Formerly brewed at Double Mountain Brewery and Taproom
Empire Strikes Back is a concept beer that answers the question, "What happens when you make a big Northwest-style IPA with all-English malt and hops?" We are unabashedly local when it comes to raw materials here at Double Mountain, and rightly so, given their impeccable quality. But as a big fan of big British beers, I figured a Brit-inspired brew (on steroids) would make for a nice contrast to our regular lineup.
Straight out of the gate, we knew this would be a malty affair, as the Maris Otter "pale" malt from Crisp Maltings appeared anything but pale. Maris Otter is floor-malted and turned by hand, which suggests some inherent variability. Our batch of 20 bags was a darkish khaki color with some mild scorch marks -- not at all like our beloved house Pilsner malt grown in British Columbia. We added a bag of Crisp "Coloured Malt" to add richness and color. The malt yielded particularly well, giving us a nicely high starting gravity above what we’d been shooting for. (In our world, this is a good problem to have…)
As expected, the Fuggles and Kent Goldings hops we sourced via Hopunion were very muted by Yakima standards; the Fuggles were nicely spicy, the Goldings herbal. We packed the hopback with copious quantities, then saved a bunch for dry-hopping. After a two week fermentation with our house yeast, we rested the beer on 1+ lbs per barrel of Goldings for about two weeks. The final product came in at around 6% ABV and 65 BU.
The resulting beer is big and aromatically malty, very mouth-filling for its strength, with a decided lean towards sticky toffee flavors and aromas. The hopping almost devoid of the citrus character we associate with "hoppy" beers here in the Northwest, but they do provide a backbone of clean bitterness, and a tad of spicy/herbal hop aroma. The mid-palate hop flavors are pretty much overwhelmed, however, by the massive malt attack. Definitely a malt-lover’s IPA…I don’t think anyone would ever guess it had over three lbs per barrel of hops in it. But that’s how it goes in the world of one-off brewing.