The latest beer in Red Hare’s chef series launches tomorrow, Friday, May 1. Restaurateur Ford Fry and his beverage manager Eduardo Guzman teamed up with Red Hare brewmaster Bobby Thomas on a session IPA. “Hoptimistic Hare” will be available at the Optimist, No. 246, King + Duke, the El Felix, and Superica, as well as on tap at the Red Hare brewery in Marietta.
Session IPA’s are popular, as they have the body and flavor of a typical IPA, but lack the bitterness and high alcohol content that can make the style hard to drink in succession. The Hoptimistic Hare achieves this tricky feat, courtesy of Chinook hops (piney with some spice) and citrusy notes that give off a tropical fruit aroma. At 4.6% ABV, Guzman says the beer will pair well with a number of dishes, particularly those at its namesake restaurant, such as fresh oysters, the shrimp a la plancha with arbol chiles, seafood gumbo, and the poached duck fat swordfish. I connected with Guzman and Thomas to discuss the inspiration and challenges behind the brew.
Red Hare’s first chef’s series beer was in 2014 with Holeman & Finch Public House and Linton Hopkins. How did you decide to work with Ford next?
Bobby Thomas: We’ve always had a great relationship with the Optimist and have worked with them on casks in the past. We came up with the idea of pairing beer with their awesome oysters and other spicy seafood creations.
Why a session IPA?
Eduardo Guzman: Ford really enjoys IPAs but wanted something that was easier to drink. For the Optimist, we wanted something easy to drink with a lot of flavor, like if you were at the beach, the lake, or at the pool during spring or summer days.
Session IPAs are notoriously difficult to brew since you have to pack in a lot of hop flavor while keeping the alcohol content low. What was the process like for you?
Thomas: We actually did three test batches before bringing it to Ford (which is a lot for us). I kept saying, “Take the IBUs down.” I didn’t just want to get the bitterness out, but I wanted more of a balance of malt and hop—the real challenge on a session IPA.
What kind of feedback did you provide?
Guzman: Bobby used Chinook hops for the beer (which usually gives a medium spice and pine notes with subtle grapefruit). Ford felt that he wanted a bit more grapefruit flavor but we didn’t want to change the base since it would mean changing the formula and adding a different hop to the process—we would most likely end up with a different beer. I suggested garnishing the beer with a grapefruit peel to add the oils and aromas that a hop might add to a beer, and it worked! For the final product, Bobby added in some Citra hops (more tropical notes—think lychee and passion fruit) and he dry hopped both hops. The base come out to be amazing without adding too much grapefruit nuance.
How often will the chef’s series come about, and who might be next?
Thomas: We only have one more left for this year, and that’s scheduled for November. I’m not saying who it’s for just yet. After that, we might hold off for a while.