Ground Score: The _Relix_ Collaboration with SweetWater and Kyle Hollingsworth (Part Three)

Dean Budnick on January 26, 2018

In our past two issues, I shared the story of the Relix partnership with String Cheese Incident keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth and SweetWater Brewery (Part OnePart Two). In September, we traveled to Crosby Hop Farm in Woodburn, Ore., to select the hops that we would use for our collaborative beer. Then, in early November, Kyle and I flew to Atlanta where we brewed the pilot batch of our IPA. A few weeks later, it was finally time for a taste. Next month, Kyle’s solo band will headline a special launch event

The countdown is underway. By the time you read this, we’ll be just a few days away from sharing our collaborative creation with all of you.

I’ve heard it said that it’s all about the journey and not the destination. I think there’s something to that—feel free to insert your own Steve Perry joke here—although, in this case, the destination will be hop-forward and quaffable (aka delicious).

Back in November, we brewed the pilot batch at the splendid SweetWater Brewery. From there, we yielded the floor to chemistry, awaiting completion of the fermentation process.

Finally, in early December, it was time for a taste, at which point SweetWater head brewer Nick Nock led this report from the SweetWater lab.

BREWERS LOG 12/14/17 

Several brewers and I sat down and sampled the “Ground Score” to get a cumulative description. It was not a problem due to the fact that everyone wants to drink the beer. We ran out of chairs.

This is what we came up with:

The color is of a sunset right before the ash.

[It tasted like] tropical melon, most likely papaya, with lemon and lime integrating with orange pith, as well as fresh orange blossom honey.

To add to that, there were piney, young spring onion, fresh honeydew, kiwi and mango flavors.

Everyone had to come back for a second “sample,” and one of the quotes was: “It definitely has you wanting to come back for more,” even though it is 7.1 percent ABV.

Well, that sounds lovely, no?

When I caught up with Kyle for his opinion, he was in middle of rehearsals with The String Cheese Incident for the group’s New Year’s Eve run.

Here’s his take:

Very drinkable! It feels like a great winter IPA, although I’ll drink an IPA any time!

I think it will be well received.

I’ll concur with both of them (although my beer lexicon and range of descriptors is not on the level of the SweetWater sampling squad).

As for my own experience, first off, let me say that I’m cuckoo for crowlers. Any day that a courier service drops o a package of said receptacles filled with fermentables is a glorious day by me.

If you’re not aware of what a crowler is—OK, I wasn’t either—it’s a 32-ounce, machine-sealed, aluminum can. It’s a travel-friendly alternative to the glass growler that you can find at your local craft brewery.

When my crowlers arrived from SweetWater, I decided to treat them with the respect they merited. First, I pulled out the tasting glasses I brought home from our visit to Crosby Hop Farm. Then, I decided to serve things up Rhode Island style, on my classic Dr. Seuss “Gangway for Gansett” tray. Here’s a fun fact of which you may not be aware: Back in the 1940s, fellow New Englander Theodor Seuss Geisel created some advertising illustrations for Narragansett Beer. I have one of the beer trays that the brewery produced featuring Geisel’s Chief Gansett, who is standing atop a small wagon, delivering a frothy beverage alongside a scampering feline, who announces, “Too Good To Miss!” The tray hangs on the wall of my kitchen, where it serves a decorative function, but it also assumes a utilitarian role on special occasions such as this.

While my initial sips were pure bliss, the real test awaited that afternoon when I could pour the new brew for my craft beer consigliere, Josh Letourneau. Earlier this summer, before I flew across the country to Crosby Hop Farm, I spent some time with Josh at Grey Sail Brewing, where Captain’s Daughter—the double IPA he created while serving as brewmaster— remains a personal favorite. However, by the time the pilot batch arrived, Josh had moved on from Grey Sail after six years. In early December, Josh and his partner Chip Sampson, opened Shaidzon Beer Co. in West Kingston, R.I. I brought one of my crowlers down to Shaidzon so that we could share samples all around. 

The results? Winner, winner, chicken dinner (actually cheesesteaks at Tilly’s—whenever you find yourself in the Ocean State, I actively encourage you to visit Shaidzon and then amble over to Tilly’s).

But back to our beer…

If you’re an IPA enthusiast, then I am altogether confident that our brew is for you. (And even if you don’t think you’re a hoppy camper, give it a taste. I have faith that it’ll win you over.) 

With Kyle Hollingsworth on the case, I think we can deliver your key to hoppiness.

OK, enough with the hop puns.

Frankly, I’ve seen my fair share at this point. In mid-November, Relix, Kyle and SweetWater put out a general call via our Facebook pages, encouraging folks to help us name our new liquid refreshment. Many of the options were quite entertaining and, while the official sobriquet is neither “Wook Juice” nor “My Mouth Moves When I Play the Keys IPA,” both of those work for me.

Still, without further ado, the name of our collaborative creation is, Ground Score. This moniker seems altogether fitting, given our experience at Crosby watching the hop plants emerge from the soil. It also captures the spirit of that sweet bonus bonanza you happen upon while making the rounds at your favorite festival (SweetWater 420 Fest, for instance).

You probably already figured out the name, since “Ground Score” is the title of the piece (and Nick mentions it in his report). If you look above on this very page, then you can also get a feel for the label art, which as of this moment, is still a work in progress.

What is not a work in progress, however, is the beer itself. By this point, it’s made its way to the SweetWater Dank Tank, where it’ll be shipped up to New York for our

kickoff party with the Kyle Hollingsworth Band at Brooklyn Bowl on February 7.

If you can’t make it, then don’t fret. You’ll be able to find the beer on draft and in 4-packs of 16-ounce cans anywhere within the 21 states that carry SweetWater, from Miami to Manhattan, Chicago to Corpus Christi.

So head out there for your own Ground Score. 

This article originally appeared in the January/February issue of Relix.