Podcast Episode 197: Nick Gislason of Hanabi Lager and Screaming Eagle Wines Admires the Beauty of Grains Through the Canvas of Lager

The maker of some of California’s most coveted wines discusses what drove him back to beer, and to a particular focus on lager as a way to explore the vibrant flavors of barley varieties.

Jamie Bogner Jul 25, 2021 - 5 min read

Podcast Episode 197: Nick Gislason of Hanabi Lager and Screaming Eagle Wines Admires the Beauty of Grains Through the Canvas of Lager Primary Image

Photo of Nick Gislason, ©2021 Suzanne Becker Bronk, @bronkphotography

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Hanabi Lager Company’s Nick Gislason has always been a builder, and that same DIY sensibility drives his lager-focused brewery project today. For the past decade, he’s been head winemaker for Screaming Eagle, a small estate winery that makes some of the most coveted wines in California. But before wine, he was a brewer, and Hanabi is his way to stay connected with this parallel passion.

Crossover stories are ripe for criticism—Michael Jordan playing baseball was not the success he might have envisioned—and it’s easy to assume that a winemaker dabbling in the beer world is nothing more than a dilettante. The Hanabi story is different. Years of piloting, years of hand-building a bespoke brewhouse, and an intense focus on the equipment to make the beer set a different background for the Hanabi story.

Notably, Hanabi is a lager brewery. Gislason’s affinity for exploring the flavors of grains led him to focus on lager brewing, as the delicate structure of lager allows for clearer malt expression. Hanabi releases only one beer per quarter, which they brew then patiently lager before releasing as a one-time event. Each beer is an event and an exploration.

In this episode, Gislason discusses this somewhat unique structure and focus, while also touching on:

  • Building the brewhouse from scratch, welding their own vessels, and designing the brewhouse specifically for lager brewing
  • The Hanabi beer development process
  • Brewing with heirloom barley varieties
  • Searching for historical barley to brew with

And more.

Photo: Suzanne Becker Bronk, @bronkphotography

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