When Alewerks Brewing Company's Brewmaster, Geoff Logan, first approached us about doing a small batch collaboration beer, obviously, I was excited at the opportunity. It’s to the point that it’s cliché, but despite the inherent business competition, craft brewing really is a congenial and collaborative industry, and nobody exemplifies that more than Geoff.
Geoff and I first started talking casually about what we might want to brew back in the spring, at the local homebrew club, CASK (Colonial Ale Smiths and Keggers), spring party. Conversation over a couple well-done homebrews led to discussing some of the newer hop varieties that have gone into production in recent years, specifically varieties coming from the American Dwarf Hop Association.
Azacca is one of these hops, and will be featured heavily in The Virginia Beer Company's year-round IPA, so I have plenty of it contracted for the next few years. Geoff was interested in working with the new variety, so we had a bit of a direction for the collaboration, and we eventually settled on a Red Rye IPA as the base beer.
Azacca is a great, high alpha acid variety, which also has great oil content giving intense aromas of tropical fruit- mango, pineapple and the like. The fruity character of the variety is almost overwhelming as a standalone hop, so we decided to balance it with some Simcoe for a little bit of dank, resiny, pine flavor and aroma.
The brewday at Alewerks went quite well, and it was great to be back working in a brewery again after a year of pilot batching. The rye malt gives a nice crispness to the beer that allows the hops to really shine in the IPA. We also did all of our hop additions at the end of the boil and in the whirlpool, in order to keep the bitterness moderate for an IPA (around 65 IBUs) while still packing the wort with as much of the aromatic and flavorful hop oils as we could. The beer was then dry-hopped with copious amounts of Azacca to really pull out the tropical aromas of the hop- it seemed a fitting choice for a summer release. And with 2 lbs. of dry hops added per barrel (for 20 total lbs.), those tropical aromas and flavors should shine like the summer sun!
Speaking of the release, we’re excited to pour our collaboration Red Rye IPA alongside many of Alewerks’ other beers on Sunday, 8/2 at the Whistle Belly Virginia Beer & More Festival in Williamsburg, hosted by our friends at DoG Street Pub. It should be a great celebration of all things Williamsburg beer. And we're excited for the follow-up release at the Alewerks taproom on Thursday, 8/6 as part of the National IPA Day celebration.
Cheers to collaboration and exciting new hop varieties!