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This scene above was the first time I ever heard the phrase, “Stay Frosty“. It probably was for a lot of people. I’m sure the screenwriter for Michael Biehn in “Aliens” probably didn’t dream that up. Dan O’Bannon probably heard it somewhere – being in LA, probably at Venice Beach, as uttered by some surfer dude – but everybody instantly knew what it meant. As a handy alternative to “Be cool!” (“Thirty Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary”, doncha know?) it was dead-bang perfect and it stayed with me ever since. I can’t use it in everyday speech, of course, because I’ve never been Cool a second of my life but Biehn pulled it off with a ton of élan, and so have a few others I’ve heard use it.

But if you’re going to use “Stay Frosty”, you had better commit all the way and do it with some style and swagger.

Which brings me to my friend, Adam Robbings.

Adam, at the risk of embarrassing him (or even pissing him off, I guess) is not the guy I would expect to use “Stay Frosty” with any degree of conviction. He’s a fairly mild-mannered, sorta bookish English person who looks as if he might be telling people to shush half a dozens times a day and checking out their library books in between. he and Michael Biehn are not much alike and no A/B comparison has ever been made between the two, that I know of.

But, somehow, Adam Robbings, co-owner and brewmaster of Reuben’s Brews, in Seattle’s pocket-sized Norwegian neighborhood, Ballard, has now flat-out stolen that phrase from Biehn and the surfer dudes and Dan O’Bannon and everyone else who has rashly used it in the past…and he did it in the language he knows very nearly better than 99% of the world: Beer.

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Adam, Reuben, Warren, and Grace Robbings/Photo by bizjournals.com
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Reuben’s Brews “Stay Frosty” Cold IPA is a new winter seasonal and, before this goes a millimeter farther, credit where credit is due: Kevin Davey, one of my early Facebook friends, moved to Portland and took a job as brewmaster at Wayfinder Beer, and found his Groove. Arguably America’s best beer city, new facility, sensible owners who knew to Hire the Best and Git the F**k Out the Way, and a fertile imagination coupled with a skill set honed on both ale-dominant breweries and lager-centric ones – Kevin’s lot was practically a how-to manual on how to succeed in Northwest beer. And out of that fertile imagination popped his neat and supremely logical answer to one of the knottiest problems of the past two decades of craft brewing: Why does the India Pale Lager, the dreaded IPL, suck so damned badly?

If you’re a beer geek like me, IPL seems like a great idea: lighter body, maybe a bit less octane, but big, crisp, bitter hops profile. Nothing there not to like. But somehow, out of the fifteen or so I tried before the style sank like a fuggen rock, none were that good. I eavesdropped on a number of Facebook discussions between working brewers and all were perplexed. All thought it should have worked and all thought the problem had to lie in the chemistry but the results were right there in the glass; Meh…strictly “meh”.

So, Kevin set his hybrid ale/lager brain to the problem and…well, here’s a link to my earlier post about Kevin Davey and his two original Cold IPAs. For those not inclined to click over, though, here’s a brief, geeky interlude from that post:

“Kevin’s idea for an alternative involves a LOT of geeky chemistry acumen with which this website don’t have no truck. Simplified, then, (even Kevin laughs at the geekiness of the process) what he came up with is a grain bill that involves a lot of rice, for lightness and clarity, and corn for smoothness and mouthfeel and a provocatively yellow color which a lesser writer would compare to a very healthy urine sample.

I won’t do that here.

(NOTE: Oops.)

The very BudMillerCoorsPabst-ish grain bill is dosed with Wayfinder’s own preferred lager yeast and fermented warm (65 degrees) to avoid excessive buildup of sulphur dioxide. Then do a really imaginative thing that recalls the Belgian process for making Gueuze: they combine still-fermenting new beer to finished tanks OR dry-hop the tail end of the fermentation, adding a more foamy level of carbonation and scrubbing oxygen that results from the dry-hopping. This also drives what’s called “biotransformation”, a process by which hops lose a lot of their undesirable flavor elements and accentuate their desirable, bold, flavors and aromas.

Got all that? Yeah, me neither.”

All that window dressing now done, I don’t know if Adam approached the making of his inaugural Cold IPA the exact way that Kevin did but, out of the two dozen or so examples of the style that I have now tasted, not a single one has really come all that close to the slam-damn perfection of Kevin’s “Chronokinetic”…Until “Stay Frosty”.

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This is the farthest thing from hyperbole to suggest that both of these examples of this style lap the current field. It’s supposed to be lighter in body than an average IPA, crisp and mouth-watering, hoppy as the Dickens, and absent ALL of those occasional off-flavors that plagued the old IPL. “Stay Frosty” shovels up lemon cookies and toast and star fruit and subtle intimations of the yeast-driven spices and citrus that routinely occur in using lager yeasts, while escaping entirely the sometimes heavy-handed yeast notes of some German lagers. Atop all that floats the firm, crackling bitterness of its Simcoe, Centennial, Cascade, and Columbus hops, spewing resins galore and flavors running the gamut of the citrus, flower, melon, tree fruit, and pine sap. The addition of flaked rice enables a remarkable visual clarity in the glass and clean, bracing crispness on the tongue. At almost 7% ABV, caution is required maybe even more than with other beers in the similar alcohol range, as this is SO damned easy to drink. It feels, in the mouth, like a much lighter style of beer but is still a full-scale IPA and that is the style’s hallmark: lightness, with hops…Pardon me: Lightness, with HOPS!! Stay Frosty delivers a scale and type of lovely, appealing bitterness than any HopHead can admire and enjoy.

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NO exaggeration: when the history of this era of American brewing is written, Adam Robbings and Kevin Davey are going to be recalled as two of their time’s best and most thoughtful, innovative brewers. If you haven’t tried the Cold IPA ales, try these two first. If they ruin you for a lot of the others…so? Quality Talks, folks. And the fact that the person who finally made this style in a way that rivals the K. Davey original is Adam Robbings…well, that figures.

“Stay Frosty” IS a seasonal, so GO get this now.

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Speak yer piece, Pilgrim.

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