Cannonball Creek Brewing | Project Alpha #47 IPA
Project Alpha is an ever changing series of experimental IPAs made by the creative minds at Cannonball Creek Brewing in Golden, CO. Says Brian Hutchison, co-owner and head brewer, it’s “Fun to be able to do whatever you want to try, to take risks. That’s what (Alpha) is all about.”
Never just a traditional West Coast IPA or a new age hazy IPA, Alpha blurs the lines between what people typically expect from their hoppy beer. While Alpha definitely has its roots in the West Coast considering the IPAs Cannonball Creek has brewed, the series is about trying something new every time with experimentation built on previous iterations. Brian says Alpha “enables (him)… to do whatever (he) want(s).” The beer is always changing, but the process for designing the next Alpha is consistent: the beer is “based on other beers that I’ve had that I found interesting or based on shortcomings or strong points with beers we’ve made.” Jason Stengl, co-owner and general manager of Cannonball Creek, says that Alpha allows the brewery to keep things fresh.
Originally begun as a project to update their flagship IPA, Mindbender, Alpha quickly became a beer all unto its own with Project Alpha #1 launching in late 2013, the same year the brewery opened. Building off a traditional California ale yeast, Alpha experiments with modern hop profiles, varied grain bills and even different water chemistry. Some Alphas have used a soft water profile similar to New England IPAs in order to alter the mouthfeel and how the hops are perceived in the beer. Every beer has the same philosophy but a completely different execution, and that is what makes the series a must-try with every new release.
Project Alpha #47
With all this history behind it, what was the idea behind the 47th iteration of Project Alpha? Brian wanted to try something new with Lupomax hop pellets. While he had used the concentrated lupulin in Cannonball Creek’s beer previously and enjoyed the flavor, he found the overall intensity to be delicate and in need of some punching up. Starting with Citra and Mosaic Lupomax, Strata and Cashmere hops were introduced to amp up the hop profile and provide more fruit intensity. Project Alpha #47 pours nearly clear with a mild head as one would expect. The nose says traditional West Coast IPA, but this illusion is soon shattered upon first sip. Some floral notes and a distinct peach flavor are the unexpected twists in the piney, moderately bitter body. Some pineapple is present as well, and the dry finish leaves a bit of residual lime on the palate, tricking the mind into thinking a Mexican Lager was just drunk. This beer is a fun ride not typically experienced in more true-to-style IPAs.
#47 leans slightly more old school than the previous iteration #46, and that is the beauty in the unknown with this series. When Great American Beer Festival upped their maximum entries from five to six, Cannonball Creek decided to make Project Alpha #47 their final entrant into the competition. They are hoping to bring home some more hardware from the prestigious festival, and Alpha might just be their ticket to do so. A new Project Alpha is released every couple months, so there is always something different and exciting to look forward to. If you ever find yourself around Golden, I recommend stopping by the brewery behind the 7-11 and giving their award winning beers a try. If you are lucky enough to visit when the latest Project Alpha iteration is on draft, I hope you have a transformative experience much like I did when I first tried it.