Welcome to Thiol bootcamp, brewers! My name is Henry Hussey and I’ve been a homebrewer for 2 years. I picked up the new hobby – well perhaps, obsession – at the beginning of 2020. Since then, I’ve read as many books, blogs, and papers as I could get my hands on, won a few competitions, and am now one of the administrators of our provincial homebrew group the “Newfermenters”. As an avid IPA brewer, brewing mostly Hazy IPA’s, I was very excited to get the opportunity to brew with Phantasm Powder as part of this test. Phantasm is an extract of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc grape skins in powder form that can be used to increase the amount of thiol precursors in beer when it is added to wort. Once released by yeast, thiols can give beer an extra tropical boost, enhancing aroma and flavour. These flavours can include notes of grapefruit, guava, gooseberry, and passionfruit. If you know much about wine, these are some of the key flavours and aromas that are indicative of New Zealand Sauv Blanc.
So, let’s get to the details.
To evaluate the differences between a Hazy Session IPA fermented with Escarpment Labs Thiol Libre – one dosed with Phantasm and another without.
On brew day, two identical beers were brewed in two separate BrewZillas with the assistance of my brother and fellow homebrew enthusiast, Benjamin Hussey. Both batches were identical in all aspects with the exception of the use of the Phantasm. I heard from Escarpment Labs that Thiol Libre assists in bringing thiols to the forefront in some hops such as Cascade, which led to my decision to use mostly Cascade in this session hazy IPA.
Recipe: Hazy Session IPA
Batch Size – 19.87L
OG – 1.052
FG – 1.016
SRM – 6.3
IBU – 23.4
ABV – 4.7%
3.25kg – 2 Row
500g – Honey Malt
500g – Flaked Oats
500g – Flaked Wheat
158°F - 60 Min
168°F – 20 Min
Hot Side Hop Additions:
Cascade – 40G - 5.5% Alpha – Boil – 15 Min
Cascade - 30G– 5.5% - Whirlpool – 185F – 20 Min
Mosaic - 15G – 12.25% Alpha – Whirlpool – 185F – 20 Min
Mosaic - 15G – 12.25% Alpha – Whirlpool – 160F – 20 Min
Phantasm Powder – 80G – Whirlpool – 160F – 20 Min
Cold Side Hop Additions:
Cascade – 15G – High Krausen
Mosaic – 15G – High Krausen
El Dorado – 15G – High Krausen
Cascade – 15G – 3 Days before cold crash
Mosaic – 15G – 3 Days before cold crash
El Dorado – 15G – 3 Days before cold crash
55 ppm Ca
49 ppm Na
Escarpment Labs – Thiol Libre
18°C for 6 Days
21°C for 3 Days
-1°C for 3 days
For the addition of Phantasm powder, it was recommended I use 400g/hL. In homebrew terms, 80g in a 20L batch would do nicely. The brew day went off without a hitch! I took the lead on the Phantasm batch and my brother brewed the standard batch. Both brews came out to an identical 1.052 SG. With that, they were oxygenated and the yeast was pitched.
Both brews were placed in a large keezer to ferment at 18°C; the lower recommended temperature range for fermentation with this strain. Within 24 hours there was a healthy krausen on both batches, so I proceeded with the first dry hop addition. A few days later, I increased the temperature to 21°C for three days to push the last bit of attenuation, as well as a diacetyl rest. After which, I pitched my last hop addition. The beer was then cold crashed for three days at -1°C to rid the batches of hop matter and yeast particulate. I then dosed each with 0.3g of potassium metabisulfite and pressure transferred both beers at 0.5 PSI into two kegs that had been filled completely with sanitizer and then purged the sanitizer out with CO2. I personally find that a low dose of sulfites assists with retention of hop aroma and flavour in heavily hopped beers. I’ve been using this method for quite a while now with positive results!
*Transferring sanitizer from one keg to another.
The filled kegs were placed back into my keezer and two samples were taken. The kegs were burst carbonated at 30psi for 24 hours and then set to 10psi at 2c for five more days. At this point, both samples taken from the keg were identical in appearance and I assumed they would be post-carbonation. A pleasant, stable haze was created, which was what I was going for.
*Two samples taken post fermentation for FG and a taste test
The beer was now adequately carbonated and ready to pour.
I used different glassware to identify the beer in the photos, as the Phantasm made little visual difference when poured in the same style glass. The one on the left was brewed with Phantasm and the one on the right was without.
Taking this brew for a ride!
I was planning to wait until I could get some other beer enthusiasts together to test the batches as a group before I sampled the finished product. But, the excitement got the best of me. What I found was an extremely identifiable beer when comparing one to the other. The beer with Phantasm offered a more candied grapefruit punch with notes of melon and tropical stone fruit. Whereas the IPA without the Phantasm presented more grapefruit pith and the tropical notes were not as defined and apparent. My brother came over the next day and tasted both back-to-back. The difference was easily distinguishable to him as well and he was able to identify the correct sample each time.
Now, it was time to put our findings to the test. A total of 11 participants were invited to do a blind taste test. Each person was given three samples of beer (two from one batch and one from the other) and were asked to identify the odd one out. Participants were then asked which beer they preferred.
Out of 11 participants, 10 were able to correctly identify the unique brew; showing a strong indication that Phantasm Powder adds a distinguishable flavour profile to Hazy Session IPAs. Eight participants indicated that they preferred the beer with Phantasm over the beer brewed without.
This experiment was a really enjoyable learning experience. I’m happy I have some leftover Phantasm as I want to try this out on a few more beers. I can see how this additive could be used to enhance the profile in many brews. I have a Berliner Weisse that could use an extra kick of thiols and I think it would pair well with the fruity character of a Berliner Brett strain. Over the last few weeks while this keg has been tapped, I’ve been vastly enjoying the offering and so have the guests that come to visit the backyard “Brew Shed” for happy hour.
Editor’s Note: Escarpment Labs received a complimentary sample from Phantasm for this experiment. Thanks Phantasm!