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Smog City Brews Zappa® and Medusa™ Beer for Native Species

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

smog city beer zappa and medusa
Kelp On The Way is a beer that features two Neomexicanus varieties, Zappa® and Medusa™. Smog City Brewing brewed the beer to support a local non-profit that works to restore native ocean species. Photo: Smog City Brewing

While beer is typically brewed and consumed for pleasure, it’s also used as a way to connect with communities for a purpose beyond entertainment. Over harvest, we had the pleasure of visiting with Greg and his team member from Smog City Brewing Co. We learned of a beer they brewed that features Zappa® Hops and Medusa, two Neomexicanus varieties, that also gives back to the community.

Kelp On The Way is an IPA that was brewed as part of Smog City’s Community Impact series. The goal of the beer is to raise money and awareness for kelp forest restoration through The Bay Foundation, a Los Angeles non-profit organization.

The family-owned and operated brewery established in 2011 is located in the greater Los Angeles area and has put an emphasis on “creatively inspired and exceptionally balanced beers.”

To learn more about the brewery, Kelp On The Way, and Zappa® and Medusa™, continue reading because we talked with Smog City about it all.

What does 1% for the Planet mean?

In addition to making world-class beer for their community, Smog City Brewing Co. is also a proud 1% for the Planet member. As a business, we are a committed steward to the planet. We believe it is our responsibility as a company to find positive ways to impact our environment and local community now and in the future. As part of our efforts, we decided to become 1% for the Planet members in 2017, which means 1% of our gross sales are donated to environmental non-profits.

Our non-profits partners are making a big positive impact on the environment in our local community by educating, protecting, and celebrating our environment and we are excited to further their efforts through our contributions and spread more Smog throughout Southern California, the good kind!

What is the Community Impact Series?

We started the Community Impact Series this year as a way to make a deeper impact on our non-profit partners. We really want to help get their message out and raise awareness for the good work they are doing and we thought, what better way to do that than with a beer?!

Our partners work with us from day one on the beer, from recipe to label design, to brew day and canning. They are with us every step of the way. It's a true partnership and has been a great success for all!

One of your latest Community Impact Series is called Kelp On The Way and features both Zappa® and Medusa™, two Neomexicanus varieties. What was the process behind brewing this beer?

We specifically brewed this beer in partnership with the Bay Foundation which does a lot of work in the L.A. region restoring native species to habitats on land and in the ocean.

When looking for non-profit partners to work with, we like to find groups that are making a positive impact locally in Los Angeles on our parks and waterways as well as making nature more accessible for all. We have worked with them (The Bay Foundation) for a number of years and they are always fun, fantastic partners, so we welcomed the chance to make a beer with them this year and grow our partnership even more.

We looked to Zappa® and Medusa™ as native hop species/varietals to highlight the Bay Foundations efforts. With that parallel concept, we wanted to brew a beer that highlighted those hops and those hops only.

medusa hop variety
Medusa™ is a hop variety native to the Southwest United States. It's known for its multi-headed cone structure. Photo: Claire Desmarais

We focused on using a small amount of Zappa® and a higher amount of Medusa™ in the boil and whirlpool and reversed that ratio for the dry hop. This decision was based purely on the sensory attributes provided by the CLS website as we have never used these hops before! We expected a more herbal and spice character from Medusa™ and a more

tropical and Citrus contribution from Zappa® and that's pretty much how it played out in Kelp On The Way.

What are some of the sensory characteristics that you get out of Zappa® and Medusa™ and how does that pull through (or not)/change in the beer?

The aroma is dominated by passion fruit, guava, and citrus with some earthy and herbal notes in the background. Interestingly, before we dry hopped the beer, there was a soft and pleasant bitterness with light fruity notes. After a few days on dry hop, a more pronounced herbal/botanical type bitterness emerged that we did not anticipate. This bitter quality is unlike any we have encountered in hops and while not unpleasant, it is definitely something a brewer should plan for when formulating a recipe using these hops.

Obviously, we are happy with the unique aromas imparted by these hops and we're excited to use them again to learn more about how we can incorporate their qualities into future beers!

smog city beer
Kelp On The Way is available at Smog City Brewing taprooms. Photo: Smog City Brewing

What other beers do you have coming out in the next few months?

Our latest Community Impact Series beer comes out Wednesday 11/24. It's called Nature on Display IPA and is 6.3%. This complex IPA was brewed with local sage honey and a touch of rye. Our partner for this beer is the South Coast Botanic Garden.

They work to connect all to the wonders of nature and create experiences that inspire stewardship and sustainability. Their 87-acre Garden was built atop a garbage landfill and showcases the regenerative power of nature. We're also worked with them for a few years now and are excited to release this beer into the world with them.

We'll be continuing the series in 2022 as well with 4 new beers along with some returning and new non-profit partners.

If you’re in L.A., you can head to one of Smog City’s four taprooms to try the beer. Tag us in your photos at @neomexicanushops and we’d love to re-share them! As always, we’d love to hear from you whether you brewed with Zappa®, Medusa™, or El Dorado® or have an interesting beer featuring those varieties.

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