New Brew News: Fyne Ales Workbench IPA Project & First Draft

By Iain Smith

Sanda Blonde, Fyne Ales core IPA, has been picking-up plaudits ever-since we first brewed it in 2013. Our pale, Nelson Sauvin-centred IPA has proudly been our representation of what a modern, British IPA should be for four years, but four years is a long time in the craft beer industry. So, in line with our continuous efforts to review and improve on our beers, it’s time for something new.

Introducing the Workbench IPA Project, and the first beer in a new series of hop-forward, prototype beers: Workbench IPA – First Draft.

Workbench IPA Project began with a collective blind tasting of Sanda Blonde alongside beers we considered some of the best examples of IPAs being brewed around the UK. Beers were evaluated not only on preference, but also on their flavour profiles, with the team contributing to a collective discussion about what they look for in an IPA between 5-6% ABV. While Sanda Blonde fared well in the blind taste-test scoring, finishing third out of seven beers, it fell well behind the two leaders.

The consensus of opinion was that while Sanda Blonde was clean, refreshing and highly drinkable, it wasn’t forward enough with the bright fruity and floral hop flavours that modern drinkers have come to demand in their IPAs. It ticked the boxes for bitterness and resinous levels, but the leaders in the style offered more distinct hop-characters and therefore, more balance.

But how could we bring that balance to our core-range IPA? We decided to find out with a series of prototype IPAs exploring hop-infusion methods and combinations, ideas taken from the brewers’ workbench, brought to life as small-batch brews.

Workbench IPA – First Draft is the first beer in this small-batch series, and possibly the most straight-forward when it comes to trying to achieve our goal. How do we get more fruity and floral hop flavours into an IPA? Use fruity and floral hops, and lots of them. Being one of the only breweries in the UK with a fullsize hopback, we are well-equipped for, and practiced in using whole-leaf hops to produce fruity and floral flavours, and for First Draft, we use two of our favourite hops, Citra and Nelson Sauvin for base flavours. To push the hop flavours even further, First Draft also features the biggest dry-hopping of any beer Fyne Ales has ever produced, using Mosaic and Summit T90 hop pellets to give the beer sweet stone-fruit flavours with a pink-grapefruit and peppery grass finish.

In the spirit of doing things differently, we also took different approaches to bottling and branding the prototype beers. We commissioned artist Kev Grey to create a hand-drawn illustration for a single-wrap label design, and we bottle-conditioned the beer in order to preserve as much of the fresh hop flavours as possible. This is more than just a new beer, this is a new approach, and we’re very, very excited about hearing what you think of it.

We need your help. We want to know what you like about each draft and what you like less, we want your feedback to help inform the recipes for future prototypes, with the ultimate goal of creating a new, core-range IPA that will replace Sanda Blonde. So, when First Draft debuts on keg at FyneFest 2017, or when you pick up a bottle the week after, fire up your phone, and send us a tweet (#FyneWorkbench), a Facebook message or check First Draft in on Untappd or Ratebeer so we can see what you think about the beer, and help us make Second Draft even better than the first.

For those who love Sanda Blonde (which includes quite a few of us), fear not, we’re keeping the bottles around until the Workbench IPA Project is complete and at that point, we’ll have something even better ready to take its place!