Although I’ve never been to England (in fact, I’ve never left North America, something I intend to change soon), I’ve wanted to brew an English IPA for some time. I’ve always been a fan of English hops, especially East Kent Goldings, and the delicate and delicious flavors they provide. My favorite English example of the style is probably Bengal Lancer by Fullers, and my favorite domestic example is probably anything from our friends down the street, Hogshead. If anything, it’s because of how amazingly well made the beers are at Hogshead that’s prevented me from producing many English style ales since we’ve opened. When you’re less than a mile away, you tend to stay out of the other guy’s wheelhouse. But I wanted to put my own spin on the style, and I also wanted one to sip on here at our brewery. And when I was able to source a decent amount of East Kent Goldings, I made up my mind. At some point, I intend to brew a historically accurate English IPA based off 1800’s recipes (when the style originated), but that’s for another day and another blog post. Gobsmackin’ is definitely much more of a modern interpretation with a little bit of American flair thrown in.
But what to call it? I was browsing through a Google list of British slang when I came across Gobsmacked, which means astonished, surprised and amazed. If you break it down, it means to be hit in the mouth. I thought it was a pretty fitting name for this beer, not that it is absolutely amazing or that the fact that it’s quality is so great should be surprising. I really think the name fits because it’s a little bit of a departure from our normal beers. Generally speaking, I think we are best well known for our hoppy and Belgian beers, and the fact that our 6 highest rated beers on UnTappd are either hoppy or Belgian seems to back this up. Now, I understand that an English IPA is also a “hoppy” beer, but I think it is a different type of hoppy than what most people are used to.
American hops usually have citrusy, piney and resinous characteristics, while English hops tend to have more floral and earthy tones. Also, an English IPA is supposed to be much more balanced in terms of malt vs. hops than it’s American counterpart. In the United States, especially on the west coast, an IPA’s malt is mostly there just to be a hop delivery system. Crystal malt is usually discouraged as the sweetness hides hop flavor and bitterness. Hopping rates are usually much higher, with much of the hops being added during the whirlpool or the dry hop. We definitely follow these “guidelines”, as our Edgewater IPA only has crystal malt as 6% of the grist and 90.8% of the hops go in either the whirlpool or dry hop.
Gobsmackin’ is a little different. While the Crystal malt percentage is also 6%, the malts are of a much higher lovibond, meaning that they are going to contribute a much more intense flavor profile. While the crystal malt in Edgewater provides more of a golden color and a mild caramel flavor, the Gobsmackin’ malts provide more color impact (lots of red), as well as a rich caramel flavors with hints of raisins. We also add 3% Belgian biscuit malt, which adds delicious biscuit, bready and toasty flavors and aromas. For hopping, only 49% of the hops go in the whirlpool and dry hop, which is a much bigger change from Edgewater’s 90.8%.
Other than the Belgian biscuit malt, all other ingredients are all English. Our malts are from Crisp, we used East Kent Golding hops throughout and used a very well known English yeast strain, which adds a touch of fruitiness. Usually, English IPAs are also well known for their hard water profile, which adds more of a minerally flavor on the back end and helps to accentuate bitterness. I decided not to adjust water chemistry at all, as I’ve been pretty happy with our water since we opened, and wanted this to be our interpretation of the style instead of trying to mimic something exactly.
I get strong floral and lighter caramel/biscuity aromas in the nose, while the earthy profile of the EKG’s come out a bit more in the flavor. The biscuit and caramel are also a bit stronger in the flavor compared to the aroma, with a moderate to moderate strong bitterness. It pours delightfully clear with a beautiful redish hue and outstanding head. As for the style itself, I think it leans more toward the malty side compared to other English IPAs, but still has enough hop flavor and bitterness to keep it within style and keep things interesting. The stats are 6% abv, 55 IBU and 15 SRM.
So hiya love, fancy a drink? Come try a pint or two before Gobsmackin’ says “Cheerio ol’ chap!”