SamuRye P.A. was the third beer we ever brewed at K4. I like samurais, and being a rye pale ale (Rye P.A.) I thought the name was clever. That fell flat on its face. People would pronounce it, “sam-yoo-rye”. The other part that fell flat on its face was not the inclusion of rye in the beer, but the overt sharing of the fact that rye was used in the recipe. If someone drank the beer, most often they loved it. When given a menu to choose from, most often the same people would not choose the beer because they “don’t like” rye beers. Retailers were not buying the beer in strong numbers because they were concerned their customers would not buy a rye beer. We had experienced the issue many brewers face: it doesn’t take much for a great idea to die on the vine.
When homebrewers ask for advice on opening a commercial brewery I tell them about being able to brew great beer without thought because there will be a million-and-one things trying to sink your ship that have nothing to do with beer or brewing. What is impossible to communicate is the fact that you might brew a fantastic beer, but one small detail in the messaging might pop the balloon. Further, you may also get the messaging correct and for whatever reason the beer falls flat on its face. It can be crushing and frustrating beyond measure. As an artist you need stay true to your vision and follow your muse. As an entrepreneur and business owner you need to know when to take risk and when to beat a different drum. As a parent of young children, when it is between your ego and feeding your children the choice is simple.
What the heck does this have to do with Tokyo Sauna? Everything.
More than once I have been yelled at for discontinuing SamuRye P.A. because that was the person’s favorite beer we brewed. One of those people now works for K4 and assigned me to write this blog. She is now our Brand Ambassador and happens to be essential in allowing me to believe my excitement about a new project is well founded. I will now publicly let the cat out of the bag: Tokyo is SamuRye…..mostly. You see, I never brewed the same recipe for SamuRye twice. This was during the first chapter of our business and I had not finished refining the recipe. Then we did a collaboration with Summit Brewing and they introduced us to new yeast strains, one of which we adopted for all of our hoppy beers. This was happening when we were dealing with the market troubles of SamuRye, and we made a batch of SamuRye with the new yeast. The inclusion of a different yeast strain made it apparent that this beer was different enough from the original that it should be treated like a new beer. Tokyo Sauna Pale Ale was born, granting us a second chance to bring a great idea to the market. Centennial, Cascade, and CTZ are still the hops. We still use 100% Bohemian pilsner for the base malt and a very bright, crisp malt profile. We even still use rye…..we just don’t talk about it.