Nebraska Brewing Company Head Brewer Tyson Arp talks about beers that inspired him as a homebrewer, early in his career and today.
For his 6-pack, Tyson Arp of Nebraska Brewing Company (Papillion, Nebraska) thought back to his days of homebrewing and beer discovery and picked beers that inspired him at an early stage in his career. By John Holl
TYSON ARP, THE HEAD brewer at Nebraska Brewery, swears that the first beers he drank were Bass Ale and Fat Tire and that even when he was a young drinker, macro-brewed lagers never passed his lips. He started drinking beer in 1996 and got into homebrewing in 2002. It was at that point that he started buying beers that he could re-create at home. Nebraska wasn’t known for a lot of beer diversity in those days, so he and his wife would travel out of state and pick up bottles to bring home and even used to a few mail-order beer services to further branch out. “I’m a beer opportunist. I like the one that’s in front of me,” he says, noting that despite having access to his own beer, he still walks the aisle of the store on weekends looking for new beers to try.
Ska Brewing Modus Hoperandi IPA
(Durango, Colorado) “I don’t have a first memory of my first IPA, and Ska’s Modus Hoperandi certainly wasn’t the first one I had, but it is the first that grabbed my attention and kept me coming back for more. I remember back in the early 2000s, and here in Omaha our marketplace was starting to blossom. Until that point, we had the big San Diego, West Coast IPAS and then the maltier English-style IPA from the East Coast. I really liked that Ska was doing something that represented the middle of the country, the Rocky Mountains. Modus Hoperandi wasn’t too bitter; it wasn’t too malty; it just had great hops flavor on that citrusy side. When I was tasked with re-inventing our IPA at Nebraska Brewing Co., Modus Hoperandi is the beer that I kept in the back of my mind for inspiration. I like the piney forwardness and the balance and have sought to do that with our IPA. It’s diverged a bit over the years, and I brought it into a different direction, stripped it down to the hops honed with a good bit of malt, and getting those two flavors to work together was thanks to Ska and the beer they make.”
North Coast Old Rasputin
(Fort Bragg, California) “Old Rasputin was an easy beer to pick out. It’s one of my all-time favorites. In my early days of craft-beer drinking, there wasn’t a lot on offer in Nebraska, so in addition to going to far-flung locations and bringing beer home, we started mail ordering beer. Old Rasputin was in one of our shipments, and I was just blown
away the first time I had it. If not the first, it is one of the first imperial stouts I’ve ever had, and the hops forwardness of the beer is what makes it stand out among the others. And because I loved that beer but couldn’t buy it in my own market, it’s one of the first I ever cloned as a homebrewer. I love that recipe, and it still kind of exists in Black Betty, our imperial stout.
“Old Rasputin is different from a lot of imperial stouts and definitely shaped my view of the style. So many are sticky and viscous and higher ABV, and that doesn’t do it for me. Nine percent ABV and hoppy—that’s
what I want. I also want it in the bottle. Recently the brewery started doing it on nitro, and it kills the hops character, the one thing I really love in the beer above all else. On nitro, it loses its hoppy edge and mellows out. I can see where more people will like it that way, but not me. It’s the bottle version all the way.”
Rodenbach Grand Cru
(Roeselare, Belgium) “Rodenbach Grand Cru is an interesting addition to my list because anyone who knows my beer tastes well knows I don’t like sours too much. Most of that opinion is based on contemporary examples of the style, where brewers seem to make sour beers for sour’s sake. It’s not unlike how we used to have the hops arms race with everyone trying to do 1,000-IBU beers just because. But Grand Cru isn’t like that. It’s amazing and complex and, even all these years after trying it, still boggles my mind.
We have adventurous beer friends who go into bottle shops and just buy beers based on the label. This Rodenbach stood out to them so they bought it on a whim in 2007, not knowing anything about it. It’s like how you used to go into a record store and buy albums based on the cover art not knowing anything about the band. Sometimes you got some great experiences. Well, they shared this bottle with us, and I just remember we sat around stunned at how good it was.
It’s a little bit acidic, with the lactic acid, and has soft caramel malt. It’s so approachable, and then you just keep coming back for more. Our local importer got into a dry patch with the brewery for a few years, so I wasn’t able to have it as much as I’d like, but it’s just amazing. It has to be a huge pain to make, but it’s always a delight to drink.”
Surly Brewing Xtra-citra
(Minneapolis, Minnesota) “When I first smelled Surly’s Xtra-citra, I thought they had copied us because we make a pale ale with Citra hops (I’m Gonna Git You Citra) that tastes almost exactly the same. Obviously, it’s coincidental that we make beers so similar to each other. I’ve been making mine for six years or so, and there are differences.
Theirs is a little more hops-forward; mine is a little more restrained. So, this hits all the right notes for me as a drinker, and it’s on my list because they can the beer and we don’t can. We’re regularly out camping, and we’ll get a 12-pack and go out kayaking. It’s low ABV and tasty; this is my lawnmower beer if ever I’ve had one.”
Wasatch Ghostrider White IPA
(Salt Lake City, Utah) “Remember when White IPAS were a thing? Ghostrider White IPA was an early example of the style and the one that really stands out in my mind because none of the others I’ve had are memorable. I love wit beers, and I love IPAS, so bringing the two together makes sense—it’s like chocolate and peanut butter. I’ve tried making one several times, and it just never comes out the way I want. It’s a hard beer to make well because of the number of flavor components. From the orange peel to a spicy yeast strain, wheat, hops, and more—it’s challenging to get the balance right. This is a beer I buy 6-packs of regularly. It’s soft on the palate, and it’s actually in the hazy IPA family, but unlike the ones popular today, this is more put together. For me this was a love-at-first-sight beer. It’s a beer that stood out as unique when it first appeared, and I’m glad they are still making it, especially during the summertime because it’s really refreshing.”
Firestone Walker Pale 31
(Paso Robles, California) “I wanted to pick a Pilsner for this list, and I know Pivo gets picked quite a bit, but I kept falling back to Pale 31. I love American pale ales, and we have one here—our flagship, called Cardinal. Pale ales don’t get the attention they deserve in the beer world; they get overshadowed by IPA and by the latest trends. Years ago at the Great American Beer Festival, Pale 31 beer just dominated. Firestone Walker would just crush everyone in the category, so I knew its reputation but never had a chance to try it. Then I was invited to their annual invitational beer festival. When I got to the brewery, Pale 31 was on tap, and it’s the first beer I had. I remember getting the beer into my mouth. I was so happy. My taste buds felt at home.”
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