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What is a Pilot Beer, Anyway?

From The Iron Horse Brewery Blog

What is a Pilot Beer, Anyway?


Iron Horse Brewery has long been known for its flagship ale, Irish Death. This beer has skyrocketed our reputation and has allowed us to grow into the brewery we are today. As someone who is out in the market daily, I can’t tell you how often people come up to me to tell me how much they love that beer. The following Irish Death has gained has become almost cult-like. (Thank you very much) This beer continues to be one of the top selling beers in the Northwest, and has really made a name for itself, and IHB as a whole, in the craft beer scene.

While Iron Horse Brewery is built upon the success of this beer, this also has some negative effects people don’t realize. Some people don’t even know who Iron Horse Brewery is, despite their love for Irish Death. We are often referred to as “Irish Death Brewery” and many don’t know other brands besides our flagship ale. One of the main things we’ve been attempting to do here at IHB over the last few years is diversify our offerings, while still not veering away from what has gotten us here. We rely heavily upon the success of Irish Death, but we also need to find a way to adapt and keep up with the changing craft beer world. 

After recently taking over as the Pilot Program Coordinator, it is my goal to show that IHB is capable of brewing high quality beer other than Irish Death. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Pilot Beers, these are essentially small batch, experimental beers. These brews allow us to offer new styles, experiment with growing trends, and showcase the talents of our brewers, as well as just having some fun brewing something different. It is an exciting challenge to determine new styles worth trying, while utilizing the skills of our brewers to offer quality beer for craft-centric customers. The overall goal of this program is to develop new brands. This means that you, our loyal consumers, get to be the lucky guinea pigs while we exBEERiment. (yes, we called you an animal and used a silly pun)

This is an exciting time for IHB. Not only are we showcasing our newly refreshed brands and designs, but we have a chance to prove to the world that we are not just a one trick pony.

We have always been pretty much an ale focused brewery, but we have started delving into the world of lagers, something I am personally very excited about! Our brewers are seeking not to make just trendy styles, but looking back at historic styles to brew beers that have been around since the middle ages.

We are also finding unique ways to flavor our beer, while not taking the craft out of the craft brewing process, or becoming some “flavored beer brewery”. Eventually when we get our new pub opened up on downtown Ellensburg, we will have a pilot system on-site. This will allow us to provide a consistent flow of experimental new beers, and offer beers that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. 

Generic Stock Photo of Close-up partial view of male brewery worker in apron inspecting bag with grains. You’re Welcome.

As I continue to schedule out upcoming pilot batches, I can’t help but be excited about what is to come. Our new Franconian-Style Rotbier (German Red Lager) was just launched and I really couldn’t be happier with how it tastes.

We recently teamed up with Heritage Distilling Company to produce a beer that has been aging on wood-staves from their distillery. I am really hoping to produce more barrel-aged beers in the future as well!

We are looking to collaborate with up and coming breweries to utilize their talents and growing success to push our boundaries of what we can brew. Who knows, maybe some of these beers will strike gold and we’ll have the next big thing come from our pilot series!

While we have grown comfortable with our success of Irish Death (that beer kicks ass, and I assure you we will never stop brewing it) we will not become complacent because we know how quickly things can change in this industry. We will strive to always produce something new to quench the thirst of our customers.

Keep your eyes peeled for the newest beer in our Pilot Series to see what our brewers have been experimenting with in their brew lab!

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One Comment

February 20, 2021 5:04 pm

Bring back PIED FIVE !!!

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