Back to the Future: Looking Into our Crystal Ball about what’s next in IPAs

Back to the Future IPA (aka BTTF) is the third release in our series of rotating draft-only IPAs for the year. BTTF is a departure from the previous two releases in the series: Tall Guy IPA and Rainbows & Unicorns. Those two are beers we’ve brewed a number of times and have more or less “set” recipes. By contrast, Back to the Future is a beer that always changes, both each year and– in this year’s incarnations– each batch.

Breakside-Brewery-Back-to-the-Future-IPAWe first brewed this beer in 2015 as a cross-border collaboration with our friends at Fremont Brewing in Seattle. The idea was to brew similar-yet-distinct beers for Seattle and Portland Beer Week using varietals that we thought might be the “next hot hop.” When we brewed that beer, we also incorporated a lot of other ideas that we had about new ways to make IPAs that weren’t directly connected to hops as well.

Specifically, we used BTTF 2015 to explore some questions we had about the use of flaked grains in IPAs. We also trialed a much softer water profile than we normally use with our IPAs. As with any trial, there were parts of the 2015 version that we liked and learned from, and elements that we didn’t. The things that we liked are now incorporated into many of our other hoppy beers. Both Lunch Break and Tall Guy use a good portion of flaked barley in the malt bill, for example. The hops that we used BTTF 2015– Ella and Azacca– have both found a home in our hop schedules for several other beers, including Hop Delivery Mechanism and Imperial Red.

This year, we’ve revived BTTF in the same spirit, brewing it with combinations of hops that we think have a lot of promise and using this beer as an opportunity for us to explore some “new directions” in making IPAs. Distilling it down to 3 key areas, this year’s Back to the Future IPAs are exploring the following territory:
Pairing a new and interesting hop (Topaz, Lemondrop, Idaho 7) with hops that are already beloved (Mosaic, Citra, and Ella). Each batch of this beer focuses on a different combination of those hops. The first batch, which is currently on the market, is heavy on Topaz and Mosaic. The second round of brews will be mainly Citra and Lemondrop. The final batches– the ones that will be hitting the market in August– will use Ella and Idaho 7.

We are using a different yeast strain with this beer this year, and it seems to respond to American hops differently than our normal house ale strain. Many East Coast brewers have been featuring English yeast strains in their hoppy beers; in our case, we’re seeing what happens by brewing an IPA with a Kolsch-type yeast strain.

Finally, the malt: as most any fan of Breakside knows, we like making austere IPAs. Wanderlust is a great example of this– it’s just Two Row and Munich malt. In the last year or two we’ve played a lot with flaked grains and also with “bigger bodied” hoppy beers (the latter due to the influence of our friends at Fat Head’s), so we wanted to get back to our roots with this and focus on a very simple grain bill. BTTF is composed entirely of American Two Row and British Golden Promise malts. The challenge when using only base malts in an American hoppy beer is that the lack of character and crystal malts can cause bitterness to be more pronounced. So, we’ve really tried to figure out what the optimal balance between IBUs and malt is for BTTF.

 
We’re pretty excited to test and taste these new ideas, and based on the response to the first batch, our customers seem excited about it too. Back to the Future will be available on draft through the end of September at Breakside’s pub and taproom as well as at select accounts in OR, WA, BC, HI, and Northern CA. If you try this beer at one of our spots, be sure to ask about which version is on tap; many bars and restaurants that get a keg may not know which version the beer is, but they can always reference the batch number for the curious-minded, and you can check it against the list of batches below.

Cheers!
-Ben

Back to the Future 2016 Batch #s and Hop Variants
#529: Topaz and Mosaic (currently out to market)
#537: Lemondrop and Citra (will be released to market 7/20)
#545: Lemondrop and Citra (due to release ~8/1)
#TBD: Idaho 7 and Ella (due to release ~8/25)