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Baby Genius

Imagine the face of a young child, eyes steadfast and solemn, looking out at the world she inhabits. Imagine, just for a fleeting moment, perhaps, that that child had the answer to all of the world’s problems. That that little girl, her worldview unsullied, had the power to cure all of this planet’s ills. She would fittingly, for lack of a more poetic description, be the “Baby Genius.”

Now imagine sipping a beer. Perhaps it’s been a long, hard, trying day at work. Perhaps it’s just another “one of those days.” Imagine that that beer—a beer that is so full of aromas and flavors, yet a ‘small’ beer, low in ABV, and entirely soft and crushable—would, even if for that fleeting moment, solve all of your troubles. Make all of your cares melt away. That beer would, for what might be a more poetic description than warranted, be the “Baby Genius.”

When we were starting to think about the second beer that we wanted to brew commercially in the summer of 2014, it was a long time coming. We had, up to that point, been brewing one beer alone, solely The Substance. There wasn’t too much to actually inspire what we wanted to brew as the second beer, we just knew that we wanted to scale down the Alcohol-By-Volume. Although 6.6%—where The Substance clocks-in ABV-wise—isn’t all that outrageous, especially in today’s day of DIPAs and TIPAs, we were squarely intent on brewing a beer that was lower in ABV and sessionable. A beer for drinking more than just one can. Casting aside any aspirations of an ABV-arms race with our beers that we would brew regularly, a target of 4% ABV seemed the sweet spot.

Enamored, perhaps to a fault, with wanting to use Galaxy to at least some degree, we turned to the sparse, cutthroat, secondary market. Of course, we were a young upstart brewery, years away from getting our hands on any sort of Galaxy in quantity and on contract at the time. But, we ended up purchasing some Galaxy at absurd prices on the spot-market, something approaching $30/pound, nearly double what we pay today for similar hops. Even buying a few overpriced bags of Galaxy, we still couldn’t source enough of the hop for a single 20-bbl turn of the beer on our brewhouse.

So, instead of singularly hopping a beer with Galaxy, we designed a sessionable beer comprised of Galaxy and Ella (also a hop from Australia), a beer that would showcase that distinct Australian hop-profile and character that we loved. That early version of the beer that would ultimately be Baby Genius was damn delicious, but simply not sustainable, not at those Galaxy hop prices. So, as we have done seemingly time and time again, we pivoted.

We discovered Ella, an Australian hop varietal that was bred and marketed as “Galaxy’s half-sister,” somewhat by chance, by piloting single-hop IPAs on our small batch system and experimenting. We found that Ella is uniquely different from Galaxy, for sure, but it has that tried-and-true Australian hop character. We liked it. A lot. An undeniable fruitiness, flirting with coarse anise flavors. A tropical burst on the nose that carries into the taste. (Ella also happens to be the name of a young girl who, and only time may tell, may just solve the world’s problems, she may be the “Baby Genius” after all…and the inspiration for this beers’ name).

Leaving Galaxy out of the mix this time, we balanced the hop profile in the beer by using Citra to round out some of the course edges that Ella presents, without taking anything away from that Australian hop punch. Perhaps even saturating the fruity, intense flavors and aromas in the beer even further. Bright and entirely eclectic, the beer washes over the palate with a citrusy, new world punch.

For the malt bill, it was important for us to brew a beer that had more perceived mouthfeel than the drinker might expect. To brew a beer that would be soft and crushable. To achieve this, we experimented with ratios of flaked versus malted wheat, settling upon nearly a 50-50 split. Critical to this beer, however, is the addition of flaked oats. Sometimes lost in the presence of a bigger beer, flaked oats impart in Baby Genius an airy, chewy, fluffiness that ultimately makes the beer utterly so drinkable. A small percentage of Vienna malt round out the malt bill, adding a touch of hefty toastiness without getting in the way of anything.

When we packaged that first commercial batch of Baby Genius, it was still the early, “dark” days for running a canning line. Hand-canning each beer. Hand-stickering the labels onto each can. Running at a snail’s pace, it proved to be an undertaking that would consume Noah, Pete and Sniff’s, and the new guy, Cam’s (who suffered this exercise on his first day at Bissell Brothers) entire day. A discouraging, laborious, messy and taxing task.

But when it was all said and done, the guys opened up that first can (with several more cans to follow) of Baby Genius., and just like that, their troubles all melted away. Still to this day, when you are holding a glass of Baby Genius, if at least for that moment, there are no problems in your world. Turns out, it’s one smart beer, the “Baby Genius” of our brewery, after all…

–mvs