“It’s a secret, you can’t say anything or take a picture. You have to speak with Green Flash first.”
These were the words spoken to me by Alexis Briol, Brasserie (Brewery) St-Feuillien’s Director of Production and Brewmaster during a tour of the St-Feuillien brewery in Le Rouelx, Belgium in mid June. Alexis is too polite to have said ‘oh merde’ but I’m pretty sure that is what crossed his mind.
His reply was in response to my rather loud “What’s that?!” which was accompanied by some very animated gesticulating when I noticed a tag that I was not meant to see on a St-Feuillien lagering tank. It read: WEST COAST IPA.
As of today it is no longer a secret. The beer that I stumbled upon being dry hopped in the lagering tank is the first batch of the St-Feuillien-brewed Green Flash West Coast IPA. It is being released in selected markets in Europe as you read this – about 200 barrels in total – both in kegs and bottles.
This is the latest in a four-year relationship between the twelve-year-old, adventurous upstart Green Flash and the one-hundred-and-forty-one-year-old buttoned-down and traditional Brasserie St-Feuillien. It is a relationship that initially began with “one off” collaboration brews, first brewed in Belgium and then later also in the United States. “This is the coolest industry in the world to be in, and to be able to do things out of the box makes it even more fun” said Mike Hinkley, CEO of Green Flash, when we chatted about the project. The St-Feuillien version of the West Coast IPA is brewed to the same specs as its Mira Mesa counterpart. A relatively recent revamp of the recipe by Chuck Silva, Green Flash’s Brewmaster and Vice President of Brewing Operations, has increased the dry hopping by fifty percent more than the original, and the ABV has been elevated to 8.1%. Both the domestic and Euro versions of the West Coast IPA are now marketed as a Double IPA.
The malts for the Belgian incarnation were sourced in Europe, while the hops and yeast (White Labs 001) were sent from San Diego to Le Rouelx. The other difference between the Californian and European versions, besides the grain, is that the Euro-bottled brew (33cl) is bottle-conditioned. This is due to the supply chain for St-Feuillien’s (and most of Belgium’s) bottled beer being non-refrigerated. Still, that is a huge improvement from before; Green Flash decided to stop shipping West Coast IPA from California to Europe due to quality issues caused by both a long non-refrigerated ocean journey and questionable storing conditions from arrival to the shelf. “Now, it is two days freight from St-Feuillien to our markets in Europe,” said Hinkley, “as opposed to two months by ocean freight from California.” “People are ready for this beer in the UK, Scandinavia, Italy and the Netherlands,” noted Dominique Friart, owner and CEO of St-Feuillien. “People are really eager to taste this beer.” Judging by the recent and rapid proliferation of hoppy beers now available in these markets, I am pretty sure that she has it called correctly.
So, if you are traveling in Europe and are suffering from hop withdrawal symptoms – trust me, it happens – you should no longer have to look very far to find a nice fresh West Coast IPA. For more on the evolution of the Green Flash West Coast IPA, including the St-Feuillien/Green Flash West Coast IPA project, please check out the August issue of West Coaster, hitting both your local craft beer bar in print and this website soon.