The creative process for Luminous Beings was that we wanted to use Omega’s Cosmic Punch yeast in an IPA, and we wanted to get two turns out of it. So, we wanted to develop a beer that was lower in ABV, which we could then re-pitch into a higher-ABV beer. Honestly, a lot of creative decisions in production breweries are centered on stuff like that—especially at a smaller scale.
I’m from the Midwest, which is home to many incredible pale ales, such as Three Floyds Zombie Dust, Half Acre Daisy Cutter, Pipeworks Lizard King, beers like that. I’ve always been a huge fan of the style. Obviously, those are more West Coast—or Midwest Coast pale ale—so they’re clear. But they still have a nice, juicy character to the hops.
Basically, I was just trying to take a concept I really enjoyed and turn it into something more modernized.
That’s our approach to every hoppy beer that we make: We want them to be hop-forward, juicy, drinkable, but not with low bitterness. Luminous Beings is about 35–40 IBUs at 5 percent ABV—it’s on the higher side. We always want it to have that bitter back note. It’s never going to finish sweet. We do mash pretty high, just to get some of that residual sugar, then the yeast helps us out on attenuation. But the goal is always to make the most drinkable beer we possibly can.
It was an accident with this beer—we weren’t brewing to maximize thiols. We were just building up that yeast to maximize the thiols in the next beer. But that lends itself to this lower-ABV, more drinkable experience—because it doesn’t have to be over-the-top.
We definitely favor chloride. We’ll typically keep the water fairly soft—somewhere in the vicinity of 100 ppm. On other beers, we’ll boost that gypsum quite a bit. The goal is to have it be soft but still feel the hop presence. Favoring chloride helps with that, but you still want to have a bit of that sulfate in there.
Malt and Thiols
We are 100 percent a craft-malt house. Primarily, we get our grain from Carolina Malt House in Cleveland, North Carolina—fantastic malt. We developed a relationship with them early on and just kept going. Epiphany Craft Malt in Durham is right around the corner from us, to add some great specialty stuff. And we recently started using Sugar Creek Malt in Indiana, close to where I used to live. So that craft malt is a core part of the character in all our beers.
In Luminous Beings, it’s 15 percent malted oats; everything else is pils. That comes down to drinkability—it definitely contributes a lot of character. I’m not 100 percent sure of the science behind how the oats and pilsner specifically contribute to thiolization, but I’m sure there’s something there. (For much more about thiols, see “The Complex Case of Thiols,” beerandbrewing.com.)
Mash and Mash Hops
We mash at the higher end of medium-bodied, 155–156°F (68–69°C). We mash-hop to get thiol precursors; we mash-hop pretty much all our beers now. It helps buffer pH, I think, and it adds character—that’s anecdotal, but it’s a way to saturate the beer with hop flavor without adding IBUs. For Luminous Beings, we mash-hop with Taiheke, which is New Zealand Cascade. But for the batch that won gold at GABF, we couldn’t get New Zealand Cascade. We just used U.S. Cascade—and apparently it turned out well.
With thiols and thiolized yeasts, it’s interesting to toy with that as a tool and a flavor element. In Luminous Beings, the balance is important, so we’re not going to use as much in the mash—but mash hops are still a key player.
Kettle and Whirlpool
We use CTZ a lot in thiolized beers because it has a lot of good oils for that. Generally, we do a 60-minute addition that’s fairly small, and then everything else is going in the whirlpool. So we drop the pH under 5, drop the temperature down to 180°F (82°), and do a 30-minute spin, 30-minute rest, and knock out.
It’s for more aromatic saturation of the hops—just trying to maximize the nose we’re getting from the whirlpool without increasing the bitterness. On this beer, it’s maybe a pound per barrel in the whirlpool (or about 2.5 oz/71 g per 5 gallons/19 liters). On some of our other beers, it’s a pound and a half or two pounds.
The bitterness gets out of control quickly, if you finish your boil at 213°F (101°C). If you do a hop stand right at flameout, maybe your temperature drops to 205°F (96°C) by the end of your rest, but the bitterness is still going to be pretty high.
If you plug it into Beersmith and you say it’s flameout, it boils for zero minutes, and it tells you zero IBUs. But you know you’re getting a lot more than that. There are other calculators out there, but it’s still kind of nebulous. Honestly, it’s trial and error. Iteratively, over batches, we’ve figured it out after dropping it from 210°F to 200°F, and then from 210°F to 190°F, and then 190°F (88°C) to 180°F (82°C). That was the sweet spot.
Quality of Bitterness
Luminous Beings is a fairly soft beer. When we’re doing IPAs in this way, the bitterness is a bit more pronounced. But in a pale ale like this, we want to have a little backbone—kind of an herbaceous character, a little bit of pine. It’s a fairly soft bitterness—just enough to be at that threshold where when you finish the sip, there’s a crispness to it that accentuates that relatively dry finish.
We use Mosaic and Motueka in the dry hop—our head brewer thought it would be funny that it was Mo-Mo, like an alliteration. I was like, “Sure, Mosaic and Motueka. Sounds great. Let’s try that.” We use tons of different hop varieties, and we’re constantly trying to find new ones. Those are two that we’re fairly confident in, that we use all the time. Mosaic is huge for everybody in the United States, and Motueka is one of our brewery’s all-time favorite hops.
Motueka has that really nice tropical without being overboard. It’s delicate but still characterful. It’s great in blends, too. We’ve made single-hop Motueka beers before, and they’re fantastic, but it really complements other fruit-forward hops. I especially love blending New Zealand hops with American hops. Something like Mosaic, on its own, tends to come off as kind of cat-pee. But if you add something like Motueka to balance the structure, that really works well.
Fermentation and Dry Hops
With Cosmic Punch, we pitch at 64°F (18°C) and let it free rise to about 68°F (20°C). At the end of the day, Cosmic Punch is basically a mutated English-ale strain. Pitching cool on English-ale strains always seems to help a little bit, to create a more balanced beer. Then the free rise gets it up into that diacetyl transformation territory, to clean all that up. Then, when we dry hop, we let it go up to 72°F (22°C) at the highest.
We designed Luminous Beings so we could re-pitch the yeast, so we’re doing a fresh pitch pretty much every time. On beers like that, there’s a lot of talk about when to dry hop. Once we re-pitch the yeast, we’re ready to go with the dry hop, and we let it rise. And then she’s done.
On this beer, we do two dry-hop charges. We do a smaller charge, let it sit for a day and drop out, then do a larger charge 24 or 48 hours later. It’s just saturation. To me, when you add all the hops at once, sometimes you don’t extract oils as effectively. We also like to circulate CO2 through the racking arm, just to get everything mixed up and into suspension before charge one drops out, and then do it again for charge two. Each charge is in the tank for 24 to 48 hours. We’ve found that longer exposure times aren’t tremendously helpful.
Pale Ale and Art
Luminous Beings has taken on a life of its own. We first brewed it last year, not necessarily intending it to be something that we made forever. This is back when we were just filling crowlers and had a couple of different label iterations. Then we decided we wanted to keep making it because we all really liked it.
Pale ale for me has always just been go-to, daily, easy drinking. I’ve always been a huge hoppy beer fan, but when you work at a brewery, you don’t always want to sit down and have a 7 percent IPA.
What ended up happening is our label artist Sadie Tynch developed this really cool, beautiful label for Luminous Beings that really evokes the meaning of the beer. That took on a life of its own, and we’re really focused on art here. We love our labels, even though we’re selling them only in-house. We put a lot of time and attention into that. Because, ultimately, beer is an art form as well. We want the whole thing to express that.