Legendary professional wrestler and WWE hall of famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has a reputation as a beer-swigging champion of the working man. He would often punctuate victories or appearances by toasting his adoring fans with a can of light beer, climbing to the top of the turnbuckle to make a show of cracking open a couple cold ones in a shower of beer foam. Now, largely retired from in-ring antics, the charismatic superstar has a beer of his own, but it’s no watery light beer. Broken Skull IPA is a hop-forward IPA made in partnership with a Southern California craft brewery.
“I drank Bud [Light] my whole life,” Austin told the raucous crowd at the brew’s release party in the tasting room of El Segundo Brewing Co., “but there’s no going back to light beer once you get into [craft beer] flavors.”
The superstar is a real-deal beer lover who’s caught the unquenchable thirst for hops that any IPA lover will be familiar with. Austin began exploring what craft beer had to offer a couple of years ago, and it was the legendary Sierra Nevada Pale Ale that really set the hook. He liked the balance of pungent hops and the richness of malt flavor that the superlative pale ale is known for. Soon enough he was looking for even more hop character. He was put off by the first taste of Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA however. The hops were too potent for his novice palate, but when he switched back to the Pale Ale he found that he wanted more hops. He began craving more hops and exploring the variety of flavors available in the IPA style.
Just a few years old, El Segundo Brewing Co. (ESBC) has built a reputation by deftly crafting IPAs that showcase an intense aroma while keeping the bitterness palatable and the finish dry. The brewery and tasting room, just about a mile from the beach, is a popular local hangout. Austin lives in the neighborhood part-time, and he became a taproom regular while exploring the flavor possibilities of the IPA style. ESBC’s flagship Citra Pale Ale became a go-to brew for the star, and when the Mosaic hop driven Mayberry IPA became a regular production beer in 2014, Austin found a new favorite. It wasn’t long before brewery founder and Brewmaster Rob Croxall and Austin began discussing a collaboration.
“Sometime you sit down with a cat and you just click,” Austin said, “and Rob and I did. We are just able to communicate.”
The ESBC team organized a tasting with Austin and the collaborators spent an afternoon drinking and discussing a dozen different IPAs. Austin had a clear idea of what he wanted the collaboration brew to taste like; he prefers less bitterness and more hop flavor than ESBC’s typically aroma-driven IPAs.
“He’s got a decent palate, and he know what he likes and what he doesn’t like,” Croxall said. “The whole project came together so organically. We talked about what his favorites were and what he would change, and then we brewed it.”
The flavor of Broken Skull IPA is defined with a large dose of classic American hops such as Chinook and Cascade during the boil, and it was dry hopped with the popular Citra variety to achieve a citrus and tropical aroma. Bittering additions were dialed-back, and the IPA finishes smooth and crisp.
“I like bitterness, but I like it to end,” Austin quips referring to the tendency of extreme IPAs to have a bitter finish that seems to stick to the tongue and palate.
Speaking to Austin just moments before the gathered hoard of fans were admitted to the tasting room for the meet-and-greet event, he demonstrated his beer IQ and natural gift of gab. He talked IBUs and dropped flavor terms like a Certified Cicerone® with a genuine enthusiasm and excitement to share the beer with his fans. He was not shy about his love for hops, extolling their unique charms and alluring odor.
“The only things that smell better than hops is the inside of a new car, and [a woman],” he opined with a smirk before taking a gulp of his IPA. He knows that hops are an acquired taste, and he hopes that Broken Skull IPA will help light beer drinkers and the hop-averse to discover the huge array of flavors that craft beer offers.
“Two years ago this beer would have been too hoppy for me,” he admits, and he says that the trick to developing a taste for hoppy beer is to “proceed slowly.”
“Experiment and keep an open mind, and try everything,” he advises, adding: “You can’t fuck this up. Drink what you like and you’re good!”
Broken Skull IPA, which Austin calls his “ultimate IPA” is now available throughout El Segundo Brewing’s Los Angeles distribution territory, and the brewery hopes to expand distribution for the brand in 2016.