By: Max Sullivan, Seacoast Online
Smuttynose Brewing Company’s experimental branch Smuttlabs is making its return this week with its first new release since the creative line stopped production last year.
Lady Stardust, a New England style IPA named for one of Smuttlabs head brewer Charlie Ireland’s favorite David Bowie songs, will be introduced Saturday at 11 a.m. at the company’s campus at 105 Towle Farm Road for a brewery-exclusive release, sold in four packs of 16-ounce cans. It will be the first of what Smuttlabs hopes will be a monthly series of experimental beers sold at the facility as well as in some exclusive locations, according to Mariah Scanlon, brand manager of Smuttlabs.
Ireland, who has headed Smuttlabs since it launched in 2014, said he was always confident the experimental operation would start making beer again. The company began curtailing new releases in recent years due to financial struggles that led to the sale of Smuttynose, founder Peter Egelston said this year. New CEO Richard Lindsay has said new products would come as part of the brand’s revitalization.
Ireland said he is a music lover and has always equated the creativity that goes into brewing with that of music. He said “Lady Stardust” is one of his favorite songs from the Bowie album “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.”
The beer’s flavor was chosen because Ireland said Smuttlabs had never made a New England-style IPA, the fruity flavor of which has become increasingly popular in the craft beer market. Smuttynose described Lady Stardust this week in a press release as a “delicate IPA with mild bitterness and tropical fruit aromas: pineapple, citrus, mango, and just a dash of pear.”
“It’s something we really hadn’t taken a shot at,” said Ireland. “I thought it could do well, and I wanted to go away from the traditional piney, kind of garlicky resinous hops that some people are using.”
Smuttynose on Friday will hold an exclusive preview of Lady Stardust from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. in the field behind the barn. There will also be a “Walk Among the Stardust” from 8:15 to 9 p.m. along the Smuttynose Disc Golf Course, which will end at a bonfire in the field where pints of Lady Stardust will be served, the company announced this week.
Smuttlabs was originally based in Smuttynose’s former location on Heritage Avenue in Portsmouth, but its team has worked in Smuttynose’s Hampton facility since it began working on beer ideas again earlier this year.
Ireland has been with the company for 20 years, working his way up from a job on the packaging line to being made head brewer of Smuttlabs in 2014. He said running the team is an ideal job for a creative brewer, dealing with a small production system that allows interesting ideas to be tested out in ways not possible with a larger line.
“It was kind of unbelievable when it was offered to me. I was really excited and honored,” said Ireland.
Smuttlabs beers had potential in the past to become actual Smuttynose releases, which was the case with the Rhye IPA. Scanlon said whether Smuttlabs will be used as an incubator for the Smuttynose product line is yet to be determined.
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