Without Headband, it’s possible there would be no Verdant. We had our Lightbulb moment with, well, Lightbulb… but it was Headband that got us our first customer and the beer has been an inspiration is pretty much all our beers 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. As you can read in the blog about our story, we rented a shipping container purely off the promise that Small Bar would buy some if we ever went pro.
So in about 20ft of space we set about coming up with a range of beers that reflected both our love of sessionable cask beer and the hazy New England-style beers. Headband falls right in between those two camps, taking the full-bodied juiciness of a New Englander, but also the lower ABV that makes it possible (if a little dangerous) to session on.
Back then Headband was perhaps a little drier and less juicy – we were just using US-05 yeast (where now we use Lallemand New England yeast too) – and hadn’t got our water chemistry or dry-hop processes perfected. That said, it came together naturally at a time when everything else in the brewery was a struggle and done by hand. We immediately liked the combination of citra and mosaic – two classic juicy hops – with columbus and chinook makes for a more complex hop aroma than many other pale ales out there, straddling both coasts.
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, and Headband got there first. That meant it was our first commercial release, hitting the Small Bar in March 2015. There is no more nervous moment in a brewery’s life than the first batch going out but we think it’s fair to say it was even more critical for us. We were well ahead of the haze train, so putting something 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 positive and exciting.
It’s come a long way since then and these days it’s a beautiful beast with a big tropical nose and a hint of dankness to balance it out, thanks to a liberal mix of Mosaic, Citra, Chinook and Columbus. What’s often over looked is the malt bill, where the use of munich and crystal malts has given it the colour of a sunset, and the sweet caramel vibes add to the candied pineapple flavours.
Headband has done more than get us our first customer though. So many of our beers seem to stem from it, whether that’s Headband Milkshake – a one off we brewed for Hand Bar that became Roy, I Want a Hilux – or all the session beers we’ve started producing, like People, Money, Space, Time. They all have traces of DNA from that beer and our love of pint-able beer, as well as the processes we have perfected since like blending batches with different yeasts, playing with our water profile and adjusting hot and cold side hop proportions.
As every small brewery in the UK probably knows, pushing your core beers out is a tougher sell than the new and one-off releases, but Headband always flies out, which is great news for customers getting it super fresh and at its best.