“Do you have any IPAs on tap?” is a question that echoes inside the walls of the Steel & Oak tasting room on a very regular basis. Several times during a shift, myself, as well other tasting room staff, reiterate our German and European brewing roots via our original German trained Brewmaster Peter Schulz, when we answer why Steel and Oak doesn’t make an IPA.
2015 was the first summer I worked at Steel & Oak. We offered a series called “The Projekt” where Peter and Eric featured experimental hops in the same base beer to allow patrons a different beer experience. It allowed new (at the time) hops such as Hull Mellon, Jarrylo, and Azacca a space in the spotlight. I remember the first time I sipped on Projekt 0001: Azacca, I was in awe over the tropical notes and ripe mango flavour. It was my first real experience having a dialogue with people about hops; they don’t only equate bitterness. Hops and bitterness are two words that are often used interchangeably: “I don’t want anything too hoppy” is a phrase that I hear often.
When The Projekt series stopped, we often recommended our Dry Hopped ESB to hopheads or our aromatic Royal City Ale that has ample citrus hops notes. Despite the alternatives, people still ask why we don’t make an IPA.
Until now. On Wednesday, February 22nd, Steel & Oak announced a collaboration with Dageraad: The Suburbs IPA.
I decided to have a mini interview with my friend/boss/owner of Steel & Oak Jorden Foss about this exciting new beer.
Heather: Why the decision to do an IPA after nearly 3 years of not having one (other than the Earl Grey on the Test Tap*)?
Jorden: Honestly, for this beer we just thought it’d be fun to mess with people. We went back and forth about Belgian Lagers, Lagered Belgians, etc. and then Mitch (one of the brewers at Dageraad) said “Why don’t we just make a juicy IPA”.
H: Why did you decide to release our first IPA as a collab with Dageraad instead of doing a solo venture?
J: Because if it didn’t turn out we could blame it on Dageraad. Just kidding. Just the timing to be honest. The Dageraad Collab just came up on the brew schedule earlier.
H: Are there any future plans of making IPAs on a regular basis? If yes, would IPAs be a more limited/seasonal option, or are there plans of potentially (in future) having something available as flagship? I know that ESB is a fair compromise, but still, I’m curious.
J: We are planning on doing some more hop forward beers in the future in a limited fashion. I don’t think we’ll have a Flagship IPA but I’ve always learned to never say never. Based on our current facility and production capability I just don’t see us adding one as a flagship. That being said we want to play with different styles a bit more this year now that we have some more tank space and so I definitely think you’ll be able to get something a little hoppier at S&O on most days in the future.
H: Do you think the rise of popularity with NE IPAs is one of the factors as to why we are now making an IPA? I always think of them as being more balanced and approachable than the traditional West Coast style.
J: I’m not really sure if that came into play. Not consciously anyways. But I will say about a year ago us and the boys from Dageraad sat in the Tired Hands tasting room in Philadelphia and had a bunch of this style and we all agreed that it was pretty awesome. So maybe that’s where it all really started…
H: Any final thoughts/words about S&O venturing into IPA territory?
J: Steel & Oak will always be a brewery that specializes in old world and European styles. It’s what we do well. That being said we are all a bunch of beer enthusiasts that get bored easily so I think doing IPAs or hop forward pales will be something that we continue to do going forward on a small scale because they’re pretty fun to play with.
The Suburbs is available in the tasting room on draft, for fills, and in bottles. You will be able to get it next week across the lower mainland. The official release party will be at 12 Kings this Friday!
I’m pretty pleased with how this beer turned out. S&O completely stepped out of their comfort zone and ended up nailing a style that they’ve never really ventured in. My personal three favourite beer styles are lambics, saisons, and IPAs, and I sincerely look forward to seeing, and tasting, what hop-forward stuff S&O will make in future; now hop to it, Eric!
*PS keep your fingers crossed, because the Earl Grey IPA that I mentioned earlier might be coming back…
Photo credit: Andrés Markwart photography.