Great Notion Brewing’s intense repertoire of adjunct packed hazy IPA’s and pastry beers are not obviously compatible with Wayfinder Beer’s clean, clear and mostly traditional European lagers. With their new socially distant pandemic collaboration, Wayfinder and Great Notion prove it is possible for two opposing views to find common ground and do some good together. Introducing their new mash-up of decoction adjunct brewing, modern hopping, and crisp yet hazy into Cold Kush IPA.
“Wayfinder probably never will make a pastry stout and Great Notion will probably never make a double decocted rauch-bock, but I’d like to think we can meet in the middle on lots of things including this beer,” says Wayfinder brewmaster Kevin Davey on his unexpected collaboration with Great Notion Brewing.
Davey is not typically a big fan of collaborations which can seem to be more of a marketing move and a handshake. Not so with Cold Kush, Davey had been thinking about Great Notion’s beers and appreciated the regular support of that brew team coming into Wayfinder before and after the Coronavirus shutdown. Perhaps in some part it was the pandemic that got these two friendly but opposing sides of Portland’s craft beer world together for the first time.
“I got a phone call out of the blue from Kevin saying he had an idea he wanted to run by me,” recalled Great Notion co-owner/brewer Andy Miller. “He said he wanted to do something like their Cold IPA Relapse, but with our yeast to create an extremely pale beer that would be crushable and either be tropical, citrus forward, and/or smell like cannabis.”
“I told him what I was thinking: making a hazy with a large rice decoction. I wanted him and the team to come up with hopping,” adds Davey.
But what is a Cold IPA anyway? Wayfinder has been brewing their “Cold IPA” called “Relapse” for over a year now and it won a medal silver medal at the 2019 Oregon Beer Awards. Since then we have seen brewers like Mitch Steele at Atlanta’s New Realm Brewing and Shaun O’ Sullivan at the bay area’s 21st Amendment Brewing make interpretations. But if you google “Cold IPA” you are going to mostly come up with references to serving temperature and cold brew coffee beers.
“I had not personally heard of the term “Cold IPA,” until Wayfinder did it,” says Great Notion brewer Sam Zermeno who helped create the recipe for Cold Kush.
Davey describes the “Cold IPA” as something of a cross-between an India Pale Lager (IPL) and a Malt Liquor, with the ultimate goal to create a clean, crisp and light hop delivery mechanism with the crushability of a lager. But confusion still abounds, perhaps the new Cold Kush IPA will clear things up.
“I’m not entirely sure the difference between an IPL and a Cold IPA,” says Miller. Clearly there is still a lot of work to be done.
“I don’t like to use the term IPL for what we’re trying to do,” says Davey, who is no fan of the mostly extinct sub-style that often just tasted like a 90’s style IPA with poorly managed yeast and fermentation temperatures.
“It’s an attempt at super clean IPA,” says Davey. “High adjunct brewed (much like a malt liquor) keeps the body very light (unlike IPL which was brewed with high caramel malts of a IPA), fermented warm-ish (mid sixties) with a clean yeast strain (Chico, Lager, Koelsch strains would work), and then dry-hopped with fermenting beer. The last part is quintessential.”
For the Cold Kush IPA collaboration, Davey wanted to take the skills he has learned in brewing hazy NE IPA and apply it to a super Cold IPA base. To bring this collaboration back full circle, Davey was first introduced to hazy IPA’s at Great Notion Brewing and he wasn’t initially a big fan.
“I remember going to the opening night at Great Notion and thinking the Juice Jr was really good,”recalls Davey. “I believe I told Andy, ‘Hey this IPA is great, but you’ll need to get it clearer.’ Looking back, that was naive. I think the feeling among many of the brewers in Portland was that NEIPA was lazy.”
After redeveloping his own hazy IPA Flower in the Kettle, taking it more seriously and trying different yeast and contracting higher quality hops, Davey has came around on the style. With Cold Kush IPA, Davey was anxious to put both a new spin on cold IPA and hazy IPA together with a unique hop profile.
Both Davey and Miller had recently tried a homebrew from the side project of Great Notion brewer Sam Zermeno under his Brujos Brewing label that became an inspiration for Cold Kush.
“I gifted Kevin a can to try it because he had gifted me some of the hops I used in it. I honestly didn’t think he would even try it since he’s a lager guy,” laughs Zermeno. “I was surprised to find out he actually did and said it was great! Meant a lot to me coming from one of my favorite local brewers.”
Inspired by Zermeno’s Brujos Brewing hazy IPA, Wayfinder and Great Notion set up a hop profile that would use Strata hops in helping to achieve a dank but also tropical hop character for Cold Kush. The double decoction part comes into play with large additions of rice added to the mash, similar to a malt liquor, which bring the alcohol up but lighten the body and make it finish more crisply. A pinch of flaked white wheat was also added in the hopes that it would give a little bit of the appearance of a Belgian White/Witbier. The decoction makes the rice addition have more solubility and Davey says more flavor, referring to it as a more practical American method of adjunct brewing.
“Cold Kush is not a Cold IPA is this regard,” says Davey. “It’s a hazy that we used high adjunct to kinda blend the styles. I’m using the word Cold to imply that it’ll be crushable, drinkable. We used Citra, Galaxy, Strata, Cashmere. Mainly Citra and Strata.”
But even with the collaboration set, Wayfinder and Great Notion still had to figure out how to brew a collaboration together when everyone had to keep a distance due to the ongoing pandemic. It all started up with a bunch of zoom meetings between Davey, and Great Notion’s Miller, Zermeno and production manager Rob McCoy.
“It’s funny, we’ve been joking for years that most collabs are just a bunch of emails,” laughs Andy Miller. “I’ve often suggested that we should just brew the beer ahead of time and have the brewers out when the beer is released instead of brew day where we just end up sitting around and talking shop.”
Zermeno and McCoy joined Davey and Wayfinder brewer Kelsey Cable for the Cold Kush IPA brewday but it was a bit different with masks and distancing. Davey says the hardest part about collaborating during the pandemic was that they couldn’t go to nearby dive bar My Father’s Place for breakfast after they mashed-in.
“It’s a Wayfinder tradition at this point,” says Davey, hopefully the lack of greasy morning food and drinks will not jinx the beer. “Trying to have a great time six feet apart but not being able to enjoy our colleagues smiles underneath their masks. I’m hoping we can crack a few cans with them during the release.”
“We shot the shit, learned some things from and about each other, and made the best out of it. Good times during the strangest of times.,” says Zermeno. And isn’t that what a collaboration is really about?
Cold Kush both the beer and the brewers represents a true mash-up of brewers and styles and goes on sale today at Wayfinder Beer. I have a feeling it will go quickly.
Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding.