On June 9 in Paso Robles, at the inaugural Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest, I asked participating craft beer pros, What was the most recent beer that you brewed, and what was your inspiration and approach? Read their responses.
Tyson Arp (Nebraska Brewing Company)
We just did a new pilot beer called Wild Side Wheat. This is another way that I get inspiration for a beer, finding an ingredient that I haven’t used before and just diving in. We bought some hops called Comet, which I’d never heard of before. I don’t think there are many around, but they’re really high Alpha, and I did some research and there’s no real great descriptors anywhere for what they smell like or taste like. Some people describe them as a “wild American aroma.” I’m like, “Well what does that mean?” I’m assuming that means citrusy, but you never know. So we popped the bag open and smelled them and it was really nice. We did an American wheat. A bunch of hops went in with just 10 minutes left in the boil and a bunch in the whirlpool and we dry-hopped the heck out of it. It turned out amazing. It’s really, really tasty.
I thought when going to California, to this wine area, I thought I wanted to do something where you can use what you have here, so we did a Belgian saison and we’re going to age it in wine barrels and add grapes to it. Doing it the way we did it, with fresh yeast and high fermentation temperatures, we never did that before, so I think they learned from it as well. I wanted to take something from my world, from Europe, and blend it with something really California.
On Thursday before the festival we invited Mikkel from the Danish Brewery Mikkeller to join us in a collaboration brew. We both have a love for low alcohol, barrel finished Saisons. We went back and forth for a little while and formulated what should be a beautiful sessionable brew that captures the spirit of our two breweries. It will be served at next year’s FWIBF.
Phin DeMink Southern Tier Brewing
My latest project was a beer called Live. I just wanted to make a nice pale ale that was hoppy, that was a session beer. I love IPAs, I love big IPAs, but it’s hard to really do a session with a 7-8% beer. I wanted a tamed down, low 5’s, easy going pale ale. I really love hops, so I wanted to make sure to get a good of hops in there, nice flavor.
Dave Engbers (Founders Brewing Company)
The most recent beer that we released in a package is our All Day IPA. It’s the first beer we’ve put into a package that’s got decent distribution in really six years, since 2007, when we introduced Red’s Rye IPA, but All Day’s a great, sessionable, big hop, big aromatics, just got a great aroma profile. It’s 4.7% alcohol. We call it All Day IPA for a reason. You can drink it all day.
Grady Hull (New Belgium Brewing)
Shift was the very most recent one. The inspiration and approach for that, we wanted to make a pale lager to have something that would be drinkable and approachable and be a blue collar beer in a can, but also have something unique about it, to mix a pretty benign yeast strain with a little bit more American hopped, something fruity, something that reminded me of passion fruit, something that was just a little bit different from what people are used to seeing in a pale lager.
Brian Hunt (Moonlight Brewing)
The most recent beer would have been a collaboration with Kissmeyer out of Denmark. We brewed a saison together. Not only are our birthdays the same, but we got along really well, so we decided to do a collaboration. He wanted to do a saison, we worked it out, and it’s got redwood branches in it, which was part of the demand I had. Other than that, what I’ve made with my own recipe lately, I’m not sure. I’ve given up trying to remember things. This is the Legal Tender I made a year ago. This is the second batch of it. That might be it…There are a lot of organic herbs near me, and sometimes I’ll smell them and go, “Oh, this is amazing,” and try to find something to do with it. Sometimes it starts by having an ingredient, and I go, “Wow! This ingredient deserves a beer. What kind of beer? How can a beer be made around this to best showcase what this ingredient can do?” Sometimes I have a beer and it needs this little something filled in. I’ll search until I find the right ingredient or procedure to fill in this space with a flavor that’s missing.
Pat McIlhenny (Alpine Beer Company)
The most recent new beer would have been Gouden Valley, the collaboration with New Belgium. That was wholly unexpected and manifested itself with two people coming together for a good cause, and good beer. New beers? We’re planning some new ones, but that would have been the newest one…It was truly a collaboration. We brought our dry-hopping techniques and expertise to the field, and New Belgium brought their use of wild bugs and lactic acid and pink peppercorns to the table. We melded it together together pretty good [into] a Belgian Pale Ale, spiced with pink peppercorns.
Masafumi “Mori” Morita (Yo-Ho Brewing Company)
Our seasonal beer is Belgian white…Karuizawa Kougen Belgian Wheat.
Victor Novak (TAPS Fish House & Brewery)
The barrels have probably been the most interesting, although the Crystal Pils, we kind of played with a little bit. Say for the barrels, the inspiration for that would be the bourbon barrel and then the variations on that. We have Remy Con Java, which is a Javanese coffee from Portola Coffee Lab, the Remy Ooh-La-La, the Blanche de Conundrum and then the Triple Monkey. So much of our reputation are classic styles, but unlike The Bruery in Placentia, which does mainly beautiful barrel-aged stuff, for us, it’s 5% of what we do. It’s fun to do things that we can actually name, because in the traditional European style, like I said, it’s the brewery name and Helles, Dunkel, whatever. We get to play a little on this side. That’s a lot of what the inspiration was.
Noah Regnery (Hollister Brewing Company)
The most recent beer I brewed is actually an English summer ale, so very, very mellow. I actually tried adding a little bit of white tea to it. The inspiration behind it was we just needed another light beer to have in the line-up for summertime because we’re just gonna get slammed. And did the tea just, again, to change the flavor up just a little bit, so it’s not a beer for summer that doesn’t have a lot of depth to it.
Clay Robinson (Sun King Brewing)
On Monday we brewed batch 666, which will be called Sympathy For the Devil. It is a Belgian style ale. 28 Plato was the starting gravity. We used Muscovado sugar in it, which we use yearly in our Russian Imperial Stout. We like palindromes a lot, so 333, 111, 666, all of those. Again, with this beer, we experimented with seven different Belgian yeasts in order to impart the flavors that we want, and we actually just bought a 30-barrel bright tank because we had no place to prep the beer. We bought a bright tank from Caldera that we’re moving to Indiana so we have a place to put another 30 barrels of beer for a year until it’s ready to go.