The paramount of our most esteemed pours
Our beloved West Coast IPA, Sea Change, has returned this week in its thirteenth form, and it reminds us of just how far we’ve come.
Large-scale breweries and the majority of microbreweries typically have a set of core beers. They become synonymous with the brand, and represent the very best of what said brewery has to offer in regard to each style– permanent fixtures on draft or consistently available for retail. The backbone.
For our brewers, the idea of “core beers” has always extended beyond mindlessly reproducing our most popular beers every couple of months. Their goal is to create something that exemplifies a given style, while constantly evolving with the ingredients, the process, the equipment, the environment and the intention.
As someone who is inspired by intuitive artistic creation, Greg Winget, Director of Brewing Operations, hasn’t always been decisively attached to the idea of core beers. When he brewed the first version of our West Coast IPA, Sea Change, in the early days of the Hill, he began to see the merit of a beer brand that grows with a business. His idea of growth requires that our core beers become better (in every way) with every iteration.
“It’s never going to be the same beer every time. Consistency is a complete myth. You can arrive at a similar product each time, but you’re dealing with living organisms and agricultural input, so there’s no way to do it exactly the same every time,” Greg said. “You can get close, but why? Why not continue to change it slightly?”
It is a pursuit of perfection, with an understanding that it is only achieved through trial and error.
Our CORE FOUR encapsulate our progress as a brewery so far, and everything that we are capable of in the future.
“Even if the customers are never going to know that we’re constantly improving core beers, that’s what we want to do. So we’re always going to do it,” Greg said. “And, if it doesn’t get better, then to me, it’s getting worse. So, it’s about the incremental, constant, minor adjustments and improvements. If you’re not looking at every single detail, and how every input affects the end product, then why do this?”
WYE HILL CORE FOUR
–Sea Change, WEST COAST IPA
–Daydream, DRY HOPPED KÖLSCH
–Dead End Tracks, AMBER LAGER
–Opal Skulls, CZECH DARK PILSNER
“IN A SEA CHANGE NOTHING IS SAFE, STRANGE WAVES PUSH US EVERY WAY”
Sea Change, a West Coast IPA, was the first beer that Greg ever brewed at Wye Hill. It was initially released in October 2019. The importance of the West Coast style is deep-seated, as he was born in California and would visit frequently after he moved away at age ten. When he was of-age to enjoy a brew or two, he developed a great deal of respect for San Diego breweries and the West Coast beer scene. Ballast Point, Stone, Green Flash and (the lesser known) Pizza Port became huge sources of inspiration for him as a burgeoning lover of beer. Pizza Port’s Swami’s IPA (named after a famous surf spot in San Diego) has served as his paramount influence on his journey to create an ideal West Coast IPA.
“When I started [at Wye], I was like, ‘Well, I really wanna make a beer that tastes like that San Diego style,’ because you’ve got so many different styles of IPAs– and then within the styles you have substyles,” Greg said. “Obviously, there’re breweries from California all the way out to the East Coast making West Coast IPAs, but I’ve always felt that the San Diego model was the best.”
Over three years and 12 iterations later, Sea Change has taken on a life of its own.
The brewers have changed the hops with every iteration of Sea Change (revisiting the original combination of Amarillo, Ekuanot and Cascade for only one other version somewhere along the line).
“I’m not trying to capture that same San Diego aesthetic anymore, because I kind of realized after the first couple of batches that it was not going to be possible,” Greg said. “It’s just kind of turned completely into its own thing.”
Setting the standard for every Wye beer to follow, Sea Change was named after a piece of music much-loved by Greg– Beck’s masterful album Sea Change, specifically a lyric in “Little One.”
Instead of tackling every variation of Sea Change by making minor tweaks from recipe to recipe, the brewers have treated every version as its own entity. This has informed how they have approached the constant production of every core beer. Greg believes that if they operated any other way, it would be boring for both the brewers and the customers.
Sea Change, like the rest of our ever-evolving core beers, is alive. It grows with us, and (we can only hope) with you.