Brew Review — Turning Around a Wet-Hopped Ale, Santa Monica Brew Works

Santa Monica Brew Works‘ Scott Francis likens making a wet-hopped beer akin to a fire drill.

“Thank goodness for tracking numbers,” he told Brewer when discussing the recent release of the brewery’s Next Day IPA.

“Mother Nature determines when the hops are ready,” he added.

Francis explained that once the hop farmers decide to harvest, they notify the brewery that it will be receiving the order within 48 hours.

“Then the fire drill begins,” he said, “the supplier confirms shipment, we quickly rearrange the brew schedule, and then patiently wait for the delivery truck.”

SMBW worked with Yakima Chief this year, which is one of its two contracted hop suppliers. Wet hops are not contracted, so Francis said they had to pre-order and pay two months before the expected harvest date.

The end logistics are quite easy for Santa Monica, said Chris Lawson, the Director of Brewing & Facility Operations. He pointed out that the brewery needs to only make sure the other raw materials are on hand and that a tank is reserved to get ready.

“The farmers, on the other hand, have the nightmare of picking, packaging, and ‘next-day-airing’ thousands of pounds of fresh hops to breweries all over the country,” Lawson said.

In marketing the beer, authenticity matters, said Johnny Wardell, Director of Marketing.

“You have to get to the core of what makes a beer unique,” he said. “Even the most novice of beer drinkers will tell you that ‘fresh’ is a descriptor that spurs a positive connotation. So right there, we have the foundation for a compelling narrative that’s born from an elemental product truth. Storytelling is the basis for creating a connection with the drinker.”

Wardell pointed out that craft consumers are naturally curious.

“They crave novelty and want to be surprised and delighted by what’s in their glass,” he said. “Moreover, they demand to know the story behind their beer — and we’re happy to oblige — because a knowledgeable drinker is one who’s more likely to try experimental styles and advocate for our brand.”

Santa Monica Brew Works wasn’t subtle about the name.

“‘NEXT DAY IPA’ already gives you a hint about what it is that makes this beer extraordinary,” Wardell said. “Visual cues are important too, the label has elements associated with expedited delivery — and we even put a hop-powered jet engine on our familiar retro surf bus doodle.

“We relish the opportunity to educate our fans at every touchpoint; from well-versed bartenders to social media, to on-premise collateral, to the packaging itself.”

He noted that success from this release could be someone handing a can to their buddy saying, ‘You gotta try this wet hop hazy, and let me tell you why it’s so special…’

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