From our Director of Brewing Operations, Andrew Sheffield
It’s a really difficult decision to retire a beer as unique and well-loved as Hayride. Now before all you diehard fans get out the pitchforks and torches, know that we plan to brew it and have it available in limited quantities in our new taproom this fall. For this piece, I wanted to share my thought process behind coming out with Ryepen in place of Hayride as our fall revolver beer.
The dilemma for me with Hayride was whether to re-brew a beer for the fans that love and look forward to it or to brew something different for the folks more interested in trying something new. This was made more difficult because there were conceptual pieces of Hayride that I really liked. It was so different from the ubiquitous pumpkin beers of autumn and it drew on fall spices that were unexpected but really worked in a rye beer.
As I sat contemplating this conundrum, staring at the tractor on the can, a middle path presented itself. What if I took the frame of what I really enjoyed about Hayride and just took it to a different place? After that, all the pieces just started falling into place. I started thinking about Wallingford’s Orchard in Auburn and all the autumnal magic that is held there. I thought about the sparkling ciders that were a treat at the kids table for Thanksgiving and the Brut Cidres of France that I grew to appreciate as an adult. The story of the tractor driving through the orchard to the farmhouse during harvest took over and I decided to turn that into Baxter’s fall beer.
The most exciting and challenging part of this job is figuring out how to turn a story into liquid so it can be told all over New England in each can. I started with the yeast. I knew I wanted it to be a farmhouse ale right away for a couple of reasons. It literally brought the farmhouse in my imagination into the beer. Farmhouse ales are also rustic and celebratory of the bounties of harvest. During fermentation, these yeasts produce clove-like and peppery phenols that echo and reference the interesting spices found in Hayride. The next piece was to find the balance between malt and cider flavors that would be equally as enjoyable in the warm days of September as in the cold November nights. We brewed test batches over and over again changing the malt bill and cider concentration until we landed on the beer that made me taste all the images that were in my head. The final tweak was to add a dash of mulling spices in the kettle to give a hint of those classic cider spices.
We are excited to share this story with you, so that you and yours can relive and create favorite fall memories, preferably over a beer.