On Saturday Kingsley and I were invited by the Phantom Carriage team to brew an IPA with them.  Ive been friends with Simon and Martin at PC for years and there is probably no one that I geek out with more about homebrewing and fermentation than I do with Simon.  He writes his blog over at chronicling his adventures in wild fermentation.

Over the past few years Kingsley and I have started to dabble into fermentation with brettanomyces and bacteria cultures - something that I documented on my previous iteration of this blog.  A lot of my methods and understanding of this process is stuff that I have learned spending hours talking with Simon - usually at club meetings or on our bus trips together with our homebrew club or LA beer writers.

At the January Pacific Gravity meeting Simon and I were discussing various beers we were sharing when he asked me if Kingsley and I were interested in collaborating with them on an IPA at Phantom Carriage.  The specific goal of this recipe was to make an IPA using "Conan" yeast.

Kingsley stirring the mash


For those of you who dont know about Conan, there is a brewery in Vermont that produces a widely acclaimed DIPA called Heady Topper.  I first heard about it a few years ago as it was described to me as the "East Coast's Pliny".  The beer is well known for its hop forward aroma's and flavors, its can (and the instructions to drink the beer from the can, not to pour it into a glass) along with the stone fruit flavors and esters presented by their house yeast.  This yeast was not commercially available, but with the success of this beer homebrewers and brewers naturally wanted to get their hands on the magic that was Heady Topper to see what they could produce.

We left that meeting with the plan that I would work on a base recipe to send to Brendan and Simon at Phantom Carriage.  We would brew the beer on our homebrew setup with Conan and bring the finished homebrew to the PC team so that we could taste the base and make changes from there.

I'd never used this strain before - so I was a bit nervous about the results.  I have a long history with WLP-001 (Cal Ale) and know how to use it and what to expect from it - especially with IPA's.  We have dabbled with San Diego Super Yeast and WLP-002 in the past, but I always go back to Cal Ale for Green Dragon (IIPA) and Situational (IPA).  I read to common thoughts about this yeast - one is to ferment cool as you would with Cal Ale but that your attenuation could potentially suffer.  The other was to ferment at 70-ish to circumvent the attenuation issues presented with cooler ferments.  We decided to go with the cooler method and mash relatively low with a fair % of cara-foam in the grist to try to simulate some body.

Unfortunately for Kingsley and I the beer stopped dead in its tracks @ 1.020.  We were stuck dealing with a situation where we either had to pitch something else to dry it out or start our dry hop.  Initially I wanted to dry the beer out because I didn't want to bring an underattenuated beer to PC.  After texting with Simon we agreed that because this was a realistic result of our commercial batch that we should just leave the beer at this 1.020 and start the dry hop process.

The beer turned out pretty great - but I do have a tough time overcoming the residual sweetness.  In the same way that higher ABV hoppy beers tend to lose their hop aroma to the sweetness of alcohol, the hop aroma of the test batch wasn't up to my expectations which I am attributing to the residual sweetness of the beer.

On the morning of our brew day at PC Kingsley and I brought in a mini-keg of the test batch and we tasted it together.  We agreed to some changes in the boil and to ferment the beer a bit warmer.  Im hoping the aromatics that we lost from the sweetness come back with a vengeance in the commercial batch.  I was also underwhelmed with the yeast profile from the test batch - so I think the warmer ferment should help make that part shine as well.

Brendan prepping to pitch the yeast.


All in all the brew day was amazing.  Beyond the fact that Simon and Martin are both great friends of ours, the whole crew at PC was awesome.  I remember visiting Martin at this space two years ago before any of the construction had started.  I was there asking for a favor - Pacific Gravity was looking to get a used wine barrel for a club brew and Martin was there to help.  He walked me through the space talking about this amazing bar and bottle selection that he was going to curate.  Now its a little over two years later and the business just celebrated their 1 year anniversary.  Brendan poured us their latest beer straight from the bright tank - an APA with Mosaic that tasted amazing.  We samples bottles of Bergman w/ Raspberries, Pleasance (an upcoming Lambic style beer), everything poured was amazing and showed me that there are plenty of good things to come from Phantom Carriage in the next year - hopefully our beer - Pipe Dream IPA - is one of them!

The beer should be finished in about a month - fingers crossed!