One of the best things about beer, aside from that it’s delicious, are the connections that we make along the way. When we asked the brewers to name some of the best beers they’ve ever had, it wasn’t always the most technically brilliant beers that got a mention. Of course the quality of the beer was a huge contributing factor, as is the setting, but what kept coming up time and time again were the people who they were with.
Since UnBarred was founded in 2014, Jordan has met many people on his journey, one of those people being Stuart who is the owner and founder of Ghost Whale, a London institution in the craft beer scene. If you don’t know Ghost Whale, they opened up their doors to their Brixton site in December 2016, not too long after Jordan founded UnBarred. Stuart is as nice as pie, fiercely independent as we are and just as obsessed with good beer. That natural connection has led to many a beer shared, many a story told, years of support with Ghost Whale stocking our beers and Jordan hosting on site events and, naturally, a collaboration here and there. We’d definitely describe Stuart as one of the brewery's zest friends!
Each year, Ghost Whale assembles one of the best beer advent calendars in the land. We can attest to that from experience. Full of fantastic tasting beers from the best independent breweries around, it’s so very cleverly curated. So when Stuart approached us to see if we wanted to brew a collaborative beer to appear in the calendars, we couldn’t say no. ‘I've wanted to work with Jordan on a new beer again for some time’ Stuart explains. ‘He seemed to identify with my constant quest to find a British brewed west coast IPA that hits all the nostalgic notes of what a west coast IPA should be’. So what should a west coast IPA be? ‘I was keen to ensure that what we created would strike the right balance of malt forward character I love in a good westie, with the marmalade-y, caramel-y notes and a good bitterness overlayed with a bright, citrus-y zing’ gestures Stuart. You can tell by his body language and the way he speaks that he has a genuine love and knowledge of the style.
With the project decided, it was time to go about creating a recipe. ‘It’s actually a bit of a nod to a beer we used to brew, OPA (Orange Pale Ale)’ Jordan mentions. ‘An orange and grapefruit beer that exhibited a lot of that orange-y, marmalade-y character but with supporting bitterness from the grapefruit. Orange Skies, which we settled on as a nod to a Californian sunset (California being where the style takes its roots from) uses lots of classic west coast hops along with a big helping of hand zested oranges to really accentuate that orange citrus note. Drinkability is key here as with all classic American westies!’.
So, how did the beer turn out? Bright and aromatic at first glance, the heart of the beer is in its malt bill. A grist of Extra Pale, Crystal and Carapils create a nice malty backbone full of marmalade and pine. El Dorado, Simcoe and Mandarina Bavaria hops combine with hand zested oranges to accentuate the marmalade and create the big but balanced bitterness that you want in a west coast pale. Grapefruit and sticky stone fruit aromas flow throughout before the beer finishes off with a beautiful lingering bitterness and a dry finish. And that’s the key there, that’s what is going to bring you in for more. And more. And more.
The artwork for Orange Skies, created by Tom Lacey who’s worked on countless projects with Jordan, also has a special link to this project. ‘The original OPA will always have a special place in my heart as the first canned beer I designed for UnBarred…’ Tom reminisces. ‘... before then it had always been DIY bottle labels that we printed at home - so going to can felt like such a huge step. I think I dropped my first can as opened it as I was too excited to try it! It’s amazing that we're returning to this beer all these years later, and brilliant that it’s with Ghost Whale as they have been there since the start!’ Tom and Stuart are also good friends through their love of music, both playing in bands together. Creativity and friendship really is at the heart with this beer. It has always been important for us to work with creative individuals and continues to be one of the cornerstones of UnBarred.
Orange Skies is a beer lovers beer. It’s old school, it’s punchy, and it’s drinkable. But we also like to think for those reasons it’s also a beer for anyone. As we search out for that next beer that will satisfy but we can also have a few pints of without getting totally overwhelmed to the point your tastebuds are ruined, Orange Skies will light up your life, warm your soul and relax your mind by transporting you to the American west coast. So sit back, gather your zest friends, and enjoy a few of what we think is kind of a big peel!