A new year brings a brand new, revamped Ichigo Ichie! Read on why we thought it was time for a change and how we went about it.
As we mentioned recently in a separate blog post, we have revisited the position of each of our year-round beers in our lineup and have decided to change them upon their first release in 2021. This decision was not one that we took lightly, as not only were these the beers that have represented the face of our company since the beginning, but also because each one has its own strong base of supporters among our customers.
A Look Back
The first beer to be released in 2021 showing these changes is Ichigo Ichie, which seems fitting seeing that it was not only the first to receive year-round status in our lineup but also because its origins actually go all the way back to our roots in homebrewing. At the time we had just begun experimenting with Belgian yeast and were fascinated to see the wide range of temperatures it could be fermented at and how the character of the beer changed with even slight differences. While not truly a Saison yeast, we realized that pushing the yeast to its maximum upper limit produced a strong ester character. Combining this with the spicy yet citrusy Pacific Jade hop resulted in everything we liked about the style: strong yeast and hop presence in a dry and drinkable beer.
Why the Desire to Change?
Very little has changed in how we brew this beer, and in the intervening five years it has become our flagship. While we are very proud of that, the experience we gained during that time made us realize that our approach created downsides as well. The fermentation character was so strong that it dominated everything about the beer; the hops we were using to add to this complexity made it harder to drink multiple pints on a hot day; and the combination of the two prevented it from one of the greatest strengths of a Saison—food pairing.
How has it changed?
For Ichigo Ichie, the physical changes are slight, but the effects of them are quite evident in the finished product. While the strong yeast ester character of the original recipe became its defining aspect, we felt it was strong to the point of dominating other aspects of the beer and needed to be reigned in. To do this we lowered the fermentation temperature to create a more balanced nose and flavour, putting less stress on the yeast which creates a lighter and more floral perception.
Similar changes have been made regarding the hops. Despite the overall volume not changing much, the timing of their usage has been revisited to put more of a focus on their flavour and aroma than their bitterness. This further enhances the changes created by the yeast, and the lower IBU make the beer more suited to a wide variety of drinking scenarios.
A more significant change has occurred with the hop varieties themselves. While we retained the combination of American Cascade with a New Zealand hop, the variety has changed from Pacific Jade to Motueka. This variety is more citrus forward with a herbal accent, which is a perfect fit for the new yeast character and greatly enhances the drinkability of the finished beer.
Finally, to further enhance the dry character that typifies the Saison style, we decided to replace a small portion of the malt with an addition of granulated sugar. While that may sound like we are brewing with additives, the practice is quite common in Belgium. Increasing the proportion of simple sugars reduces the amount of complex ones extracted from malt that yeast struggle to ferment, which makes a dryer, more drinkable product.
What's the Takeaway?
The end result is not only more in line with what we think a Saison should be, but one that is so drinkable it is just as at home on the dinner table as it is at the beach. While these changes will undoubtedly be uncomfortable for some, we strongly believe that after trying one you will agree that they were the right ones to make!