Monday, February 11, 2013

Thoughts scattered along a winding road... | Protectorate Jack IPA

Every beer has its place...
Matt Brynildson is the brewmaster at Firestone Walker.  He also makes amazing beers.  Firestone is responsible for a large portion of the impetus which compelled me to start brewing.  In college at UC Santa Barbara, Firestone was one of the only real craft breweries that could claim to be local.  On road trips up Highway 101 to Northern California to camp in Big Sur or visit friends, you'd drive past Firestone, sitting alone in what felt like the middle of nowhere adjacent to the Gaviota Coast in Buellton, CA.  I was never old enough during times that I drove by, so a stop there wasn't feasible.  However, I drank plenty of Firestone in college and always savored it.  When you and a roomate hustle together some money to buy beer, it's hard to turn away from the $4.99 thirty pack of Keystone Light (even with the "specially lined can" there would always be 1-4 beers that were undrinkable somehow) and instead spend $5.99 for a twelve pack of Double Barrel Ale, but it happened often enough.  Apparently I had my priorities more in line than I realized at the time.

If I was to try and characterize the evolution of my beer palette, Firestone would be first or second along with Sierra Nevada and Nectar Ales as the most influential beers at a time when I was especially impressionable (incidentally, Firestone now owns and brews Nectar Ales).  At NHC 2011 I had a chance to listen to a very articulate and entertaining Brynildson talk candidly about hops and generously share Double Jack and other outstanding beers with the audience.  His talk and a realization of his role as Firestone's archetype sort of snapped in line a lot of previously disjointed and seemingly unconnected thoughts about how I became a homebrewer.  Since then, I've been drinking a lot of his beers and I like almost everything.

Protectorate Jack
He shares a recipe and procedures for brewing Union Jack IPA in Mitch Steele's tome on hop-centric beers, IPA, and I decided to brew it as closely as possible to his specifications.  Union Jack is light and crisp with ample aroma from two separate dry hopping additions.  Even though Centennial and Cascade make up the bulk of the additions, there are small portions of Simcoe and Amarillo added into each dry hopping, making the nose that much more complex.  The recipe calls for London Ale yeast, which should provide a rounder, fruitier taste, and plenty of two row along with some light crystal and Munich malts.  I added a small dextrose addition to mine to dry it out and further accentuate the hops.  I named my version Protectorate Jack IPA after Oliver Cromwell's short lived era of rule as Lord Protector of the United Kingdom when the Protectorate Jack flag flew in place of the Union Jack.  Cromwell is a controversial figure, being the only one to rule England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland concurrently, but also maligned by many of his contemporaries and plenty of British historians.  He was one of a few historical figures to be posthumously executed.  I hope my beer is judged less harshly.  History aside, I'm excited to try and recreate what I think is one of the best West Coast IPAs around and maybe check in with a younger version of myself.  Perhaps I can understand his mindset a little more clearly, since the process that started me on this winding road seems to be slowly curving its way around toward full circle.  Check the recipe below:

Protectorate Jack IPA

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