What’s the deal with this ‘Flight Series’ of beers?

Published January 20, 2021

You’re a curious bunch you are.

With the last release HBC692 Pale Ale, under the ‘Flight Series’ we’ve created, you had a bunch of questions for us. Some that the marketing department simply couldn’t answer. Questions like, “what the heck is up with this series?” and “can we expect more of these experimental beers in the future?”

It’s not that the brewers were holding back on us, no, they wouldn’t do that (would they?), but we needed answers. To get the details (you know, so we can be as informed as you), we went back to Mike Lackey (Brewing Operations Manager) to get the scoop.

Three of the flight series beers

Troy: Tell us, Mike Lackey, about the Flight series of beers that GLB is putting out these days?

LACKEY: O.K. Troy, I will. You may have noticed, Troy, that the beer world has been in an IPA craze over the past couple decades. With brewers forever seeking out bigger, brighter and unique hops the hop growers have worked hard to develop them. We thought a Flight series would be a fun way for us to experiment with new hops that are coming down the line and also share with our customers.

Troy: So, the series, and the names ‘Flight XXX123’ came about based on the way in which the hop supplier categorizes their experimental hops?

LACKEY: That’s right. Great guess! Most of the hop suppliers have breeding programs now. When a new cross is born it gets a number. Over several years the newborn hops are evaluated on grow-ability, alpha acids, aroma and many other qualities. A small number of these neophytes make it to larger fields and eventually into experimental brew kettles like ours.

TROY: Are all the hops coming from one supplier?

LACKEY: So far, the 3 beers we have made in the series come from the Hop Breeding Company (HBC) which is a program co-owned by Hass and Yakima Chief (2 of the world’s biggest suppliers). Ergo, we have HBC630, HBC692 and HBC472 (coming January 28th).

TROY: How are we (GLB) able to get our hands on these new varieties? 

LACKEY: We have strong ties to Yakima Chief and are able to get our hands on some cool stuff out of the program, but in the future we may see some other experimental hops from other programs. Easily one of the highlights of heading to the Yakima Valley is visiting the yards with trial hops at various stages of development. We’ve had our eyes (or more accurately our noses) on HBC692 and 630 for about 4 or 5 years now.

TROY: GLB has used HBC692, HBC630 and will be releasing another one shortly (HBC472). What has been your favourite?

LACKEY: 692! Grapefruit notes have always been the best part of the American IPA style for me but I’ve found as the years have gone by and the palate has adjusted, the grapefruit flavour is harder to find. 692 brings that grapefruit back to the foreground for me – reminds me of the first time I had a Bell’s Two Hearted actually.

**NOTE – HBC692 is now officially called Talus.

TROY: Why are all the beers in the series Pale Ales?

LACKEY: The first couple in the series were Pale Ales because when we rubbed the hop we felt it would be best suited there. HBC472 (see above label) is a different beast, however. The hop sports a unique and unmistakable woody note which is great and unusual but proves very odd in a pale ale. Trust me, we tried a couple attempts that weren’t our favourite. Anyway, we always thought a cool variety and believe in will work well in an American Brown – we’ll see if we were right!

TROY: Why hasn’t GLB (at time of this very tough interview) ever done an IPA for the Flight Series?

LACKEY: Dunno. Probably because us brewers prefer the lighter alcohol Pale Ales. Not sure if you’ve noticed but we make a lot of them. I’m sure some bigger IPAs (Double, Triple?) will make their way into the series soon. 

TROY: Did you know that the QR Code on the label(s) actually work? That Art Director of ours… sneaky fella.

LACKEY: I’m so technically inept I betcha they wouldn’t work for me but…ok.

TROY: True. Very true. Anything else you’d like to add?

LACKEY: Coming soon to the series…we want to blend some of the experimental(s) we have in house to feature some of the best parts of each hop. They will be labeled as “Connecting Flights”. I hope this isn’t getting to confusing LOL.