Episode 175: Kevin Davey of Wayfinder Sets the Record Straight on “Cold IPA”

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Kevin Davey doesn’t understand why Wayfinder’s “Cold IPA” has gone viral in brewing circles. This proponent of genre bending approaches to brewing that respect tradition but recombine elements of tradition in curious ways has been vocal in the past about what they’re doing—making “IPA” in a way that respects the flavor while twisting the technique. They haven’t been hiding anything, so why the hubbub now?

The beer that seems to be the center of the brewing internet’s latest furor is Relapse, a beer they’ve dubbed a “Cold IPA” (much to the chagrin of those IPL advocates and style guide purists who insist nothing of the sort can exist). It’s definitely not “traditional”—mashed with a grist of 30% rice, fermented with 34/70 lager yeast, and krausened with pils or helles wort when dry-hopped, it doesn’t appear on paper to be connected to the broader school of west coast IPA. But taste it and you’ll understand how these curious methods produce a beer that feels perfectly aligned with the conceptual ideas that have driven west coast IPA for the past two decades.

It's worth noting, of course, that the beer in question—Relapse Cold IPA—was a Craft Beer & Brewing beer of the year for 2020. The quality and technical execution of the beer is beyond reproach, and the creativity in process is, of course, just icing on the cake. In this genre-busting episode, Davey discusses:

  • The impact of step mashing on yeast health and effective fermentation
  • Using American malt for higher enzyme component to work with rice and corn adjuncts when cereal mashing
  • The benefit of brewing with rice
  • Importance to flavor and aroma of boiling hops (and not just dry hopping)
  • Balancing fruitiness and bitterness in hoppy beers
  • Fermenting during dry hopping to encourage hop creep and to dry out the beer, and krausening with pilsner or helles
  • Finding language that does justice to the intent of a beer in a way that connects with consumers

“I loved California West Coast IPA when I first started in the industry,” says Davey. “And so I’m like ‘What if we just take that further? Let’s make it even clearer. Let’s make it even less caramel-y. Let’s make it even dryer.’ That’s why—on the can—we say it’s ‘wester than west coast,’ because we’re taking all the things that are already west coast and we’re just pushing them a little bit further.”

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