The release date for Mendocino Brewing’s first 30th Anniversary Ale is getting closer, and the excitement is growing. Crafting such an important beer is no small task, and the Mendo team has been working on this one for a while. Ben Wilkinson, Mendocino’s brewing supervisor, shares some insight on how the first 30th Anniversary release, a single hop Pale Ale, was created.
How long have you been brewing for Mendocino Brewing?
I actually got my very first official brewing job in early 2011 at Mendocino’s brewery in Saratoga Springs, New York. I was between semesters of brewing school with the Siebel Institute and I decided to live with my parents for those 6 months and work at a local brewery to both save up some money for my summer studying brewing in Munich and gain some experience in the brewing industry. I was initially hired to just be an extra pair of hands around the brewery, but a couple of the brewers left, so I was brewing by myself on their 144 barrel system within the first month I was working there. I started working at the brewery in Ukiah in the fall of 2011 after I graduated the Siebel Institute’s Master Brewer’s Program that summer.
Can you tell us a little about the first of Mendocino’s Anniversary Ales, the single hop Pale Ale? Why did you choose this one for your first anniversary brew?
For our 30th anniversary, we wanted to create a beer that honored both the history of our own brewery as well as the history of craft brewing in the United States in general. Cascade is a hop variety that was released by US hop growers in the early 70s. During the beginnings of craft brewing it was the main aroma hop used by most breweries and continues to be heavily used to this day. It is still featured in most of our beers. So we created a beer to celebrate the hop variety that has been with us and all craft beer from the very beginning.
What was a key point in the creation of the Anniversary Pale Ale?
When making a single hop beer, you have to add hop additions at many points to get a full flavor profile of the hop. So we add Cascade at four points throughout the boil to achieve the maximum complexity of bittering and aroma available with just the single hop variety. We then add a very generous amount of Cascade dry hops to the fermenter to enhance the aroma and nose of the beer. The malt bill is designed to be subtle and support the Cascade flavors, while providing a brilliant light copper color.
What sort of flavor profile can we expect from this ale?
The Cascade hop is known for its citrus characteristics, and I feel like that really shines through in the beer. In particular I notice strong hints of grapefruit in the beer. One of our cellarmen described it as, “Only a couple steps away from grapefruit juice. I could drink this for breakfast!” It has all the characteristics of a strong pale ale, and is surprisingly drinkable for a 7 % ABV beer. A lot of breweries release extremely strong and exotic beers for their special releases, which, although interesting, are the kind of beer you really only want to drink once. We didn’t want to create a beer like that which could alienate some of our long term fans of Red Tail and Eye of the Hawk. I could honestly drink this beer, and only this beer, every day and be a happy man.
Can you give us some hints about the next two Anniversary Ales Mendo has planned?
I can’t give away too much (especially since I don’t even know that much!), but what I’ve heard is that there will be two more in this series, the next of which will be another single hop brew featuring a different American hop strain. The third is very much fully in the TBD category.
What I can tell you concretely is that our next two new releases will be our take on the seasonal Pumpkin Ale and our newest release in the Talon series—a strong, Baltic style Porter which I am eagerly anticipating.
What’s on your wish list?
There will be three Anniversary Ales total, and one style is yet to be decided upon! What sort of special brew would you like to see Mendocino Brewing craft in honor of their 30 years? Let us know in the comments below.