Side-by-Side IPA Comparison


Looking into this my chest freezer this fine Wednesday evening (what is it with me and Wednesdays?), I realized that I had two different kegs of IPA. The older of the two is Hustle and Swagger, an IPA brewed with the myriad of free hops I received at Homebrew Con 2016. The younger is a just-kegged, double-dry-hopped take on my old Eighty-Sixed recipe called Swinging Cowboy*. So I figured I try them out side-by-side and see what I like and dislike about each IPA. First, the recipes.

Swagger (left) and Cowboy (right)

Hustle & Swagger

Fermentables

Amount Fermentable
11.0 lb

Pilsner (US)

2.5 lb

Maris Otter Pale (UK)

2.0 lb

Munich – Light 10L (US)

0.5 lb

Munich – Dark 20L (US)

0.5 lb

Turbinado

Hops

Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
2.0 oz Nugget (US) 60 min First Wort Pellet 14.3%
1.5 oz Chinook (US) 15 min Boil Pellet 12.0%
1.5 oz Centennial (US) 15 min Boil Pellet 10.5%
2.0 oz Cascade (US) 0 min Boil Pellet 7.0%
1.0 oz Equinox 0 min Boil Pellet 15.0%
2.0 oz Zythos (US) 5 days Dry Hop Pellet 11.0%
1.0 oz Equinox 5 days Dry Hop Pellet 15.0%
1.0 oz Pekko 5 days Dry Hop Pellet 13.0%

Yeasts

Name Lab/Product Attenuation
Hansen Ale Blend White Labs 78.0%

Swinging Cowboy

Fermentables

Amount Fermentable
6.75 lb

Golden Promise (UK)

6.75 lb

Pilsner (US)

1.25 lb

Flaked Oats

0.75 lb

Turbinado

0.63 lb

Carapils (Dextrine Malt) (US)

Hops

Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
1.25 oz Nugget (US) 60 min Boil Pellet 14.3%
1.5 oz Cascade (US) 30 min Boil Pellet 7.0%
1.1 oz Centennial (US) 15 min Boil Pellet 10.5%
2.0 oz Citra (US) 0 min Boil Pellet 13.7%
3.0 oz Citra (US) 4 days Dry Hop Pellet 13.7%

Yeasts

Name Lab/Product Attenuation
Vermont Ale The Yeast Bay 78.5%

Another look.


Comparison

Miscellaneous

  • Hustle & Swagger is noticeably dark in color, though the calculated difference is only supposed to about about 1 SRM.
  • Both beers were dry-hopped, but Swinging Cowboy was double-dry hopped in the fermenter, while Hustle & Swagger was dry-hopped in the keg.
  • Neither beer is particularly clear and both contain some hop particles.

Aroma

  • Despite being brewed on 6/30, Hustle & Swagger still packs a noticeable hop aroma. That aroma is predominantly “green” and “dank.” This is probably from the multitude of different hops that went into this thing. There is a citrusy, sweet, fruit aroma on the back end. Almost like tropical fruit candy, but less artificial if that makes sense.
  • Only three days removed from its second dry-hop charge, Swinging Cowboy has a grassy nose. There’s underlying citrus in there behind it, but this smell a lot like lawn clippings (and not because I mowed the lawn today).
  • Winner: Hustle & Swagger, by a nose.

Appearance

  • As noted above, both beers are turpid with some small hop particles swirling. In Hustle & Swagger this is likely due to the hops still being in the keg. With Swinging Cowboy, the beer just finished carbing and hasn’t settled yet. This is the very first pour of the beer.
  • They are fairly similar, with SC being a shade lighter.
  • Winner: Draw

Flavor

  • Hustle and Swagger has mellowed nicely. This was originally one of the most bitter beers I’d brewed, but some of that has evened out. There’s still a nice bitterness but there’s more hop flavor coming across: some citrus, mango, and a hint of sweetness before a bitter finish. Not world-class, but pretty good.
  • Woah. Um… what’s going on with Swinging Cowboy? The flavor is a… not good. Vegetal, grassy. There’s hints of citrus buried underneath but this will need some time to clear up, much like the aroma.
  • Winner: Hustle & Swagger

Mouthfeel

  • Hustle & Swagger is a bit thin for what I was going for; I prefer the juicier, fuller New England-style bodies on my IPAs (actually on most styles). This is within range for an IPA, and not watery but not dry enough on the back-end for that West Coast bite.
  • In contrast, Swinging Cowboy is right where it should be. It feels substantial without being thick, viscous, or chewy. This is right in line with where I like my IPAs.
  • Winner: Swinging Cowboy

Overall

  • By the numbers, Hustle & Swagger is the clear winner, which is a bit of a disappointment.
  • Of course, this comparison isn’t exactly “fair” or “scientific.” Swagger is over a month old and Cowboy is fresh off the dry-hops.
  • That said, Swagger is the better beer right now, but I’m not sure Cowboy won’t surpass it in about a week or so.

Final Thoughts

Truth be told, I’m not sold on either of these beers. Hustle & Swagger is okay, but not up to snuff. I think the “kitchen sink” approach I took with this beer left it flawed and muddled. Still drinkable, but not worth attempting again. Swinging Cowboy on the other hand… I don’t know what to think of this beer right now. When I tasted the hydrometer sample it was a little off, and fully-carbed I’m not so sure what happened here.

Given the busy-ness of this summer, the rushed nature of both these brew days and the state of my brewing equipment (read: not properly cleaned), I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t significant flaws hiding behind all the hops in these beers. It’s hard for me to say. Much like my momma is blind to my many flaws, I have trouble nit-picking my own creations. I still have some hope that Cowboy will get better with a bit of age, but I think Swagger is as good as it’s going to get right now, which is a bit disappointing.

Lesson learned: I need to better prepare for my brew days and need to re-dedicate myself to mess of chemicals, tubing, fixtures, and kegs in my bathroom that need a thorough cleaning.

Cheers!

* The story behind “Swinging Cowboy” is a long one that I may regale you with after this year’s Homebrew Jamboree (aka JAMBO). 


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