All right, we once again cornered resident beer maker, tinkerer, experimenter, quality tester, and kickass skier, Kyle Sillars, in our Tank Farm to get the low-down on our latest flavor: Shake-a-day IPA. Ask no more. Actually, if you still have questions, don’t hesitate to let us know.
What’s with the Name?
We had a really hard time coming up with a name for this beer. The US IPA market is very competitive and thus a lot of the names that conjure up images of intensely hoppy beers have already been used. We thought we had settled on a name before an out of town guest was introduced to the MT tradition of shake-a-day at a local bar. She commented that it would be a good name for a beer and everyone seemed to agree. Around a bonfire at a friend’s house later that night it was unanimous that the name needed to be Shake-A-Day and with barely enough time to get artwork and labels printed it was a go.
So how do you play Shake-a-day?
The dice game “shake-a-day” is one of the most common games found in Montana Bars, In a shake-a-day game, a bar customer pays an amount of money to shake dice in an attempt to roll a certain predetermined combination simulating a poker hand. The pot of money continues to grow until the predetermined combination is achieved. The customer that rolls the right combination, wins the pot. A couple of side rules that are always closely followed include: 1) you can only play once a day, 2) the maximum wager is $0.50, and 3) All money paid to play the game must be paid out as winnings.
Tell us about the style?
This beer is Big Sky’s interpretation of an American IPA (BJCP 21A). It’s a hoppy, bitter, strong pale ale showcasing some of our favorite hop varieties. The balance of this beer is definitely hop-forward with just enough malt to support the aggressive hopping rates. We used Simcoe, Cascade and Galaxy hops throughout the process at a rate of 3lb/bbl imparting aromas of citrus, pine and tropical fruit. The base is a combination of Pale 2-row and light Munich malt for a subtle grainy-malt flavor with a clean, dry finish. Fermented with an American yeast strain, this beer was a true departure from our regular brand portfolio.
Where did the inspiration for this beer come from?
Because it’s a badass beer. Honestly though, we just wanted to make something fun for the hop heads out there. While we certainly love brewing our Big Sky IPA, that beer is a hybrid-style IPA blending American and English ingredients with a completely different balance. We were intrigued with brewing a beer that had a lighter malt body, higher ABV and drier finish to really showcase some flavorful hops. Shake-A-Day is Big Sky’s roll of the dice on a style that truly is an modern American craft beer style.
How did you experiment with the beer before bring ?
Once we had the idea of brewing a “West Coast IPA” we quickly realized the challenge would be sourcing and handling the ingredients necessary for the project. It’s relatively easy to acquire small quantities of in-demand hop varieties for trial batches but it’s very different when sourcing large contracts for production brewing. Luckily we were able to pull some strings on varieties that were more than worthy of rock star status. Aside from that obvious challenge we would be working with a new yeast strain. The high alcohol, high IBU wort is a very hostile environment for yeast and we knew that viability and vitality would be a significant challenge as we cropped and repitched this culture from batch to batch. The final hurdle with this beer was more psychological than anything else in that we didn’t want to filter the beer. At Big Sky, we pride ourselves on producing beers with brilliant clarity and a consistent shelf-life. We also knew that filtering this beer would strip some of the flavors and aromas that we worked so hard to impart in a heavily dry-hopped product. Whether we like it or not, some consumer base equates clarity with quality and this unfiltered beer would have a haze that may turn off some people. In the end we chose to package the beer unfiltered and hope the aroma and flavor were enough to appease the masses. After addressing these issues we did a 20 bbl test brew and made some minor tweaks to the recipe. From that point on it was full production run.
This has been an awesome project to be a part of and it’s great to put Big Sky’s signature on a style that has many different interpretations. American IPA’s vary considerably geographically and the differences can highlight flavor profiles enjoyed in specific regions of the country. Shake-A-Day IPA is a taste of our take on the hoppy revolution in the US. Cheers.