The Anatomy of Doc Perdue's Bobcat West Coast Red Ale

Brewer's Blog #5

  • December 5th, 2016
  • By Stephen Rich

When the craft beer revolution broke out in the US, the loudest and most progressive beers were being brewed along America's West Coast. American Pale Ales brimming with big citrus zest and piney aromas showed us all a new light in in the world of beer — and we've held on tight. Now along Ontario's West Coast, Cowbell is building our home in Blyth — a new destination for beer lovers with a brewery to share old favourites and create new ones.

An American Pale Ale with a West Coast Twist

Doc Perdue's Bobcat honours those classic American Pale Ales and all their sessionable hoppy sensations, while driving forward some new feelings and flavours as our West Coast Red Ale. The balance in the beer is made possible by the combination of moderate strength and bitterness, but significant hop sensations in aroma and flavour. It is brewed traditionally with the same techniques and focus the style has always had, but with modern ingredients and a new life on Ontario's West Coast.

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Water

Water is an integral part of every beer, but particularly with hoppy pale ales. The right balance of minerals, pH, sulphates, and carbonates can help to really bring the beer to life. The wrong combination can leave the beer flat and dull. After close consideration of the way our chosen malts will affect these parameters, we treat the brewing liquor (filtered water) with specific amounts of salts and minerals for the optimal water chemistry during the brewing process, as well as the perfect balance in the finished beer to best let its hop sensations shine.

Malts

There are two keys to Doc Perdue's Bobcat: West Coast and Red Ale. Red beers are not new, but in a refreshing pale ale style beer, it can be difficult to achieve colour without added flavour saturation. As a West Coast Style beer, it needs to have a light and crisp body. Traditional malts that create a red beer can lead to added body and sweetness, which would oppose our goals for this beer. A new malt from Best Malz called Red X is the key to this Red Ale. This malt has a similar diastatic power to pale malt, which would traditionally make up 80% or more of the malt bill. Red X produces a deep red hue in the wort and resulting beer without adding significant sweetness or density. Perfect! The whole point of this beer is to let the hops shine through — the malt should support the hops, not compete with them.

Our grist bill is therefore primarily Red X, used as the base malt entirely. We've also added rye malt to add gentle dry and grainy flavours and improved foam stability. A small amount of both Crystal 60 and Carared are also used, both to add some depth in colour as well as a small amount of honey and caramel flavour. Finally, a touch of Carapils is added for even more foam support.

Hops

The first part of Doc Perdue, and perhaps most pivotal, is West Coast. Yes, that means hops — and lots of them! We've chosen to focus on Simcoe hops for their brisk pine and zest sensations — characteristics of a classic West Coast hop. Two other classics in the mix are Cascade and Chinook, in even proportions. Both of these add grapefruit rind, orange and tropical fruit sensations, especially to the aroma. Finally, a newer American variety hop, Apollo, adds pineapple, pine resin, and more zest. Together, these hops are added in the boil, whirlpool, and in significant amounts during dry-hopping.

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The important balance for Doc Perdue's Bobcat is bitterness to flavour perception; it is weighted heavily on the latter. Bitterness should only be quenching and quick without leaving a puckered or lengthy mouthfeel, while the aroma should be brimming from the glass and full in tropical fruit, pine, and citrus character. Doc Perdue’s Bobcat has all of the power of an IPA, but without the bitter punch.

Yeast

The yeast for Doc Perdue's Bobcat must be specific. It should leave the beer moderately dry, clean of yeast-driven flavours, and clear in pitch and colour. WLP 001, thought to be the Sierra Nevada Yeast, has long been a favourite of brewers for all these reasons, and it’s easy to see why. 001 ferments out clean and vigorous in our West Coast Red Ale — and while we do not filter the beer, after centrifuging it to squeeze out all the hop sensations and remove the yeast gently, we are left with a red beer glowing with ruby brilliance. It does exactly what it should: it lets the hops do all the talking while mesmerizing your senses.

Cheers!