As a head brewer, it can be a difficult pill to swallow, having your beer brewed at another brewery. It’s always going to be difficult to replicate all the nuances that a particularly brewery imprints on any given beer. Not only that, but it’s hard to imagine that another brewing team would give the beer the same level of TLC as your own.
When Matt Brynildson from Firestone Walker asked us to brew and package one of their biggest-selling beers at Thornbridge, I was really proud that such a well-respected brewery felt we would be a safe pair of hands to brew their beer. I have known Matt for quite few years now and whilst he was in Europe, he visited us at Thornbridge to work on and brew our two recent collaboration beers, Pondera and a gin barrel-aged saison (which we only packaged just last week). I know he was impressed with the quality of our beers, the attention to detail and QA systems. This must have contributed to his decision to allow us to brew Mind Haze for Firestone Walker. For us it was an honour and we were determined to nail it, as we know they had put a huge amount of effort into getting it just right back in sunny California. This is a beer with an incredible hop aroma and an extra silky mouthfeel, which they had achieved by working hard to get every aspect of the beer just right.
Mind Haze is a hazy IPA and not the easiest of beers to brew in many ways. Nevertheless, we wanted to get it as close as possible. We needed to think about reproducing the complex hop profile, the water chemistry and keeping the haze consistent and stable. We were also introducing a brand new yeast strain, which comes with its own challenges, such as pitching rate, oxygen requirements and a new fermentation profile. We were very fortunate to have Firestone send over the pallets of the freshest US hops, which certainly helped us get the depth of hop character required.
One of the hardest things to achieve is a consistent, stable haze, but fortunately we have had decent practise at this and both Firestone and ourselves have centrifuges. Although we have different models and disc stacks etc, we worked closely with Matt’s brewing team to come up with a centrifuge profile which would enable us to replicate their desired haze.
Firestone Walker sent over plenty of mind haze as a reference on tasting the final product side by side. We struggled to tell them apart and the match was near as damn it. We currently have some cans winging their way over to Matt and his team and I hope they feel the same!