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.”
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!”
Part 11 in our ongoing series of posts introducing you to the Valiant family of beers. Today’s installment: Stentorian.
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!
One more update that is kind of rewarding to demonstrate the wonderful community within the craft breweries. In sharing this we need to give a big shout out to Tustin Brewing and Jon Porter of Smog City Brewing in Torrence for storing our hops in their walk-in while our walk-in is being fabricated. We’ll eventually have enough cold room storage for about 4,500 gallons of goodness.
We purchased 19 boxes of hops from Hop Union. And we have a bunch more coming from two other breweries who had an excess and were willing to sell it to us!
Love the Craft Beer Industry!