We decided there was a hole in our core range, there was room for another pale beer.
Weird Beard have been feeling the strain with hops, as outlined in our Spreadsheet Ninjas blog. We are frequently struggling to get the hops we want from around the world, mainly US and New World. This frustrates us. We are also becoming more aware of interesting new British hops coming out on the market. They all have big bold claims about the tropical fruit flavours, but I am sceptical. I have tried some great UK hops, but they are always unmistakably UK hops; they all have a tell-tale earthiness to my pallet. Something down where the bitterness lingers, that just screams UK hops.
And we have experimented with British hops on a number of occasions. To me, the most successful of these was Weird Wired, a beer we brewed in collaboration with NZ brewery 8Wired. The idea of that beer was to pair UK and NZ hops in an ultra simple, ultra pale beer. We went with Bramling Cross for the UK hops, and it tasted great, but the beer had those NZ hops to prop it up.
Our session IPA, Little Things That Kill, in which the hops are different in each batch, has also had the UK hop treatment recently. We made a couple of really good batches, but again, we mixed in some US hops. Some people didn't rate these batches, because it didn't give the usual big US or NZ hop profiles we usually go for. But you have to take UK hops for what they are, and alter expectations accordingly.
A good example of this, and a bit of a marketing failure for the hop sellers in my mind, are UK Chinook and UK Cascade. These really shouldn't be called “UK blah” in my eyes. People are obviously going to judge the hop on its US counterpart, and these hops have no chance of standing up against those. It makes it difficult for brewers like us, who like to sell beer on the hops used, as people will see Chinook, or Cascade, and in their mind they are already anticipating something, leading to disappointment. The beer may be great, but it was not what the drinker was expecting.
We don't have a lot of experience of most of these hops. We have used them, as explained above, in combination with other, more tried and tested varieties, but the idea here is 100% UK hops. So we come up with quite a classic malt bill with oats and a touch of biscuit to compliment, yet give the hops a chance to shine, as a backbone to this beer. A number of incarnations will be brewed, with different UK hops each time. Then, looking at the sales, feedback and our own personal tastes, we will decide on the combination that will make it onto our core range.
First up we have Olicana, Minstrel and Bramling Cross. And second we went with Olicana, UK Cascade, UK Chinook.
We are quite well known for the inspiration for our beers, especially the naming and branding. We draw a lot on our love of horror movies, but mostly heavy music. This time was no exception, and the perfect name came to us almost instantly. Usually we go with song titles, but this time it was the title of a 1988 world tour by one of the biggest metal bands in the UK, and a personal long time favourite of mine. We contacted the band, through someone who knew someone, who knew someone...you know how it is. We explained our idea, and asked how far we could go with the branding. If you look at our recent beer, 7th Church Of The Apocalyptic Lawnmower, we have totally based the product's name and label around the band. But on the other hand, we have Little Things That Kill, that some people still don't realise is a song title. Here, however, the band in question's representatives gave us full permission to use the name, or the 2 words we wanted from the English language put together, as long as the label was “not overtly metal”. Now a lot of our branding is pretty metal anyway, so this put us in a bit of a pondery. We currently have a basic label and branding for this beer while we test out the different hops, but will come up with something different when the final beer is decided on.
We hope you enjoy the beer as much as we always enjoy developing and brewing all of our beers. And we invite you to be as critical or as complimentary as you want. All feedback will be great, so let us know by email, comments on the blog, postcard, or the usual social media what you think. We will also be checking up on things like untappd and RateBeer, so be sure to check in the correct versions.