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New brew leads to expansion for local brewery

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Lookout Brewing Co. owner John Garcia knew he had a hit on his hands with his brewery’s latest offering, Mountain Hop Shine IPA (India Pale Ale).

What he didn’t know was that the hazy, New England IPA would be a catalyst for growth for the South Ridgeway Avenue nano brewery.

It’s been more than four years since Garcia opened the doors at Lookout, where the relaxed, intimate setting can betray how hard the owner and his employees work on the craft of brewing beer. The recipe for Mountain Hop Shine, introduced to the public several weeks ago, took six months to perfect.

“That beer changed everything here,” Garcia said. “We run out of it about every week.”

The new brew is so popular it’s outselling every other offering from Lookout combined, according to Garcia.

“We sold about 300 cans of beer to go last month,” he said. “Out of those 150 were Hop Shine."

In-house, the numbers have been even more dramatic, according to Garcia, who says around two-thirds of customers at any given time are drinking the IPA.

Garcia and head brewer Brian Corbin knew what direction they were going in while they developed what Garcia calls a “citrus-forward IPA.”

“We’ve tried all of the top IPAs in the country, sampling them and seeing what they’re doing and figuring out how we could create something like that,” Garcia said. “We basically dissected some of these New England beers, some of the real movers and shakers in the IPA world, and picked our favorite parts of each.”

The final product offers notes of citrus without adding fruit to the brewing process.

“It’s an amazing beer,” Garcia said. “It has a very citrus-forward flavor but we’re using only hops for that. A lot of the other beers out there are using tangerine, orange or things like that to get these flavors. But this beer does it with hops alone.”

The beer's signature haziness comes from the yeast used in the brewing process and allows the brew to "hold onto hop flavor better than a clear beer would," according to Garcia.

"Typically a beer that is hazy will clarify as you age it," he said. "This beer will never become clear because of the way it's made."

The style of beer is a popular one in the IPA market, according to Garcia. Lookout's ability to craft what he calls its "best beer yet" put the small brewery in position to improve and expand.

Recent changes to the tap room are immediately apparent at Lookout, where Garcia added tables with live wood edges and additional bar tops (a narrow counter top for your beer) to accommodate the more people. A game room, which features arcades, increases the size of the space while offering additional seating and standing room.

"It's a great place to just relax and have a beer," Garcia said.

Not visible to customers, but no less significant will be the new fermentation tanks Garcia is bringing into the brewery in the coming weeks. Lookout will replace its current six-barrel tanks, which brew roughly 180 gallons each, with 15-barrel tanks that brew 465 gallons. Garcia is also adding a pair of single-batch tanks for experimental beers.

He is also optimistic about the latest offering from Corbin, the Tuo Kool Pale Ale.

"We're using some of the some techniques we used when creating that (Mountain Hop Shine) IPA and we're putting them into the pale ale," he said. "We're excited about it."

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