The Legacy of Alpha Drive

Brewing a double IPA can be tricky. First of all, it’s easy to throw in too many hops or to go overboard with different malt styles when creating the foundation of the beer. The goal of a really great DIPA is to showcase the hops, elevating the aromatic properties, flavor and preserved bitterness. It’s a tough balancing act, even for a skilled brewer.

Our head brewer at Valiant, Brian Schroepfer, weighed in on the process. He said, “Anyone can simply throw gobs and gobs of hops into a beer and call it a double IPA but it takes skill to make the beer balance out and provide the consumer an enjoyment factor that only comes from selecting the right ingredients and executing the brewing process well.”

The amount of skill it takes to perfect a DIPA is already an impressive feat, but Brian went a step further when he brewed up the idea for Valiant’s DIPA, Alpha Drive. While most DIPAs end up punishing your mouth and tongue with bitterness, Alpha Drive actually has a very sophisticated flavor profile. Our Alpha Drive DIPA has all the characteristics of a classic double IPA (color, bitterness, flavor and aroma), but it’s extremely balanced for a 90 IBU range beer. The aftertaste actually leaves you wanting another sip! This means you get the perfect balance of hops resin on your palate – a rare treat for a DIPA but an attribute we at Valiant Brewing take very seriously.

“We pay attention to our hops selection and timing of when those hops are added to the wort or finished beer,” Brian added. “Remember, we have been brewing for over 11 years and after that amount of time, you start to understand what hops work and don’t work.”

The idea for Alpha Drive came when we realized that our Imperial IPA, Jericho, was simply too much beer for most beer drinkers to make it a year round release. Jericho has an alcohol content of 10.8% and an International Bittering Unit of more than 100. So, we went back to the drawing board. We analyzed the market for double IPAs and also took a hard look at aroma, flavor, bitterness, special hops and the DIPA brewing process in considering adding a new DIPA to our lineup.

“We know we wanted a DIPA that would stand up to the San Diego scene and at the same time, provide the OC with a beer that they can be proud of and claim their ground in this war of hoppy goodness,” Brian noted. “It is amazing to think that just after a month of bottling Jericho that Alpha Drive was born and was slated to be the new year round core beer.”

 Valiant’s Alpha Drive DIPA was first introduced on January 9th, 2014. It has an 8.8% alcohol content, so it’s not too light but it also won’t knock you on your back like Jericho could. The Aroma of Alpha Drive grips your senses from our use of Simcoe and Amarillo hops and gives off notes of tropical and citrus flavors like passion fruit and grapefruit. The actual flavor, however, is a whole other story. When you try Alpha Drive, you’ll enjoy the flavors of toasty and bready malt, intermixed with the sticky resin quality of Centennial hops. Alpha Drive finishes dry, crisp and clean with a strong hop forward and rolling bitterness that leads into even more hops! We knew Alpha Drive would be big with our customers, we just didn’t know how big. Right off the bat, we sold an entire 40 bbl batch in just about a month. No one was more thrilled than Brian.

“For us, still growing, that set a new record,” he said. “And rightfully so, it’s a solid DIPA!”

 As if sales weren’t enough to show us that we created an awesome DIPA, our customers in the Valiant tasting room have made sure to let us know how much they love Alpha Drive.

“‘Wow,’ ‘amazing’ and ‘tasty’ are usually the first words out of people’s mouths,” Brian commented. “The best one though is this statement which we hear a lot: ‘I really like this beer and I’m not even an IPA fan,’ or ‘I dislike bitter beers but the way Alpha Drive rolls on and off with its bitterness is really refreshing and tasty.’”

Those comments mean more to us at Valiant Brewing Company than even the sales themselves. We work very hard to provide a comfortable environment, excellent service and of course impeccably delicious craft beers that speak to our customers. We want them to feel at home when they stop by the Valiant tasting room and when they sip on our brews. Brian especially is so touched when our Valiant customers enjoy the beer he put his whole heart into creating.

“Words cannot express what it feels like when customers compliment Alpha Drive,” Brian said. “What some people don’t realize is that every ounce of beer produced by Valiant is an extension of my personality. So having people enjoy our product hits me right in the heart and I truly enjoy hearing positive comments about our products. We only wish we could get more people to take a little time and go online to review our products. Online reviews mean so much to a tiny brewery like us. Having all these great comments posted online helps us develop a ranking system and helps us promote our brands.”

If you have some time, please share your experiences with our beer on Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Foursquare. We’re also on Google + and Pinterest.

But of course you’ve got to try Alpha Drive before you can post about it. Well, you’re in luck! Alpha Drive is always available on tap in the Valiant tasting room and you can also take home the great Alpha Drive flavor in a 22 oz. boomer bottle. Alpha Drive is also available at selected locations around Orange County and San Diego.

“We plan on having continuous packaging of both draft and bottles throughout the year,” Brian added.

We’re so excited that Alpha Drive has been such a huge hit with our existing customers. We hope you’ll come into Valiant soon and try it for yourself. After all, we think it’s one of the best DIPAs money can buy. But hey, we’re biased.

“We feel we absolutely nailed this style,” Brian said modestly. “In fact what we accomplished is what takes breweries years to obtain, yes the years of homebrewing did pay off! The level of hop flavors combined with the aroma characteristics and almost perfect rolling bitterness places this beer high on our walls. We have to agree that Alpha Drive is one of our favorites, just ask all our employees – I’ve never seen so many growlers purchased by them before!”

Alpha Drive Bottle OnlyDon’t take our word for it, come down to the Valiant tasting room and try Alpha Drive for yourself. We’ll save a pint glass for you.

 

First Year of Beer: Valiant Turns One

It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since we, at Valiant Brewing Company, first opened our doors to the public. When Brian (head brewer and owner) first started brewing delicious craft beer, he did it as a hobby from a Mr. Beer kit at home. His first priority, at the time, was drag racing and working on hot rods. Well, that’s since changed. In 2007 we started to make the transition from hobby home brewers to commercial brewers. Brian completed the Master Brewers program from the American Brewers Guild in 2010 and on February 9th of last year we officially opened for business as Valiant Brewing Company in Orange, California. Hot rods are now on the back burner and craft beer has become our passion and our priority. It’s been a journey unlike any other and we are so glad we chose to take this ride.

Brian commented on our evolution from home brewers to a commercial brewing operation saying, “It’s been a long road,” but he added, “It’s very rewarding.”

As a brand new brewery, we were so pleased to be named Orange County’s Best Local Brewery in the 2013 Orange County Hotlist. We were also happy to see the list of friends and fans of Valiant Brewing Company continue to grow over the last year. We’re adding “regulars” to the Valiant tasting room everyday.

“Word keeps spreading,” Brian noted. “That’s the direction we need to continue to go.”

As demand for the unique craft beer of Valiant increases, our team is also expanding. While our staff grows, we continue to work to make Valiant Brewing Company a fun place to work, and a brand that each employee believes in and supports as much as we do.

“The biggest thing is making sure the employees are happy,” Brian said. “If they are happy, then we’re a better team and we do better.”

After all the learning and growing we’ve done in the last year, we’re ready kick our feet up and celebrate! We want to celebrate the new craft beer recipes we’ve developed at Valiant Brewing Company, we want to celebrate our amazing and helpful staff, we want to celebrate the fulfilment of our dream to brew great craft beer and most importantly we want to celebrate you – each and every one of you who has supported us and believed in us over the last twelve months. To do that we’re planning a shindig of epic proportions.

“I’m really excited,” Brian bursted.”We have a lot planned.”

Our Valiant Brewing Company One Year Anniversary party is set for Saturday, March 1st from 12 noon until 11:00 p.m. that night. We’ve got so many fun things planned, including a tribute to Brian’s hot rod days with more than 50 hot rods showing up for our very own Valiant Brewing Company car show in the Valiant parking lot. We’re partnering with several local car clubs to make this happen and we couldn’t be more excited. Of course, we could never have too many hot rods in front of the brewery. If you’ve got one to show off, bring it by and add it to our show. We’re expecting cars will be coming in and out all day.

We’ve also got a great photo slideshow planned that visually depicts Brian’s evolution from a home brewer to the head brewer of Valiant Brewing Company. The slideshow will play in the tasting room throughout the event. Catering the event is none other than world-renowned Chef Cody Storts of Hopscotch Tavern in Fullerton. We’re really fortunate that Chef Cody has graciously agreed to supply our anniversary guests with some of the finest food Orange County has to offer.

Most importantly, though, we couldn’t throw a craft beer party without some awesome craft beer. Brian has been brewing non-stop and is going all out for our anniversary festivities! We will have 26 beers on tap during the event. That’s right – 26. These recipes will include several barrel-aged versions of some of your favorites. We’ll have a barrel-aged First Flight on tap. This American Strong Ale has an alcohol content of nearly 14% (it’s a big one) and has a slight herbal aroma that we combined with light coconut, vanilla and mild caramel highlights. Among the list of other barrel-aged goodies you’ll find on tap will be a barrel-aged version of our Axiom Trappist Ale. This 10.5% ABV Ale has a Graham cracker aroma with malty highlights and notes of cherry, raisin and spice! We’ll also have all our regular beers on tap for those who’ve already chosen their favorites, as well as some beers that have disappeared from our list – those beers will be making a comeback for our special event. Brian is also working on some special new recipes he’ll unveil on March 1st. You won’t want to miss out on these rare and exciting concoctions. For those who can’t decide, we’ll have different packages and flights available so you can taste them all!

We just want to thank everyone who has supported us over the last year and who have helped us become Valiant Brewing Company. Without your support we wouldn’t be where we are today. We hope you’ll stop in on March 1st between noon and 11:00 p.m. and celebrate with us at Valiant Brewing Company. We’d love to see you!

Holiday Barrel Aged Porter Pathos: Available Now for a Limited Time

The holidays come with a variety of traditions like decorating the Christmas tree, lighting the menorah and ringing in the New Year with a kiss. However, there’s a new holiday tradition we invite you to take part of before it’s too late! That tradition is coming down to Valiant Brewing Company to sample our newest seasonal release. This year we’ve got one barrel of our Barrel Aged Pathos Porter available for the holidays.

Our Barrel Aged Pathos is an Imperial Chocolate Porter with a forward flavor of chocolate, hints of toffee and caramel and minor burnt, roasty malt characters while also bringing out notes of oak, crème brûlée, vanilla and coconut on the aroma side. At 9.3% alcohol content, Pathos is the perfect beer for the holidays!

“It’s a good holiday beer,” said Owner Brian Schroepfer. “People kind of associate relaxing with a darker beer by the fire, as opposed to having a lager. [Pathos] has a little bit more complexity, a little bit more depth to stay around in your pallet and that’s what people are kind of looking for when they want to relax, they want to have a nice beer that they can sip on.”

But our Pathos Porter is only available as long as we’ve got it. Once the barrel is gone, it’s gone! So grab your jacket and keys and head to Valiant for a taste. You’ll have to hurry though, our holiday hours may limit your ability to get your hands on this tasty little porter.

We’ll be closed Thursday, December 26th but we will reopen on Friday, December 27 6-9pm and Saturday, December 28th from noon to 9 p.m. We will also be open on Monday, December 30th from 6 – 9 p.m. for growler fills only.

We hope to see you soon. Happy Holidays!

Behind the Scenes: Valiant’s Bottling Process for Jericho IIPA

We at Valiant Brewing Company are thrilled to offer one of our flagship beers, our Jericho Imperial IPA, in bottles! We are thrilled because Jericho is a terrific seasonal brew – it’s an Imperial IPA, full of hops with an aroma of orange, tangerine and a citrus flower bouquet that heightens the senses, allowing the sweet malty bitterness to develop slowly and linger for a few minutes. At a 10.8% alcohol content, it’s a great craft brew for the winter months.

But that’s not the only reason we’re so excited to offer this gem in 750ml bottles! We’re also excited because it almost didn’t happen. At least not on schedule. We had a deadline of November 16th to release our Jericho Imperial IPA bottles, but like Murphy’s Law dictates, “What can go wrong, will go wrong.” That was almost the case for Jericho’s bottling process. Luckily, with some help from all of our staff, a few of our neighboring breweries and the support of all of our patrons – our Jericho IPA has been bottled and is currently in distribution!

Brian, Valiant’s owner and founder, said of the whole experience, “It was cutting it really close.”

The mayhem began with a call from the company that manufactures our labeling machine. It turns out our brand new machine, which we were expecting to be shipped to us well in advance of our impending November 16th release date, would be at least two months late to arrive. Brian flew into action, calling around to find any brewery that would let him borrow a labeler. Evan Weinberg, of Cismontane Brewing Company, stepped up to the plate and offered to help out. Evan offered us Cismontane’s labeling machine and before Brian could take it over to Valiant to label our bottles, he spent several hours working with the crew at Cismontane.

“I appreciate their friendship, their openness,” Brian said. “I definitely thank them so much for their hospitality and their time to show us their process, and I could learn from their mistakes.”

Hurdle number one was successfully jumped, but then came the challenge of actually filling the bottles with Valiant’s new Maheen bottling machine, which had been purchased but never used. It was Friday, November 15th, the day before the bottles were going to be released. Brian arrived at Valiant bright and early, around 4:30 in the morning. A small crew of Valiant’s brewery and tasting room staff arrived around 6:30 A.M. to get the bottling underway.

“We were like five of us, we all had our stations,” Brian said. “We didn’t know what we were getting into but I kind of remembered from going back to Cismontane, their set up and how they got in a groove over there. So, I was somewhat prepared for the outcome but what I wasn’t prepared for the learning curve of the Maheen system and bottling machine.”

Right away Brian could tell the parameter settings on the machine were off because the bottles were only being filled halfway, or were coming out half full of foam. Hours of adjusting and readjusting the ratio, dealing with bottles crashing on the ground and making frustrated calls to the manufacturer and other breweries seemed to have gotten them nowhere. Finally, Brian got through to Eagle Rock Brewery and was able to get some help. But it was another call to the manufacturer that triggered the lightbulb in Brian’s head and allowed his engineering background to kick in and save the day.

“Once I started understanding the units, which weren’t published anywhere, then I understood exactly what those functions were doing,” Brian explained. “So, I got off the phone with him and I said, ‘Oh, OK. I understand now. I believe this is our situation.’ I adjusted the parameters, fired the machine up and guess what? We were bottling.”

Once he solved the problem, they were back in business. Unfortunately, by that time it was already 3 O’Clock in the afternoon. We only had two hours until the tasting room opened. Frantically they brainstormed ideas for what to do, because the bottling set up was smack dab in the center of the Valiant tasting room. They didn’t have enough time to alert everyone on social media that the brewery was going to be closed and frankly, we couldn’t afford the losses from a day’s closure. Finally they decided to section the bottling station off from the rest of the tasting room, using chairs. We were able to open at our normal business hours. For those of you who were at Valiant that day, you’ll remember that the staff juggled bottling with taking turns serving behind the bar. In the end, it actually ended up offering everyone who came to Valiant that day a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of the Valiant Brewing Company.

“It was kind of neat in a way, because we were like the show and people were taking pictures,” Brian laughed. “But it was kind of rewarding because people could see ‘Oh! That’s my product you bottled.’”

The gang stayed late into the night until the job was done. Out of all that, we ended up bottling 320 cases, or nearly 4,000 bottles of Jericho Imperial IPA! These bottles are already in distribution in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. It never would have happened without all the help and support from our new friends at Cismontane Brewing Company, Eagle Rock Brewery and all of you! So yes, we are especially thrilled to offer our Jericho IPA in big bottles. Our next challenge will be getting the Jericho in 22 oz. bottles, which we promise we’ll tackle soon! After that, we plan to bottle four more core beers: Crescendo (our bold 6.5% Blonde Lager), Alpha Drive (an 8.8% Double IPA, great for hop heads), Axiom (a delicious graham cracker and malty Trappist Ale at 10.5%) and our Criterion Belgian Amber Ale (A floral but spicy Honey Rye at 5.6%). Keep checking in for updates on when those will be available in Valiant bottles.

The Valiant Lineup: Stonewall Jackson 5

Part 14 in our ongoing series of posts introducing you to the Valiant family of beers. Today’s installment: Stonewall Jackson 5.

Okay, the name probably gives it away—but we’ll go ahead and just say it: this is a really fun beer. It was fun to brew, and it’s darn fun to drink!

This Double Red Wheat was the first beer we brewed on our new Pico system (more on that in an upcoming post!). But that’s not the only reason it’s a landmark of sorts. Brian pushed the Hef yeast strain almost into the 9% range, which makes Stonewall Jackson 5 come across almost as though it’s been oaked.

The aroma alone will knock your socks off: mild sweet cherry, hints of clove, caramel maltiness, and deep notes of raisin and prune make you eager for that first sip—and it doesn’t disappoint: malty caramel richness combines with bold bitterness, leading to a dry finish.

Not too heavy at 8.7% ABV and 50 IBU, Stonewall Jackson 5 was a sort of experiment for Valiant (hey, when have you ever seen a Double Red Wheat?), and we were excited that it came out so great. With a classic Hef malt bill (and 50% wheat to add a velvety, creamy texture), it has exciting esters that go well with the Golding and Vanguard noble hops added at the end.

So easy to drink, you’ll probably think it’s just a 4% beer—but Stonewall Jackson 5 is more like an aged port: rich with wheat and notes of cherry and raisin, it offers a bit of bitterness to round out the palate and finishes with classic Hef tartness.

Blast to Our Brewing Past Takes Us Into the Future

The newest addition to our brewery… also represents the history of Valiant.

Way back when we realized we wanted to go pro with craft beer, there was still one big unknown: would we be a contract brewery? A nano brewery? A micro brewery?

Brian designed a system, the manufacturer’s price was right, and we took the plunge. The day we went out to pick up the equipment was huge! We were hauling a trailer of all this brewery equipment down the freeway, with people honking at us and waving.

That was when we started to feel really official!

Next step: Brian had to figure out how to hook up all the equipment. He started searching for parts on eBay, and even got a huge heat exchanger (since the Blichmann he had for his original homebrewing equipment was too inefficient for this 80-gallon system).

We set up in the garage. As we fine-tuned the business plan for our brewery, Brian got very familiar with his new system. And eventually, the business plan took a turn and we realized we were going to go big—very big!—with our brewery.

Back to the drawing board: Brian designed a new system (the one you see in the tasting room today), incorporating many of the parts we’d already gathered. And the rest is history!

Now that history has come full circle. Our smaller system is part of the big picture, allowing us to brew small batches of experimental beers (and—just as important, though slightly less exciting—to propagate yeast for our brews). Stonewall Jackson 5 was brewed on this system.

Before we set up the Pico system last month, it had been two years since Brian had brewed on it! It might be going overboard to say it felt like a homecoming… but we will admit that it’s awesome to have the flexibility to make sure our beer is the absolute best it can be, going out the door.

So next time you’re in the tasting room, admiring all the shiny equipment, make sure you spare a glance for our Pico. After all, it’s where Valiant got its start.

The Valiant Lineup: Tilt Shift

Part 13 in our ongoing series of posts introducing you to the Valiant family of beers. Today’s installment: Tilt Shift.

As the name indicates, Tilt Shift is a departure for Valiant—and something new for craft beer fans, too. This Belgian IPA was a real challenge to brew, balancing Belgian characteristics with the hops (not just in the flavor, but in the aroma).

Brian studied up on hops and different IPA styles before cooking up this recipe. A Belgian golden strong yeast provides a lot of esters, giving Tilt Shift a fun aroma combining citrus and tropical fruits… and bubble gum.

The clean malty flavor expresses hop flavors of sweet spices and pineapple, with a refreshing bitterness (from Cascade, Zythos, and Opal hops) to balance everything out.

Small beer batches like Tilt Shift give us a chance to do some yeast propagation, too. So in the near future, watch for news about Valiant brewing a a Belgian golden strong . (Now that’s multi-tasking—brewing a cool, fun beer with a side of functionality!)

Easy-drinking at 7.1% ABV and 66 IBU, Tilt Shift is on tap until our four kegs run out. (At least, unless demand pushes us to keep it on year-round!)

The Valiant Lineup: Crescendo

Part 12 in our ongoing series of posts introducing you to the Valiant family of beers. Today’s installment: Stentorian.

Many years ago, we had a vision—a vision of a lager that could break through the 5% range. And now, that vision is a glorious blonde lager we like to call Crescendo.crescendo

It’s a craft beer for the Coors crowd. As Brian says, we wanted to give Bud Light guys a chance to taste what it’s like on the craft beer side, where flavor and decent ABVs (6.5%, in this case) happily coexist.

Light in color, with the clean, malty backbone of lager yeast, Crescendo gets its flavor from three different hops. A thirst-quencher on a hot day, it’s light enough to pair successfully with chicken, salads, even a juicy cheeseburger. Or give it a try alongside a citrus tart or even an oatmeal raisin cookie with vanilla ice cream. (We know, we know—we give amazing food pairing suggestions!)

While Crescendo is going to be a mainstay of the Valiant beer list, it’s also the base of an exciting short-run beer that Brian brewed up. He took seven barrels of it and made an India Pale Lager out of this blonde lager—the same wort, but a different hop schedule from Crescendo. (In all modesty, we have to say it’s incredibly awesome.) He added seven types of hops, and came up with a 6.66% ABV beer with 62 IBU. It’s not on tap yet… but don’t worry: we’ll let you know as soon as it’s available in the tasting room!

99 Bottles of Valiant Beer to be Filled…

Behold: a Jericho BOTTLE LABEL.

Valiant-Jericho-done

Now, we know what you’re thinking: does this mean that Valiant is bottling beer??

Short answer: Not yet–but soon! We have to run the label by the TTB and the ABC and then we get to play with our beautiful BOTTLING MACHINE. (Seriously, take a look at these pix and tell us it’s not beautiful! We double-dog dare ya!)

And don’t worry–you’ll be the first to know when Valiant bottled beer is available!

 

 

 

 

 

The Valiant Lineup: Stentorian

Part 11 in our ongoing series of posts introducing you to the Valiant family of beers. Today’s installment: Stentorian.

barleywine

It’s the beer you’ve all been waiting for: STENTORIAN, Valiant’s English barleywine!

Considered the strongest ale offered by breweries, our English barleywine is all about sophistication.

Deep copper and bronze, Stentorian is hazy enough that you can’t see through it. The aroma offers immediate hints of dried fruit, like plum, date, and rich raisin. The overtone of caramel sweetness combines with a deep malty aroma, while a slight presence of oak helps balance out the complex floral notes from the late-addition Goldings hops.

This full-bodied beer is fairly high on alcohol (13% ABV), but your first impression will be the intense caramel and toffee flavors that result from the multi-layered complexity of our selection of malts (and long kettle caramelizing). Moderately sweet, Stentorian’s hop bitterness is perfectly balanced; the flavor is quite fruity. (Oak-aged versions yield even more depth of character with a slight hint of vanilla obtained during the aging process.)

Mark your calendars: STENTORIAN Release Party August 31 in the tasting room!

In fact, Stentorian’s intense character can make it challenging to pair with main dishes. It’s the ideal partner for desserts (try it with hazlenut torte or caramel cheesecake) or strong cheeses, like Stilton.

Though we pour Stentorian when it’s ready to drink, it can get even better with age. Given the right storage conditions (upright, in a dry dark area no warmer than 50°F), it’s possible that you could age Stentorian for more than 10 years—and at that point, it will have picked up sherry-like qualities. The biggest challenge will be waiting that long to enjoy drinking it!

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