One of the fun things about this business is that brewers can express a number of different things through their recipes. For example, we were originally asked to brew Follow the Gull for Cape May County’s 325th anniversary -- so we threw 325 pounds of hops at it and 3,250 pounds of malt.
So, for our seventh anniversary, we’ve brewed up a special double IPA -- Anniversary Ale 7.0 -- and you’d better believe that our guys on the brewery floor went to town with lucky number seven.
Anniversary Ale 7.0 has seven different varieties of hops -- Vic Secret, Nelson Sauvin, Mosaic, Azacca, Amarillo, El Dorado, and Bravo.
That’s… that’s a lot of hops. Like… a lot of hops.
Blending seven different hops varieties isn’t an easy thing to do -- all of those hops could end up melding into a boring approximation of a “hops aroma”. You know how artificial strawberry flavor tastes nothing like strawberries? Same idea.
So, we had to show some restraint.
“The main goal with this hop combination was to play around with complimentary flavors and aromas,” says Head Brewer Brian Hink, “but the potentially bigger thing was not having hops that would clash with each other.”
We chose hops we knew would blend well together, but we were also sure to add them at different quantities to ensure a more complex aroma.
“The dominating note is one of tropical fruits and berries,” says Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm, “from the Vic Secret, Azacca, and Amarillo hops, with underlying notes of citrus and grapes from the El Dorado and Nelson Sauvin, a hint of pine and orange peel from the Mosaic and Bravo.”
The result is rather nice.
“I was really worried about it coming across as muddied,” Brian says, “but I think it came out as a nice balancing act of great complexity and not seeming too busy.”
Not only have we used seven varieties of hops, but we’ve dry-hopped this beast to the tune of seven pounds-per-barrel.
So. Many. Hops. We’ve never done a beer so heavily dry-hopped.
“There was a time not too long ago when it seemed crazy to do two pounds-per-barrel,” Brian says. “Now that's really the starting point for most hoppy beers. This is the most we've done in a beer, but it really isn't that much more than Gull at 5.5 pounds-per-barrel or Catch the Drift at 6 pounds-per-barrel.”
It’s high -- it’s a lot of dry-hopping -- but there are breweries out there that go up to ten or twelve pounds-per-barrel. However, we’ll have more anniversaries -- in fact, we’ve got one coming next year… and the year after that… -- so maybe we’ll push the envelope even further.
Nonetheless, this brew has a soft and velvety mouthfeel that belies its hoppiness. We came at it with our usual New England IPA malts of wheat and oats, but we wanted to add a bit of sweetness and color, so there’s an appreciable amount of honey malt in there, as well.
“The malt bill here is designed to create a very soft mouthfeel,” Jimmy says. “As the amount of hops increases, so can the astringency and a ‘green’ that can end up being very tongue-stripping. So we designed the mash to make a very soft, pillowy body with the addition of oats, wheat, and some honey malt.”
We also played around a bit with the water chemistry to assist with the mouthfeel, increasing the levels of certain ions to keep the beer at a softer level.
“There's definitely a softness to the finish,” Brian says, but that has more to do with the high chloride to sulfate ratio on the water chemistry than the malt bill.”
“We essentially went at this from multiple fronts,” Jimmy says, “really utilizing the full spectrum of brewing science.”
“So the end result is this soft, fluffy mouthfeel, very low bitterness, and massively aromatic beauty of a beer,” Brian says.
Brewer Mark Graves is definitely looking forward to this brew.
“I love that each year that we’ve done the Anniversary Ale, we’ve attempted to push our own limits and try new things,” he says. “We could come out with the same beer every year but instead we try to play around with new hops, a new style or brewing technique. With 7.0, pushing the dry-hopping to seven pounds-per-barrel, it’s a lofty number, one that excites me from an analytical standpoint and as a consumer myself. It’s like every year we keep dialing it to 11! Is the dial broken by now?”
And we definitely dialed this one up -- more than just the seven varieties of hops, more than dry-hopping it with seven pounds-per-barrel.
The ABV is 7.7%
The SRMs -- a measure of a beer’s color -- is 7.
We’re packaging it in seven-packs. (No, we’re not. That’s a joke. But how much fun would that be?!?)
Either way, we’ve had fun brewing this beer. The guys had fun devising the recipe, they had a blast brewing the beer, and we’re all going to have a great time drinking it at our Anniversary Party.
“I'm always looking forward to finding a reason to celebrate,” Jimmy says, “and an anniversary with a special commemorative beer sounds like the perfect way to do that!”
Mark can’t wait to share the fruit of his labor.
“I plan on enjoying this beer by the beach or lake, on a kayak or after mowing the lawn, in a box with a fox, and most assuredly with good company,” Mark says.
But, ultimately, Brian’s looking forward to it for one reason:
“It's super delicious,” Brian says.
Be sure to swing by our Anniversary Party on Friday, June 29th -- we’ll have Anniversary Ale 7.0 on tap and in 16-ounce cans at the brewery and at Cabanas!
See you then!