Release & Recipe: Half Nelson

New Zealand varietals are at the core of Barrel & Stave Brewing's pro-am lager

Few know the exaltation that comes with having a homebrew selected to be produced on a commercial level more than Chris Banker. That longtime North County homebrewer experienced that firsthand when Stone Brewing turned his recipe for a Mexican hot chocolate-inspired imperial stout into an annual seasonal. Since then, Banker has gone pro, helming Barrel & Stave Brewing, where he now revels in paying it forward, bringing other amateurs’ beer recipes to life at his Vista brewhouse via our Homebrew Summer program. This year, he teamed with local Ryan Fowler to produce a version of Half Nelson, a lager with layered aromas and flavors borne of the beer’s namesake hop. Check out the recipe, then head to Barrel & Stave’s tasting room inside CoLab Public House to taste it for yourself. The beer will debut at a special meet-the-brewer event at 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 16.

New pro-am beers will debut weekly through the first week of October, so be sure to check back with San Diego Beer News on a regular basis (or subscribe to our free weekly email newsletter and we’ll send all the recipes and release information straight to your inbox). Cheers and happy homebrewing!

Ryan Fowler

How long have you been homebrewing and when did you come up with this recipe?

I’ve been homebrewing since 2016, and have been a QUAFF member since 2017. I came up with this recipe around 2019. I’ve been a huge fan of Burgeon Beer Co.’s New Zealand-hopped Pilsner, Clever Kiwi, since the first release, which inspired me to create something similar. Being able to see the malts and hops on the side of the can I challenged myself to see if I could brew something similar to it, but with my own twist. It’s the only beer I’ve ever brewed consecutively and felt like I was getting closer to what I envisioned with each recipe tweak iteration. I also started to trial various New Zealand hops coming out, with the constant being Nelson Sauvin making up half of the dry-hop, leading to the apt name, Half Nelson. 

What led you to submit this particular recipe for consideration? 

I felt like this beer is perfect for summer weather drinking. Mid-5% ABV (alcohol-by-volume) with Nelson and Riwaka hops playing off the slight sulfur in the lager made for a perfect sessionable and crisp patio beer. I also thought using a unique hop in Riwaka, and keeping the grist bill streamlined to what breweries typically keep on hand would increase the likelihood of it getting picked up. 

How did it feel having your recipe selected?

I was so excited to hear I was going to get a recipe scaled up, and even more excited to see it would be with Chris at Barrel & Stave. I’ve always known Chris to be an excellent brewer, and having had his recipes scaled previously as a homebrewer, there was no doubt it was going to be a very good final product. Knowing him quite a while now through QUAFF, I’ve always had an appreciation for his preciseness and attention to detail in whatever he is brewing or making. I’ve been on a few commercial brews around the county previously, but this is a first for my own recipe. 

Chris Banker
Head Brewer, Barrel & Stave Brewing

What led you to select this beer recipe for Homebrew Summer?

This seemed like a perfect beer to brew for summer, and it’s a style we haven’t brewed yet, which fits perfectly into our lineup between traditional lagers and American IPAs. Customers had actually been asking for a dry-hopped lager and when one of our beertenders brought it up, I was able to respond that we had one in the works for our Homebrew Summer collaboration. 

How did it feel to get to work with a member of your longtime homebrew club, QUAFF?

This year’s roster of potential recipes did not include the homebrewers’ names, and I was happy to see that the recipe I selected had come from a friend from QUAFF. Ryan had a long weekend of collaborative brewing, as he helped Eli Palma (our Homebrew Summer collaborator last year) with his brew at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station the day before our brew day. This allowed him the unique opportunity to compare the equipment and operations at two very different, yet similarly-sized breweries run by different brewers. I had the opportunity to collaborate with Kris Ketcham at Stone Liberty Station last fall on a dunkel weizenbock called Bockwheat’s Bock, Alright!, so Ryan and I had both brewed on that system. He had even noticed my name signed on one of the tanks at Liberty Station, which is tradition for collaborations there.  

Explain your thoughts on the significance of San Diego’s homebrew community to the county’s overall beer scene.

As a long-time homebrewer and active member of multiple clubs, I can attest that San Diego’s homebrew community is the foundation of our pro-brewing community. The vast majority of pro brewers, myself included, got their start homebrewing. Homebrewers are some of our most avid supporters and are also pushing the envelope with new styles and methods. I still regularly attend homebrew-club meetings and often learn information and techniques that I bring back to the brewery.

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