Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sampling Hangar 24 Brews and a Chat with Owner Ben Cook

Ben Cook working the brewery bottling line
(Photo from Hangar 24)
There's literally zillions of breweries you can chose from these days in the Bay Area these days. And now, along comes Hangar 24 from Redlands, California, which started distributing into the Bay Area earlier this year. You've got to wonder what yet another brewery could bring to the Bay Area beer scene.   But after sampling some of their beers they sent my way, let's just say I think you'll be doing yourself a favor trying them as well.  I was also fortunate to get a few minutes to talk with Hangar 24 owner Ben Cook about his brewery and his beers.

So what's with this name, Hangar 24, anyway?  As Ben Cook explains, "A bunch of us would meet at Hangar 24 at Redlands Airport.  Some of us would fly around in our planes and afterwards, we drink craft beer or some of my homebrew.   I wanted our corporate and brewing culture to be like those times when I started the brewery in 2008."  Now that we have that out of the way, let's try some of Ben's beers.

The first one I tried was their Double IPA.  Now you might think, as I did, that the Bay Area needs another Double IPA like a hole in the head.  But I tried Hangar 24's version, and it's different than any I've tasted before.  This was a real fresh, tasty citrus bomb, very dry, without any of the mouth puckering bitterness or sweetness of typical Double IPAs.  "We wanted to make something easy drinking, full of hop flavors, yet smooth," as Ben described.  "It was one of our Head Brewer Kevin Wright's first recipes that went commercial." 

Moving along, let's check out their California Spring Beer.  As Ben Cook recounted,  "We wanted to create nice floral aromas in our spring beer and ended up with two we equally liked."  So they did the most logical thing and mixed the two together.  "When we blended the two, we ended up with a really great beer."  This one was unique, a slightly tangy wheat beer made with both American and Belgian yeasts, with floral aromatic notes both from the hops and the Belgian yeast.  I also picked up a nice herbal finish with the character of fresh cut grass.

Bottling the the beer at Hangar 24
(Photo from Hangar 24)
Let's go on to the others.  The Alt-Bier was a nice composition of caramel, woody, and earthy malt flavors.   Pale Ales can sometimes be a tired style, but Hangar 24's Amarillo Pale Ale was a nice change of pace with it's healthy dose citrus-like Amarillo hops.   The fresh flavors of their cloudy Orange Wheat really popped, when fresh orange flavors from locally grown oranges well balanced with the underlying wheat beer.  And to finish it off, Chocolate Porter, a silky smooth Imperial Porter with a light sweetness with cocoa nibs and vanilla giving it great depth.  This would make a great desser beer.  Virtually every single one of Hangar 24's beer made me sit up and go "Mmmmm!" or "Wow" when I tried them.  Of course since I like beer, so this happens frequently, but very few breweries create this wow-factor on such a consistent basis.

So how does Hangar 24 do it?  How do they distinguish themselves from all the other breweries out there?    "We wanted to become a brewery that represents our local geography, using local ingredients and brewing beer that people in our area like to drink.  That's means beer that's drier, and more sessionable " explains Ben Cook, who describes his local geography as "Inland Southern California".  Lots of breweries talk about being local, but at Hangar 24 it's more than just talk.  They prominantly feature a Local Field Series using locally grown ingredients. 

For those of you in the Bay Area who want to check out Hangar 24's beers for yourself, you'll find them using this handy dandy beer finder on their website.

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