Brewmaster kevin smith enlightens us with a meditation on clarity rarity
By Owner & Brewmaster Kevin “Smitty” Smith
[ klar-i-tee ]
- clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.
- the state or quality of beingclear or transparent to the eye; pellucidity: the clarity of pure water.
On April 13th, it will have been seven years since we opened Bale Breaker Brewing Company. Oh goodness, not only were we young back then, we were naïve. We barely knew what we were doing. But through that haze of uncertainty, there were a couple things that were clear to us. Yet, clarity doesn’t always mean you know exactly what you are doing. It does mean, however, that you know who you are being and why. We wanted to be a quintessential Pacific Northwest brewery. We wanted to make West Coast IPA—all day, every day.
Times were great. Ours cups overflowed with clear, hoppy beer and good fortunes. Growth was abundant. Man, it was good trip. While incredible, we knew that this journey through the craft beer cosmos was not indefinite. At some point we knew we’d come back down to Earth.
The growth was good for a long time, yet it eventually began to slow. It was then we learned that it is hard to grow because it is difficult to let go of the models of ourselves in which we have invested so heavily.1 At that time, we were heavily invested in the West Coast IPA. Our brewing gurus hailed from Chico, Fort Collins, Santa Rosa, and Seattle. It was part of our plan to follow in their footsteps. However, you can plan for a hundred years, but you really don’t know what will happen in the next moment.2 We were blind to what was about to transpire because of our attachment to the clear IPA. And, attachment is the strongest block to realization.2 What became clear to us was the fact that the Hazy IPA was not a fad.
Brewers from Austin, Portland, Stowe, and many other places were pumping out these cloudy, aromatic pieces of art that looked and felt so much different than what we were doing. We had so much to learn. This was the time that we needed to be open to all teachers and teachings and truly listen with our hearts.1 So much time was spent striving for clarity, but we now needed to part with that knowledge and begin again. Without remaining open to change, we cannot remain open to life1. With this changing landscape, we pondered, “Now is now. Are we going to be here or not?”1 Of course we were going to ride that wave.
Time to dive into the Imagination Station and try to craft something that could sit on the shelves alongside the pioneers of the hazy movement. After working for so many years on separating hops, yeast, and protein from the final product, we now had a new goal. We needed to awaken from the illusion of separateness.1 Batch after batch, week after week, we tinkered. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I knew whatever it was that I was looking for was real.3 Sometimes the beers turned out amazing—like we had almost cracked the code. Other times, well, were not quite as successful. But, practice is not about how you feel while you are doing it. You are just planting seeds.3
Finally, we felt as though our hard work had budded into something that we wanted to share. We scaled up our favorite Hazy IPA recipe—Irieshun—from the Imagination Station and brewed a 90 barrel batch. It took weeks of letting the yeast and hops finish their intricate dance before we could put the final product into 16-ounce cans. After we could raise a glass and toast each other, what became truly clear to us was that our plans never turn out as tasty as reality.1
And that, my friends, is The Clarity Rarity.
1 Thoughts and words of Ram Dass
2 Thoughts and words of Neem Karoli Baba aka Maharaj-ji
3 Thoughts and words of Krishna Das