It’s the start of a new year, resolutions are being made (and broken), Dry January’s are being embarked upon (and abandoned), and all the while the rest of us craft beer lovers are bracing ourselves for the high octane Triple IPA season that descends upon Los Angeles every January/February.
And the crown jewel of this hoppy holiday season is Power Plant Triple IPA from El Segundo Brewing Company. Year after year, El Segundo gives LA beer drinkers a reason to celebrate with one of the best displays of high gravity hopiness available on the market.
This annual release by El Segundo Brewing comes as part of “The Meltdown”, a coordinated beer event that has grown to span across the entire state of California. We caught up with the ESBC team to learn more about The Meltdown, Power Plant, and why we should probably stop comparing it to Pliny the Younger (although it’s hard not to).
Gary Magnone: What’s The Meltdown?
El Segundo Brewing Team: Meltdown is the first day that Power Plant is available. It grew out of our “Day One” releases but The Meltdown is a synchronized tapping of Power Plant and Radioactive Fallout on 1/17 at 13 locations throughout CA.
GM: What is Power Plant?
ESBC: Power plant is a face-melting triple IPA that’s medaled twice at Bistro [Double/Triple IPA Festival]. It’s irresponsibly overloaded with Simcoe, Amarillo, Citra, and Mosaic hops and comes in at 11.1%, making it the biggest IPA we brew all year.
GM: How long have you brewed Power Plant?
ESBC: This is the 7th year we’ve brewed it.
GM: How has it changed over time?
ESBC: It hasn’t changed a lot, just a couple of small changes. The ABV has fluctuated a little, last years batch was 12.3%, the year before was 11.1% and this year we’re back to 11.1%. The dryness and attenuation has changed a little but the hop cocktail has stayed pretty much the same. But there are so many hops in it, that’s it’s incredibly difficult to identify the differences.
GM: What have you learned after brewing this beer so many times?
ESBC: Getting yeast to ferment over 11% is challenging and we’ve learned to make sure we have plenty of time to get this beer to where we want it. From the consuming side, people don’t understand that drinking Power Plant is equivalent to drinking wine. Sure it’s 11.1%, but it drinks a lot easier than it’s strength would lead you to believe…as the bottle says, beware, lest ye be Power Planted.
GM: Why are Triple IPAs hard to do right?
ESBC: One of the big issues is getting yeast to perform and making sure you have enough yeast in the brewery to do the job. Proper use of a sensory program is essential to making sure the beer has fermented well. Finding that balance between strength, dryness, bitterness, and sweetness and then getting that balance to work with all the flowery hops and perceptive alcohol is very difficult. When they’re all aligned and perfect, it’s awesome. But when it’s not, it’s a mess.
GM: The release date hits just before Russian River’s Pliny the Younger release. Coincidence or no?
ESBC: Not a coincidence. Pliny the Younger is brewed for Bistro TIPA fest and so is Power Plant. So the coincidence is purely through that. Bistro fest has essentially created a DIPA and TIPA “season”. We didn’t brew it to stack up to Pliny the Younger but since freshness is such a key component at Bistro, it just so happens that we brew our TIPA’s at the same time.
GM: How do you think the two beers compare?
ESBC: I would say it’s always difficult when people ask you to compare your beer to a beer that is made of legends. How does it stack up to Pliny the Younger? I’d say Pliny is a little more restrained focusing on different hop characteristics than we do. So to me, I’d say Pliny isn’t quite as tropical and is a bit more geared towards citrus than Power Plant. And to boot Pliny has won more medals than Power Plant at Bistro, but we’re proud to say that we’ve medaled twice against them in the same competition.
GM: What is Radioactive Fallout?
ESBC: Radioactive Fallout is essentially a single Hazy IPA version of Power Plant. You know, for the kids.
GM: What’s your approach to a Hazy IPA like this?
ESBC: We use very similar hop cocktails, only we also have Nelson and Centennial in Radioactive Fallout. And overall, our approach is to keep fermentation fairly clean, giving that nice pillowy mouthful, and a touch of sweetness, all while using an irresponsible amount of hops.
GM: When you’re over at Slice & Pint, what pizza are you pairing with Power Plant?
ESBC: It’d have to be Rob’s in Maui or the Crowntown. The arugula on the Crowntown gives it a nice bitterness and prosciutto has a delicate sweetness to it. Rob’s in Maui has pineapple which pairs nicely with the tropical notes of Power Plant and it also has Spam, which, well…it’s Spam. We’ve also got the newly launched “Mayberry Grill” at the brewery and Chef Matt is making some special fish tacos to pair with Power Plant for The Meltdown.