Back in August 2015 my wife and I took a road trip down the West Coast, from Seattle to San Diego. It was a thrill to experience the people, scenery, changing landscapes, and the little over 50 breweries we visited over the course of a month. We flew back with as much beer as we could possibly carry, and held a tasting with the whole team at the brewery just days after landing back.
In those days, just three years ago, Imperial IPAs weren’t often more than annual releases, but the beers on the table in front of us that September evening whet our appetite to try our hand at making the best strong, hoppy beers we could. Three years later we are far from done. Though we’ve had many high points in our quest to learn how to get the most out of our annual hop contracts, we still feel like we know next to nothing about the interactions of hops and yeast.
During all this time - and after visiting tens of new states, and nearly a hundred more breweries in the USA - if I could click my fingers and be anywhere it’d most likely still be Pizza Port in Ocean Beach, a few miles away from the centre of San Diego, and only a short cycle from our good friends at Modern Times. The combination of the beers on offer at Pizza Port (mainly IPAs and IIPAs, but also Pilsner, Brown Ale, and other traditional styles), and their drinkability in an easy-going atmosphere, is something I continue to crave.
Though we’re an unashamedly modern brewery, focused on making a progressive contribution to the ongoing evolution of the industry, we have in our short time focused our attention on many traditional beer styles, from Wheat Beer, Gose, Lichtenhainer, Bitter, Foreign Stout, Brown Ale, Helles, to ESB too. Tap a keg of Tegernseer Helles, a cask of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, or pop bottles of De Ranke XX Bitter or Orval anywhere near our team and you’ll probably find at least a few of us gathered, in awe at the deliciousness that eases conversation along with a nod of knowing appreciation of great beer in our glasses. Beers to talk over are a lot of what we strive to make, and increasingly we find that beers we talk about are ones that leave us disappointed, as if the gaps in our experiences left by unmet expectation need filling up with words instead. We’re often our most verbose when we’re least satisfied, and we’re often most thrilled when our beers fulfil their greatest potential of bringing people together around delicious flavours and aromas. More often than not, we design and craft our recipes around their intended social effect, with the recipe specifics and sensory targets aligned in an attempt to create just the sort of atmosphere, buzz, or deep relaxation we’re after.
It’s been a great pleasure to get to know many fine people in the industry over these past few years, and I’m thrilled that our first event in our new taproom is one that’ll take us back to the start of our journey into big hoppy beers, and welcome a brewing legend to Manchester for the first time.
Jeff Bagby is a native San Diegan with a long list of accolades against his name from his years heading up brewing at Pizza Port, before that time at Stone, and currently at his own Oceanside California brewery. Jeff is a brewer that continues his decades long focus on true-to-style, classic American beers alongside traditional styles from around the world. We are delighted to welcome him to Manchester for our event tonight, and for two very special collaborations. We’ll get to the specifics on the West Coast Imperial IPA we are brewing on Friday and Saturday in due course, but for now we’ll focus on the first beer we’re making today and tomorrow - an ode, tribute, and celebration of our good friend John-Paul Cassidy.
I’d like to turn you all over to the Full Fat team now, for an introduction to a beer that’s had more development, discussion, and focus than any collaboration in our history – JPA.
“Paying tribute to John-Paul was never going to be easy. A beer champion through and through, JP was there when the first modern beers started to reshape Manchester, as it grew beyond the city’s established Belgian and German beer-focused bars.
When JP started working at Port Street Beer House in 2011, he never could have predicted the impact it would have on him, or on those around him; the community built and the legacy left behind.
The little pub had a huge impact on the city’s beer scene pushing new and exciting brews with JP at the helm, alongside Will France, Alex Humphries and the team.
Port Street was ahead of the curve - not just in beer, but in re-establishing what a pub could be. With a 50/50 gender split in staffing and no tolerance on silliness or misogynistic behaviour, JP literally helped write the house rules on how people should behave in a modern, beer-focused environment. Essentially, that meant being respectful, welcoming to anybody who wanted to enjoy beer, and giving the same respect to those who worked behind the bar.
His enthusiasm, passion and knowledge welcomed new people into beer, many of whom became regulars and friends. Some of the pub’s regulars went on to become some of Manchester’s biggest food and drink names, many inspired by the passion and expertise they saw from the likes of JP and the team at Port Street. Breweries such as Cloudwater, Beer Nouveau, Torrside, Thirst Class, alongside many others, and events like Independent Salford Beer Fest and Indy Man Beer Con all emerged from this blossoming beer community.
JP also played a part in hosting the city’s first meet the brewer events at Port Street, notably the historic Schlenkerla one in 2012. They presented the first oak barrel outside of Bamberg, which JP and Will hauled up the stairs, before it was tapped on the bar. Everyone then proceeded to drink it dry; 60 litres of the stuff.
As the beer list grew, so did the community, and although JP left the pub to pursue a successful career in fashion, it was a community which stuck by him.
When JP passed away following a car accident in April 2018, the outpouring of grief was matched only by the drive to commemorate his life. But how could we do it? Like most questions in life, the answer was beer.
It was an organic decision, made easier by the talented network of people who wanted to help. A West Coast style also seemed an obvious fit: not only was it JP’s favourite beer style, but in 2011 it was the style that sparked so many people’s journey into modern craft beer - imports such as Odell, Sierra, Stone, Ballast Point, and Unita to name a few.
We’re also proud to say that profits from the brew will go straight to Headway, a charity which supports people who suffer brain injury - and were there to support JP and his family.
That said, we wanted this to be a good beer first and foremost: we wanted it to be up to JP’s standards. That’s why when we learned that renowned brewer Jeff Bagby was going to be in town, it was too good an opportunity to miss to invite him to lend his skill and expertise to both the recipe and processes. His decades of experience in brewing classic West Coast styles was a perfect match to our goals for JPA. Combine that with the expertise of Cloudwater Brew Co and you’ve got yourself one formidable brewing team.
Like we said, paying tribute to John-Paul was never going to be easy, but we think this JPA is a pretty good start.”
I am thrilled to be hosting this collaboration between Full Fat, Bagby Beer Company, and ourselves, and excited for the awareness and money we’ll raise for Headway and Full Fat’s work in the future. We’ll be back with plenty of notice of launch events in an update to this post.
Paul, and the Full Fat team.