COVID-19 Update: Bale Breaker Brewing Company’s taproom is temporarily closed to the public, but we are running weekly 12-5pm Saturday Drive-Thrus. Visit our blog for this week’s menu.
By Owner & Brewmaster Kevin "Smitty" Smith
Life was once simple. Our desires were as clear as the beer we drank. Yet, eras seem to fade away simply, softly, like the aromatics of a lightly dry hopped pale ale.
Once, what seemed like ages ago, we made beers that paired with flannel, Birkenstock’s, and a mustache that was neither trendy nor ironic. We had a few great hops that defined who we were. We were the Cascades. We were the Chinooks. They were as much a part of us as the streams and mountains we inhabit. Did we use too much crystal malt? Sure. But, we didn’t care. We didn’t know any better. Our beers were the color of the rocks that we climbed. Amber as that sunsets on the Olympics. Bitter as the morning breeze at Camp Muir. Most of all, they were as clear as the tributaries of the Columbia. Bright as the stars that shine in the high desert. These beers not only defined us, they defined a region. I was raised on the clear beer. Ever since I was eighteen twenty-one, I strived for a beer that was so clear, you could see the future in it. As a lad, I would put my spectacles aside and read the morning paper through a pint of pale ale.
However, times change. As comfortable as the past is, progress comes. Evolution is an inevitability. A good friend once told me, (in a Scottish brogue that was heavily weighed down by the intoxicating effects of a well-made martini) “sometimes when there is a wave, you just need to ride it.” This wave was just beginning to crest as we drank our night away in a D.C. bar. It grew higher as a spring moon shone brightly on the east lawn of the White House. This wave we talked about was the Hazy IPA.
I knew it was time to leave the safety of the Pacific Northwest and embrace this new, frightening landscape. I had to venture back to a place that few had gone before. A place none of us like to speak of. I had to return to the East Coast. I had to go there to learn how to forget everything I’d ever learned.
It was a spirit walk that I wasn’t ready for. But, I was on a mission to lose clarity. Or, a mission to find a sort of clarity rarity. If only I could locate the Fabled Fields of Haze, I would be able to return home standing slightly taller than I left. I left a boy. I could return a man.
I began my search in Montreal. I don’t know why. But, I did. Was it fun? Oui bien sûr. Did I find what I was looking for? Non. La recherche s'est poursuivie. I pushed on. Crossing the shores of Lake Champlain, I could feel a shift in the air. I could feel the haze in my breath – deep in my bones. I knew I was getting close. But it wasn’t until I landed in Stowe, VT that I knew I had found what I was looking for. And, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I wept like a school boy. Here, I found the Fabled Fields of Haze. Forests of torrified wheat towered above me. Not only did they touch the clouds, they were one with the sky. Everywhere I looked there were bushes exploding with the ripest flaked oats and rolled barley. All of the surrounding peaks were capped with the whitest of wheat. The clouds. Oh! The clouds were pillowy and soft like a duvet made for the gods. Nothing like the bitter air atop our volcanoes, it was as smooth and silky the the finest Parisian croissant.
If only I could find a way to harvest this haze, collect it and bring it back to the Pacific Northwest, I knew I’d be capable of crafting a concoction that would make me all but forget about the clear IPA. If only I could harvest this haze, I would not only find clarity in the Hazy IPA — I would find clarity in myself.
Days passed as I packed my rucksack full of haze. Gently, I layered it as not to disturb the complex protein matrixes that I eagerly desired. Once my harvest was complete, I returned home to the peaks and rivers of the Pacific Northwest. With this fresh haze harvest, I was fully equipped to tackle the Hazy IPA.
However, the haze is not enough to make a great beer. The beer I longed to create needed a defining stamp. It needed to be distinguished properly — not unlike my great-grandfather’s cattle, brandished with a “Lazy L”. This haze had to be woven seamlessly with the effervescent notes of citrus, berry, and coconut that can only be found in the hops that reside in the Yakima Valley. This elixir had to cleanse all palettes. The haze must blanket the taste buds velvetly. The aromatics of the hops had to jostle the nose hairs of all in the vicinity. A sanctimonious marriage of haze and hops had to lay the foundation for something beautiful. This beer needed a marriage that would shake the foundation of monarchies across the globe.
Through this marriage, the Hazy L IPA was born.
You can currently find Hazy L IPA on draft at many of our usual haunts. Keep an eye out for it on grocery store shelves this spring.
Posted January 10, 2020