Verdant Core Classics: Headband Pale Ale
Without Headband it’s possible that there would be no Verdant! We had our Lightbulb moment with, well, Lightbulb extra pale ale. However, it was Headband pale ale that secured us our first customer - and the beer has undoubtedly proved inspirational to each and every one of our beers ever since.
After peaking the interest of the staff at Small Bar Bristol with some homebrew bottles, we knew that we wanted to set up a brewery. We rented a shipping container purely off the promise that Small Bar would buy some of our beer if we ever went pro.
While navigating a measly 20ft of space, we set about developing a range of beers that reflected both our love of sessionable cask beer and hazy New England-style beers. Headband falls right in-between those two camps: it takes the full-bodied juiciness of a New England offering, but also possesses the lower ABV that makes it possible to deem it “sessionable”.
Back then Headband was a drier and less juicy – we were solely using US-05 yeast (where now we use Lallemand New England yeast too) – and hadn’t perfected our water chemistry or dry-hop processes. Nevertheless, we were immediately pleased with our Headband recipe and its hop profile of Citra and Mosaic, two classic modern US hops. Further additions of Columbus and Chinook made for a more complex hop aroma than many other pale ales available at the time to create a beer that straddled both the East and West Coast when it came to inspiration.
Headband has come a long way since its inception, though it still retains the original hop bill of Mosaic, Citra, Chinook and Columbus. These days it’s a beautifully hoppy beast with a big tropical nose and a hint of dankness to balance out the flavours. One factor which is often overlooked is the malt bill. The of Munich and Crystal malts have given Headband the burnt orange shade of a sunset, and sweet caramel vibes to accompany the candied pineapple flavours.
Even once recipes are set, brewing is endless game of tweaking, partly as ingredients or equipment change, but also as the brewers’ and drinkers’ tastes change. Our beers go through many versions before we get to that tweaking stage. Headband arrived there first. That resulted in Headband becoming our first commercial release, hitting Small Bar in March 2015. There is no more nerve-racking moment in a brewery’s life than the first batch being released - but we think it’s fair to say it was even more critical for us. We were well ahead of the haze craze, so releasing a beer that looked like Headband did was always going to be a risk, even in a pub like Small Bar. Thankfully, the reception from both the staff and the drinkers was incredibly positive and exciting.
As previously mentioned, so many of our beers seem to stem from Headband, including ‘Headband Milkshake’ – a one off release we brewed for Hand Bar that went on to become Roy, I Want a Hilux. Furthermore, the session beers that we’ve started regularly producing, such as People Money Space Time, have traces of DNA from Headband and our love of pint-able beer.