IPA Experiment

1 September 2016

As the first experiment in our series, Malt Master Brian Kinsman worked in collaboration with craft beer expert and brewer, Seb Jones to create a bespoke IPA. The beer was used to create a sublime, hoppy finish for our bourbon-aged single malt. We talked to Seb to discover more about his side of the story.

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When did you first discover your love of craft beer?

My first foray into home brewing was back when I was a teenager - with my dad in our garden shed. We made beer from brewing kits and it was always terrible, even though we convinced ourselves it was delicious. But at that point I never took brewing seriously as a career option.

At what point did you start taking brewing seriously?

I studied chemistry at Aberdeen University. I was set to have a job in oil and gas. But I quickly realised that it wasn’t right. So I moved back home to Speyside. It was at the same time as my mum’s birthday so I decided to brew a beer. One of the guests tried it and told me ‘That’s brilliant, you should think about opening a brewery’. At that moment a little light bulb went on in my head, and that’s where my story begins.

Did your chemistry expertise help guide the experiment?

When it comes to science and brewing, the two go hand in hand. The whole experiment was an extremely temperature sensitive processes that required our constant attention. The main process was thermodynamics - the enzymes in the grain have an operating window between 63 and 67 degrees centigrade. If you’re even a degree off, the beer at the end will be terrible.

What was the collaboration like?

Brian is of course very knowledgeable on whisky and definitely had a clear vision on the direction he wanted to take the whisky. He was really open to ideas and sympathetic to our processes as well. Because obviously with our two companies working together, there are certain resources that each of us have. The process also exposed me to people who are knowledgeable about whisky. And even though I live here, whisky is not my first choice of drink; it’s always beer. So hanging out with all the brand ambassadors; that’s an experience everyone should have. It’s helped me appreciate the process. And what goes into whisky.

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What did the process involve?

Firstly, Brian selected the casks. Then we did three different trials – but three different variants of each trial. This let us discover the sweet spot for maturing the beers. Brian was keen to get the hops characteristics out into the whisky, hence why I think the palest beer with lots of hops worked the best. It was through these experiments that we chose Brew 2. It was the beer with classic British hops, a traditional IPA.

Why does Glenfiddich work so well with IPA Craft Beer?

I think because of the process behind the IPA and the extra step of ‘dry hopping’. Dry hopping is what happens post fermentation. Once the beer cools down, we then add hops. This is what gives the beer its incredibly volatile oils. These volatiles contain really small molecules, so when they’re going into the wood of the cask, those extra small molecules can permeate much more easily, adding the flavour.

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What was the final expression like?

Very light. When you first taste it, you get those floral and subtle citrus notes. Then as the whisky goes down, it’s really warming. I don’t want to say its like caramel because that would denote a darker whisky - it’s just a really smooth, almost sweet finish.

What’s your preferred serve?

With a slice of blood orange peel and an ice ball, of course.

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Can we expect any more experiments from yourself and Brian?

We’re keeping the relationship going. So who knows what we’ll think of next?


To discover more about the Glenfiddich IPA collaboration, visit our Experimental Series.