West Coast Ipa
By Jake Endres, co-founder
This Friday, we released another round of our west coast style IPA, Scorpion. We first released Scorpion back in July, and it's proven to be quite popular, especially by the glass in our taproom. Are west coast IPAs making a comeback? We think so. Let's take a look at the history of west coast IPA, both with our brewery and as a whole.
We've been brewing this style since 2013, before the haze craze really took over craft beer. Aside from a few one-offs, we focused on one beer called Storm. The original Storm was based on a beer I had brewed extensively during my homebrewing days. Storm was originally a single hop Galaxy IPA, which, in 2013, was definitely something you didn't see everywhere. Galaxy was quickly becoming one of the most sought after hops, but fortunately I had secured three years' worth of hop contracts for our little nanobrewery. While homebrewing, I had previously used Storm as a canvas to test a variety of hops--Simcoe, Cascade, Columbus, and quite a few others. Galaxy stood out as a very juicy, tropical hop, which, of course, everyone was figuring out.
Those three years went by quickly. We also produced several variants of Storm, using fruit and hot peppers, which we still offer from time to time. In those intervening years, a big trend was exploding in beer--New England style IPA. Most everyone is familiar with these hazy, low bitterness IPAs. I first tried a Tree House IPA in 2015 and was blown away. Shortly after, we began to pivot to more of these styles. We still offered Storm, but more often we were brewing cloudier IPAs due to popular demand.
Fast forward to 2019, and the haze craze was still in full effect. I'm not sure how many people are aware of this, but industry folks had gotten a little worn out on hazy IPAs after several years of these dominating production logs and sales. We're more well known for our sours, but customer demand for NEIPAs still meant we were making a lot of them. When they're good, they're certainly enjoyable, but they definitely tend to run together. Mainly, though, people working in craft beer had gotten a bit palate fatigued on the style. Why is that? Basically, when you're drinking them all the time, just as if you were having the same meal over and over, they lose their appeal. They're not exactly the most easy drinking style--some DIPAs can be pretty sweet. They are full bodied, and furthermore, due to their opaqueness, they warm up really quickly in your glass if you're outside in the sun, which is where I like to have a beer whenever possible.
So, at this point we were looking to make something different. We wanted to bring Storm back, but a little bit retooled. Last year, we released a version of Storm without the traditional crystal malt, with a lower bitterness that would allow more of the hop flavor to shine. Other breweries have made similar changes--the current Pliny the Elder is far less bitter than it was five years ago. We also began using Simcoe instead of Galaxy, mostly because of price and availability concerns, but also because Simcoe is a really good, underappreciated hop that can stand very well on its own.
Storm proved to be pretty popular. Since (outside of the current situation) we primarily sell our beer by the glass in our taproom, having a smooth, clear, easy-drinking IPA was a natural fit. While Storm is never going to be as exciting as some other beers, it sells very well overall in draught.
We were all very happy with Storm and glad to see it back. I primarily drink it or any of our lagers if I'm being honest. But in a conversation over some beers, we started talking about making a true old school west coast IPA. This beer would have lots of bitterness, feature old school "C-hops" such as Columbus and Centennial, and feature a crystal malt backbone. I had just returned from California and had really enjoyed a lot of beers at Pizza Port, so I was totally on board.
The beer we created was called Scorpion. I think it ticks all the boxes for old school IPA. It's definitely bitter and it definitely isn't juicy. It has some citrus but also lots of pine and dank hop flavor. I didn't know if people would love it, but I figured enough people would appreciate this throwback to simpler times, when the west coast, Bells, and Dogfish were the supreme masters of bitter, clear IPA.
Turns out the reception was pretty great. Sales and ratings for this beer have been solid, so we weren't the only ones thirsty for something a little different. Again, it's not a beer that is going to sell out in a weekend, but it fits the continuous need we have for a steady draught performer that taproom patrons can enjoy some pints of after work or with some tacos.
Part of me likes Scorpion because I really do miss the simpler times in craft beer. When I turned 21, sales were heavily dominated by west coast IPA. Aside from a few whales out there, limited, brewery-only releases were a distant glimmer in the future. Good beer meant a trip to my local bottle shop, and Sierra Nevada Torpedo or Two-Hearted were my go-tos. Hype-focused marketing and Instagram culture were not bombarding you, and it was more about sitting on your back porch with your friends drinking bottles of great, bitter IPAs, dreaming you could one day make something like that. I could go on waxing nostalgically. What I'm saying is, if you also miss some things about ten years ago, this beer is for you.
We'll keep offering Storm and Scorpion on a semi-consistent basis. I think a good session west coast is in order, too. Oh yeah, and a black IPA