​Brew Review: Perceived Bitterness Technique Leads Paperback in Award-Winning WCIPA​

​Leaning on the years of experience garnered as a Brewmaster and Great American Beer Fest medalist (and ​also as a judge), David “Zambo” Szamborski said he is very proud of his new team at Paperback Brewing for taking Gold in the biggest category (IPA) at the 2021 California Craft Brewers Cup for Tucked in by Strangers, a West Coast-style IPA.

Historically the American-Style India Pale Ale category is the most-entered beer style at competitions for commercial brewers, and with Paperback opening less than a year ago, Szamborski has leaned heavily on his previous experience with award-winning beers he helped produce at 21st Amendment.

Tucked in by Strangers greets the consumer with passion fruit, mango, and pine from only using Mosaic hops over a sweet bread base​ of pilsner malt come from this 6.5% ABV, 50 IBU creation.​

Szamborski said they use a lot of late additions which is why even 50 IBUs can be deceiving to those who believe they prefer a 70 IBU IPA.

“IBUs are a calculated number whereas perceived bitterness is more significant,” he said. “We employed pilsner malt to lighten the base and allow the hops to shine through even with a smaller bittering addition but massive late-kettle additions and dry-hopping.”

This technique, he said, allows the hop aromas to take the stage.

“Single-hop beers can be tricky since some hops aren’t really intended to be used for both bittering and aroma,” Szamborski said. “What’s our secret? Well, drink one and smile. That’s our secret. If it doesn’t make us smile, what’s the point?”

READ MORE: Planning Brewing Schedules Post Competition

At the heart of Paperback is a 15-barrel brewing system, plus six 30-barrel and five 60-barrel fermenters. Szamborski said they do not change the brewery’s production schedule for any competitions but always send the freshest batch of whatever they enter.

“Some smaller breweries may have more flexibility in changing their schedule to have a certain style ready for competition, but our schedule was fairly set in stone leading up to this year’s competitions,” he noted. “Our favorite judges are our actual customers who purchase our beer every day both here and at other local bars and beer stores.

“These craft beer lovers are why we do what we do, and we intend on keeping them happy.”

This was the second CCBC competition, presented by the Sacramento Area Brewers Guild, in partnership with the California Craft Brewers Association, which showcases the best beers across the Golden State. In 2019, the competition’s inaugural year, 1,266 entries were submitted by 194 independent craft breweries.

“It’s always a great feeling to have one of the best three beers in any category, but taking Gold in the biggest category is beyond comparison,” Szamborski said in a release.

Do medals equal sales though? Not usually.

​”​It is nice that some of our customers and soon-to-be customers follow enough craft beer buzz to learn about our awards, but we certainly don’t intend on sitting back and milking this one​,” Szamborski said. ​”We will continue to brew award-class beer for our customers every day.

​”​Like them, we also consider variety an important aspect of what we do here at Paperback.​”​

READ MORE: Why This Inventive Idea Makes the Oregon Beer Awards More Educational for Entrants

Szamborski’s prodigious output at Paperback — releasing 37 brews in the brewery’s first year of operations — was a deliberate endeavor that helped the brewery withstand the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic as well. In spite of pandemic-related challenges, Paperback produced nearly 2,000 barrels in its first year and added 400-plus off-premise accounts from San Diego to Los Angeles, including 188 Trader Joe’s retail locations.

The brewery is on track to increase production by 50% this year and is planning to increase off-premise distribution in other major California markets.

Photo courtesy Paperback Brewing

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