A year and a half ago we had lots of ideas about how an exploration of seasonality would allow us to focus on using ingredients at their freshest, through brewing beers in the most fitting styles for each season.
Over four seasonal ranges in the last year we’ve presented over 70 different recipes through nearly 50 one off brews, and over 20 season long styles. The work and logistics of brewing, packaging, selling and distributing so many beers in our first year of business made no easy start for us, and few smooth starts between us and even our most understanding and supportive customers. With the buzz and attention each season launch delivered came an end of season anticipation for the next range, leaving a small number of customers worried that fresh, delicious beer suddenly may become second class. Sad, and worried faces all round!
Our plan to make lighter, fresher, hoppier beers in Spring and Summer was well received, but we missed far too many chances to make the most out of fruits that become available during warmer months. In Autumn, and now in Winter, we focused on heartier malt bills, richer flavours and stronger beers, showcasing beers that make a great fit with cold nights in warm bars. We were so busy releasing Winter stock and shipping orders in December that we missed the chance to get one of our best IPAs yet out far and wide in time for the festive season. We also didn’t make even a quarter of all the beers we thought we’d barrel age for winter release.
And then there were all the ideas we had in mind for our artists partnerships – ways to showcase their work through exhibitions, workshops, bespoke merchandise, and more.
Working in three month cycles has been a wonderful challenge that has sharpened our minds and working practices in a very short space of time, but for every opportunity we’ve gained we feel like we might have lost another. We can’t imagine how much more we’d feel like we missed out on if we’d have stuck to a small core range instead of keeping our options so open, so please don’t think we have any regrets in this respect.
With the ability to look back over twelve months brewing and over eleven months trading I’ve come to think that the distinction we made between Spring and Summer ranges was a little arbitrary, and I feel the same again between Autumn and Winter ranges. In light of hop availability (see chart below) and styles we’re drawn to working with, splitting two warmer and two colder seasons up doesn’t feel as utterly necessary in reflection as it did before we brewed any beer at all. Back at the end of 2014 when we were talking about how we’d work and what our range could look like we didn’t know we’d end up with an average tank occupancy time of 28 days. We thought we’d be able to turn the sort of quality we’re after out a little sooner, and turn our hands to even more one off beers, but that didn’t end up being the case. We're really happy allowing each beer the time in tank it needs to round out and present excellently on day one of being consumed at a bar, or in bottle.
As we look forward to this year in business we’re looking to the tens of export opportunities that have been on my desk for over six months. In 2016 we’ll start exporting our beer to Europe, Asia, and North America, and want to do everything we can to showcase the best of seasonal beer without the season changeovers themselves getting in the way.
It is because of all of the reasons above, and others yet unmentioned that we’ve decided to focus on two evolving ranges this year. We’re going to present you with a Spring/Summer range that makes the very best of US hops and seasonal ingredients, in light, fresh, and supremely drinkable beer, before we switch to showcasing AUS, NZ, and UK hops, and darker beers in an Autumn/Winter range. Allowing the focus of of our beers to evolve over warmer months (and colder months too) will allow us to polish some recipes up even further whilst offering the steady and reliable range our customers have been calling for. We hope this progression will allow us to brew even better beer, and many more one off specials under our ‘Drink Fresh’ (for beers such as our DIPA releases that are meant to be consumed as fresh as possible), ‘Small Batch’ (for beers such as our Seville Orange Sour that use an ingredient in such short supply we can’t make it again), or ‘Hibernate’ (for beers such as our Imperial Stout that are great now, but that will age gracefully) editions.
INTRODUCING ALIYAH HUSSAIN
Please find details below of the beers we’re releasing in the near future featuring the fantastic artwork of Aliyah Hussain. We had nearly 100 submissions for our 2016 artists, and had a very difficult time narrowing down to a shortlist, but the boldness and strength of Aliyah's portfolio and vision for creating physical pieces that reconfigure when we change the focus of a beer style won out. We've been keen to explore partnering with artists that work outside of 2D paper/digital based art, and Aliyah is excellently placed to start that journey with us.
330ML BOTTLES AND KEG BEER
Four single aroma hopped lagers made with the same yeast, same bittering hop, but with four different UK aroma hops, and malt from three different maltings. We can't wait to showcase these side by side, to highlight the difference such subtle changes make to a delicate yet quaffable lager.
We're really excited to continue our work with an exciting and delicious yeast that presents all sorts of wonderful stone and tropical fruit flavours. Until now, most of our hoppy beers have been made with a yeast that contributes little to the final flavour of our beer (our American Pale Ale yeast). That thinking was pretty simple – let the hops shine through. But over in the North East of America (and as we just found out on Sunday, on the West Coast too), something quite different has been delighting hoppy beer lovers for years. Vermont ale yeast builds up a juicy fruit foundation upon which we can showcase the fruitier side of hops, and make the juiciest hoppy beers we've made to date.
Our second release featuring this yeast (the first was our Vermont ESB), has one of the lowest bitterness profiles of any hoppy beer we've made. We're keen to showcase what Vermont Ale yeast has to offer in this first IPA release, and will likely pick the bitterness back up over subsequent IPA and Session IPA releases. We can't wait to see just how mouthwateringly fruity our hoppy beers can get this year.
Balancing out the low bitterness of the IPA above we have made a Session Bitter, hoppy, robustly bitter, and again supported by Vermont Ale yeast, originally an English strain that's gone one to heady heights in the US. Despite the powerful, lingering bitterness we still get a deliciously peachy aftertaste.
Continuing on from our Seville Orange Sour we're really excited to welcome back a much loved favourite from last year with a new and improved Bergamot Hopfen Weisse. Using 150kg of bergamot zest at the end of fermentation, and addition of the juice from those lemons just before cold crashing we're really happy with this hoppy, zesty, juicy hopfen weisse.
Our Pale and Bitter will remain as consistent as possible over spring and summer, whilst our US Light Ales and Session IPAs will feature different hops over the months. We're really looking forward to presenting the best consistency and creativity, working with both tradition and modern innovation.
Thanks to everyone that has championed our exploration of seasonality so far. It feels great to take on so much positive feedback and constructive criticism, and channel it into a way of moving forward, and going even deeper. Here’s to the rest of 2016, and every surprise we’ll find on our way.