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Some Thoughts on the New Year-Rounds

On Mar 9, 2016 - 57 Comments -

Releasing 3 new year round beers was a thing. A major thing. A thing that consumed much of the time, energy, and brainpower of many of the people in this building. These beers also embody our collective approach to decision-making better than anything else we've made. Let me explain.

About a year ago, a bunch of us sat around a table and decided what the major pieces of our beer program would be in 2016. There were oodles of ideas, many of them conflicting. But we patiently fleshed each of them out, compared them, synthesized the best ones, discarded whatever didn't fit, and ultimately ended up in a place that all of us could embrace. That process of consensus-building is fundamental to who we are, and a major reason why we make good beer.

The first step was deciding on what we wanted to feature and what we felt like we were missing. We agreed that: a) We had taken major steps forward with several key brewing processes, and b) We were underrepresented on the bomber shelf.

After debating the merits of countless beer options to put into year round bombers, we settled on the three we felt best represented what we've learned, and added something meaningful to the local craft beer market.

City of the Dead most obviously meets the criteria because it's a beer that literally only Modern Times could make. Our ability to barrel-age, roast, and dose coffee into beer is totally unique, and we were frickin' stoked with the results we were getting. City of the Dead is exactly the kind of beer that puts the jam on our toast, and so it was a shoe-in for the program. The only real challenge was figuring out how to massively scale-up our barrel-aged coffee program, but that's something we had planned to do anyway.

Fruitlands was a somewhat harder decision, but only because of the logistical challenges inherent in brewing it year round. We didn't doubt our ability to brew an absolutely badassical fruited gose, but kettle souring is a time intensive process. We worried that success might lead to endless headaches in the brewhouse, but our brilliant production team put on their thinking caps and figured out how to make it work. The idea to rotate the fruit three times a year also got us all hot and bothered, so we basically forced ourselves to solve the riddle. We're still tweaking the way we add fruit, but that type of adjustment is par for the course with anything new.

Orderville was definitely the toughest of the three to decide on. How do you commit to brewing a beer year round you've never made before? At the same time, we learned a tremendous amount about brewing hoppy beers over the course of many special releases and draft-only batches, so we felt good about putting an IPA in that slot.

But Orderville had to be brewed with hops we could actually get, and it had to be absolutely bomb. In today's hop market, that's like trying to build a helicopter in a high school shop class. So we auditioned a variety of different hops and yeasts over five agonizing test batches, before finally settling on the final approach. We've continued to fuss with it, but with our third full-scale production batch about to be packaged, we feel stellar about our totally sweet helicopter.

Anyway, that's just a peek into how we make these kinds of decisions and why. I don't believe in the misguided idea that singular genius trumps collective decision-making, and our extremely collaborative process reflects that. These beers and the process of making them are probably the clearest embodiment yet of that value, and I'm exceptionally proud of the results.