Podcast Episode 136: Societe's Doug Constantiner on Aroma-Forward West Coast IPA and a Methodical Approach to Funk

San Diego’s Societe Brewing has long had a reputation for being brewers’ brewers, with dual-core IPAs expressing different sides of the West Coast coin, and a wild beer program designed around drinkable, funk-forward, lower-acidity beers.

Jamie Bogner May 24, 2020

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Societe’s Doug Constantiner wants to make beer you can drink a lot of. Not excessively, of course, but consistently.

“The holy grail of beer is not the beer that there’s a hundred bottles of, and every 25 bottles were aged in a different barrel,” he says. “The holy grail of beer is the beer that you can drink every single day. That you can buy on the shelf at the store. And you can have a couple of them every day and not get sick of it.”

The terms “drinkable” and “balanced” get thrown around often in brewing parlance, but for Constantiner and the team, they’re core principles informing every style of beer they make—from IPA to wild ale to imperial stout. Societe has generally resisted the current trend of fruit and adjunct additions in everything, in favor of building a classic brewery brand respected for thorough execution and timelessness. Fellow brewers have noticed, and two GABF gold medals for their session IPA are validation for the quality in their approach.

In this episode, Constantiner gets into the details of these aroma-forward West coast IPAs—pushing malt out of the way while timing additions for better balance of aroma and bitterness, strategically layering hops for complexity despite their “overspiced” nature, building body without malt flavors that get in the way of the hops, and considering unique flavor aspects to hops varieties that can set their beers apart.

“For the hoppy stuff, what do we love about hoppy beers?” says Constantiner. “Well it’s the aroma. It’s not the bitterness, which is why we’ve never published our IBUs. The IBU race of the mid-oughts had nothing to do with hoppiness, it was just bitterness. So we just thought, 'Let’s make these hoppy beers as hoppy as we can, and make them a delivery vehicle for that aroma, and get it into your face as quickly as possible, but it has to be balanced too.’”

With their wild beers, Societe takes a similar approach to complexity and nuance, eschewing acidity for Brett-driven funk while carefully adjusting variables in their blending stock.

“Creating acidity is easy. It’s, ‘How do we create this incredibly complex layered beer?’ And I think that’s time, blending, and a lot of experimentation.”

Constantiner discusses how they pitch cultures, growing each of their lactic acid bacteria and Brett strains separately then timing additions and amounts to achieve specific results. Cell counts, timing, and temperatures all have big effects on the finished beers, and Societe aims to control and understand the variables.

At the end of the episode, Constantiner recounts the critical move they made earlier this year, moving from a model of taproom sales and distributed draft beer only to canning.

“On February 2, 100 percent of our revenue came from on-premise sales,” says Constantiner. “That’s 8 percent from our tasting room, and 92 percent from wholesale. February 3, we started canning. By the time the shelter-in-place orders and restaurants were shut down in California, we were at about 84 percent on-premise.”

A couple months later, the brewery’s production is at full speed, brewing at a higher volume than 2019, with new tanks on the way to support more production.

This episode is brought to you by:

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This episode is brought to you by Hopsteiner–your premium hop supplier dedicated to delivering quality hops and hop products in every package. Visit Hopsteiner.com for a complete list of offerings or select “shop hops” to start ordering today.

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This episode is brought to you by Brewers Publications, publishers of “Historical Brewing Techniques: The Lost Art of Farmhouse Brewing” by Lars Marius Garshol. Equal parts history, cultural anthropology, social science, and travelogue, “Historical Brewing Techniques” describes Northern European farmhouse brewing and fermentation methods that are vastly different from modern craft brewing. Order your copy of Historical Brewing Techniques today at BrewersPublications.com.

Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].

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