with it.

The result was really great with great elderflower flavours that complement the normal hop profile really nicely. I’m really keen to try brewing it on a commercial scale next year, but I’m not really sure if it will be logistically possible – I’ve figured out that even for 1000 litres I’d need to pretty much fill my entire car with elderflowers. And they’d all ideally need to be picked on brewday so it could be quite epic…