Dark Rock Brewing Session Series - India Pale Lager Review

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lucus_j

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Dark Rock Brewing Session Series India Pale Lager Review

When is a lager not a lager? Well, we’ll come to that later, but for now, part one of the review.

I had a bunch of vouchers for Dark Rock and was planning on buying their all grain Milky Way kit when a post about their Session Series popped up on my Facebook feed. Around the same time I was using Mangrove Jack’s Brewer Series NZ Pale Ale as the base for a ‘pimped kit’, so obviously my interest was piqued.

Figuring that if you don’t ask you don’t get, I got in touch with Dark Rock about my all grain order and tried on the old “can I have a discount” line on a Session Series kit. To my surprise they got back to me and offered a free Beer Kit Enhancer in return for an honest review. So that’s my disclaimer: I received a free beer enhancer for this kit review.

I had an NZ Pale on and lined up: a Canadian Blonde, West Coast Pale and British Amber. So I went for the India Pale Lager, promising to brew exactly according to the supplied instructions.

So, IPL: it should be clean, bright, refreshing (like a lager) and copiously hoppy (like an IPA). I expected that it should use lager yeast, have a lager’s malt profile and be brewed according to the lagering process. And be dry hopped.

Here’s the headline spec for the kit (plus enhancer):
  • 1x 1.8 kg can of IPL LME
  • Motueka and Simcoe dry hops
  • 1kg Lager Beer Enhancer
  • Muntons Premium Gold Ale yeast
  • Harris Pure Brew sachet
  • Harris Starbrite finings vial
  • Makes: 40 pints / 5 gallons
  • ABV Approx: 4.5%
  • OG 1.042 (approx). Target FG: 1.008 (approx)
  • Fermentation time: 7 days (approx)
  • Conditioning time: 3 weeks
Quick form instructions read:
  • Sanitise everything
  • Mix LME, beer enhancer and 3L boiling water in the FV
  • Top up to 22.5L with cold water
  • Oxygenate wort before adding yeast & Pure Brew
  • Ferment between 18C & 23C until a stable FG of ~1.010 is achieved
  • Dry hop for 2 days at a cooler temperature & add finings
  • Individually (0.5tsp) or batch prime (135g) with table sugar
  • Bottle/keg and carbonate at 20C to 25C for 5 days
  • Cool condition for 2 weeks before drinking
So even as I write this, having brewed it - according to the instructions (Dark Rock’s instructions are among the best that I’ve encountered) - I’m scratching my head. What exactly am I going to get at the end of it?

To recap I have:
  • Some form of lightly hopped LME
  • Some beer enhancer
  • Ale yeast
  • Hops for dry hopping
And I’m fermenting at 18C or thereabouts. That, to me, sounds very much like a Session IPA.

Is it not stretching the definition of a lager if it’s not at the very least fermented with lager yeast at the appropriate temperature, to say nothing of lagering? I got in touch with Dark Rock to clear up this conundrum and they came back to me with the following points (summarised):
  • The IPL is a relatively new style which provides a refreshing bright beer, with a tropical hop boost.
  • It is lager style kit
  • Dark Rock do not include a lager yeast with the kit (no malt extract lager kit does) because the majority of brewers cannot provide the precise conditions to ferment one.
  • The yeast that Dark Rock supply is a very easy to use top fermenting yeast that will offer great results over a wide spectrum of flavours/styles.
  • New kits from Dark Rock are tested on at least fifty homebrewers before being launched commercially (and are usually tweaked several times during the process).
  • Dark Rock can supply a dedicated lager yeast for precise IPL flavour emulation but users will need to be able to maintain a constant temperature between 8-14C (depending on the brand) throughout the fermentation.
  • Dark Rock think the trade off from using the yeast provided will have minimal impact on the flavour, but greatly increase the prospects of producing consistently high quality results.
The takeaway: it’s a lager style beer kit produced for consistent results with a neutral ale yeast.

Hats off to Dark Rock for their help and transparency.

Back to the brewing. I like Dark Rock for their clear and comprehensive instructions; in the past I’ve used them as an example to other suppliers as to what good instructions should look like.

The brew process is straightforward, as you’d expect, differing from most other extract kits only with the addition of the sachet of Harris Pure Brew (a combined yeast nutrient and water treatment for those unfamiliar with it). OG came in, spot on, at 1.042.

I pitched at 20C and set the Inkbird for 18C - at the low end of the temperature range - to keep it as ‘clean’ a fermentation as possible. Yeast lag time was approximately 24 hours, after which a healthy active fermentation kicked off, producing a modest krausen.

Of course, the hardest part for home brewers is patience……

Fermentation progressed steadily for 10 or so days, with airlock activity steadily tailing off as the final couple of gravity points dropped to an expected 1.010 (with a little squinting!). After adding the 85g or thereabouts of a lovely smelling Motueka & Simcoe blend, pouring in the pre-measured dose of Starbrite and giving the top 6 inches of beer a very gentle stir the fermentation fridge’s temperature was dropped to 16C for the required two days - for the final overnight period the temperature was dropped to 8C.

For bottling, I used a priming solution of 150g dextrose (equivalent to 135g table sugar) and 150g water and achieved (drumroll) a genuine 40 pints of fresh, hoppy smelling beer!

Per the instructions there was a period of carbonation at 20C followed by a couple of weeks room temperature conditioning. My habit now is to take a few bottles and stick them in the fridge on a Monday to drink the following weekend; first bottle or two were a bit aroma neutral and a tad sharp but subsequent weeks' bottles have yielded a much better aroma and the sharpness has disappeared giving subtle bitterness and fruity aftertaste. A pretty lively pour but there is so little sediment that a "two pour" glass fill is still crystal clear. Long lasting foam and refreshing level of carbonation. In short, brewed at the right time for BBQ season and a perfect IPL for summer. Well done Dark Rock; I was a little sceptical at first but once again you've given us an extract kit that is streets ahead of the competition at this price point. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this kit to anyone over any of the current very popular crop of kits.
 

micklupulo

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Dark Rock Brewing Session Series India Pale Lager Review

When is a lager not a lager? Well, we’ll come to that later, but for now, part one of the review.

I had a bunch of vouchers for Dark Rock and was planning on buying their all grain Milky Way kit when a post about their Session Series popped up on my Facebook feed. Around the same time I was using Mangrove Jack’s Brewer Series NZ Pale Ale as the base for a ‘pimped kit’, so obviously my interest was piqued.

I found this very useful thanks. Dark Rock are my local home brew shop and I have been considering doing one of these kits to have a quick break from all grain.

Figuring that if you don’t ask you don’t get, I got in touch with Dark Rock about my all grain order and tried on the old “can I have a discount” line on a Session Series kit. To my surprise they got back to me and offered a free Beer Kit Enhancer in return for an honest review. So that’s my disclaimer: I received a free beer enhancer for this kit review.

I had an NZ Pale on and lined up: a Canadian Blonde, West Coast Pale and British Amber. So I went for the India Pale Lager, promising to brew exactly according to the supplied instructions.

So, IPL: it should be clean, bright, refreshing (like a lager) and copiously hoppy (like an IPA). I expected that it should use lager yeast, have a lager’s malt profile and be brewed according to the lagering process. And be dry hopped.

Here’s the headline spec for the kit (plus enhancer):
  • 1x 1.8 kg can of IPL LME
  • Motueka and Simcoe dry hops
  • 1kg Lager Beer Enhancer
  • Muntons Premium Gold Ale yeast
  • Harris Pure Brew sachet
  • Harris Starbrite finings vial
  • Makes: 40 pints / 5 gallons
  • ABV Approx: 4.5%
  • OG 1.042 (approx). Target FG: 1.008 (approx)
  • Fermentation time: 7 days (approx)
  • Conditioning time: 3 weeks
Quick form instructions read:
  • Sanitise everything
  • Mix LME, beer enhancer and 3L boiling water in the FV
  • Top up to 22.5L with cold water
  • Oxygenate wort before adding yeast & Pure Brew
  • Ferment between 18C & 23C until a stable FG of ~1.010 is achieved
  • Dry hop for 2 days at a cooler temperature & add finings
  • Individually (0.5tsp) or batch prime (135g) with table sugar
  • Bottle/keg and carbonate at 20C to 25C for 5 days
  • Cool condition for 2 weeks before drinking
So even as I write this, having brewed it - according to the instructions (Dark Rock’s instructions are among the best that I’ve encountered) - I’m scratching my head. What exactly am I going to get at the end of it?

To recap I have:
  • Some form of lightly hopped LME
  • Some beer enhancer
  • Ale yeast
  • Hops for dry hopping
And I’m fermenting at 18C or thereabouts. That, to me, sounds very much like a Session IPA.

Is it not stretching the definition of a lager if it’s not at the very least fermented with lager yeast at the appropriate temperature, to say nothing of lagering? I got in touch with Dark Rock to clear up this conundrum and they came back to me with the following points (summarised):
  • The IPL is a relatively new style which provides a refreshing bright beer, with a tropical hop boost.
  • It is lager style kit
  • Dark Rock do not include a lager yeast with the kit (no malt extract lager kit does) because the majority of brewers cannot provide the precise conditions to ferment one.
  • The yeast that Dark Rock supply is a very easy to use top fermenting yeast that will offer great results over a wide spectrum of flavours/styles.
  • New kits from Dark Rock are tested on at least fifty homebrewers before being launched commercially (and are usually tweaked several times during the process).
  • Dark Rock can supply a dedicated lager yeast for precise IPL flavour emulation but users will need to be able to maintain a constant temperature between 8-14C (depending on the brand) throughout the fermentation.
  • Dark Rock think the trade off from using the yeast provided will have minimal impact on the flavour, but greatly increase the prospects of producing consistently high quality results.
The takeaway: it’s a lager style beer kit produced for consistent results with a neutral ale yeast.

Hats off to Dark Rock for their help and transparency.

Back to the brewing. I like Dark Rock for their clear and comprehensive instructions; in the past I’ve used them as an example to other suppliers as to what good instructions should look like.

The brew process is straightforward, as you’d expect, differing from most other extract kits only with the addition of the sachet of Harris Pure Brew (a combined yeast nutrient and water treatment for those unfamiliar with it). OG came in, spot on, at 1.042.

I pitched at 20C and set the Inkbird for 18C - at the low end of the temperature range - to keep it as ‘clean’ a fermentation as possible. Yeast lag time was approximately 24 hours, after which a healthy active fermentation kicked off, producing a modest krausen.

Of course, the hardest part for home brewers is patience……

Fermentation progressed steadily for 10 or so days, with airlock activity steadily tailing off as the final couple of gravity points dropped to an expected 1.010 (with a little squinting!). After adding the 85g or thereabouts of a lovely smelling Motueka & Simcoe blend, pouring in the pre-measured dose of Starbrite and giving the top 6 inches of beer a very gentle stir the fermentation fridge’s temperature was dropped to 16C for the required two days - for the final overnight period the temperature was dropped to 8C.

For bottling, I used a priming solution of 150g dextrose (equivalent to 135g table sugar) and 150g water and achieved (drumroll) a genuine 40 pints of fresh, hoppy smelling beer!

Per the instructions there was a period of carbonation at 20C followed by a couple of weeks room temperature conditioning. My habit now is to take a few bottles and stick them in the fridge on a Monday to drink the following weekend; first bottle or two were a bit aroma neutral and a tad sharp but subsequent weeks' bottles have yielded a much better aroma and the sharpness has disappeared giving subtle bitterness and fruity aftertaste. A pretty lively pour but there is so little sediment that a "two pour" glass fill is still crystal clear. Long lasting foam and refreshing level of carbonation. In short, brewed at the right time for BBQ season and a perfect IPL for summer. Well done Dark Rock; I was a little sceptical at first but once again you've given us an extract kit that is streets ahead of the competition at this price point. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this kit to anyone over any of the current very popular crop of kits.
[/QUOTE

Most useful thanks as I was considering doing one of these kits as a bit of a break from all grain especially as Dark Rock are local to me. I was wondering if you have now tried any of the others in this range?
 

lucus_j

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Not tried others in the range but would certainly be my 1st choice if I needed a go to session kit 👍
 

Libigage

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Hi I've got one in the shed, haven't had time to do an all grain this week so I will keg what I brewed 10 days ago and then do my IPL to get stocks up.
IMG_20210825_150706.jpg
I got a hop boost with mine to add with the yeast. Did you get the same?
 

lucus_j

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Hi I've got one in the shed, haven't had time to do an all grain this week so I will keg what I brewed 10 days ago and then do my IPL to get stocks up. View attachment 53326I got a hop boost with mine to add with the yeast. Did you get the same?
👍
I got the dry hops but don't remember any other hop related additions.
 

Libigage

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Maybe you might want to contact Dark Rock and check🍺
 

micklupulo

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Maybe you might want to contact Dark Rock and check🍺
As a regular visitor to the shop I have noticed that the kits have changed as the boxes have recently had an extra bit at the top saying something like "now with hop boost" which presumably appears on your box?
 

lucus_j

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As a regular visitor to the shop I have noticed that the kits have changed as the boxes have recently had an extra bit at the top saying something like "now with hop boost" which presumably appears on your box?
Fair enough - a bit of product updating only helps out us customers!
 

dearleuk

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Done three of these kits now and they are the easiest kits I've ever done.

Secondary fermentation starts pretty much straight away, they clear very quickly with very little yeast left in bottle and they taste great
 

micklupulo

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Done three of these kits now and they are the easiest kits I've ever done.

Secondary fermentation starts pretty much straight away, they clear very quickly with very little yeast left in bottle and they taste great
At present I have the Aussie Gold on secondary in the bottle ready to be tried next week. It is the first of the series I have done (as a holiday from all grain) and so far am impressed as primary went well and down to 1007 at 18/19°C.Also it was clear in the bottle in less than a week. Am interested in which ones you did particularly as there is no review of the NZ Pilsener on the Dark Rock site.
 

dearleuk

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I did the New Zealand Pilsner, New Zealand Draught and Canadian Craft Beer.

The New Zealand Pilsner is as good if not better than the Festival New Zealand Pilsner, which is one of my favourite drinks
 

micklupulo

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I did the New Zealand Pilsner, New Zealand Draught and Canadian Craft Beer.

The New Zealand Pilsner is as good if not better than the Festival New Zealand Pilsner, which is one of my favourite drinks
Thanks very much. That's settled it then the NZ Pilsner will be next!
 

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I'm going to do a Dark Rock kit next following the excellent Partridge Brothers reviews on YouTube. It's a toss up between the West Coast Pale Ale, Citra IPA and Aussie Gold. All sound great.
 

micklupulo

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I'm going to do a Dark Rock kit next following the excellent Partridge Brothers reviews on YouTube. It's a toss up between the West Coast Pale Ale, Citra IPA and Aussie Gold. All sound great.
I think they all come with a generous quantity of hops but can tell you that the Aussie gold comes with 80 gms of Galaxy.
 

White Rose Al

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Anyone done Citra?

1.016 after 10 days at constant 20-21 degrees.

The West Coast PA was all but finished at the same stage
 

micklupulo

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Yes matey, just surprised at how slow it is in the FV compared to others in the series
I had to ferment the Aussie Gold in the garage and from memory it took 16 days to finish 1007 at an average temperature in the FV of 18/19°C. Then 48 hours with the hops in before bottling. So in my earlier post "well" was really with reference to the low FG rather than the speed and also I have never had a brew with such airlock activity.
 
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