Mike Kirschmann stirring the mash. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Mike Kirschmann stirring the mash. Photo by Robert Eliason.

The owners of Mad Pursuit Brewing Company are gearing up to celebrate their second anniversary from June 30 through July 2 with three days of live music and a party on July 1 that will feature several new beers and catering by Smashburger.  However, they got things started a little early on June 22 with the release of GRZILA, a double IPA that co-owner Alex DeLeon places as one of the brewery’s top five beers. 

The beer is a collaboration between the brewers and Lieutenant Mike Kirschmann of the San Benito County Sheriff’s Department as one of the perks of the Mosaic-level membership at Mad Pursuit that Kirschmann’s wife Laura gifted him for his birthday.

“I like to see him doing things he enjoys,” Laura said, “and he definitely likes making beer at home. And I thought him having the chance to make beer on a much bigger scale would be kind of cool.”

The name of the beer is a play on the personalized license plate of their friend Jesse Garza, Jr,  who died on Feb. 25, 2023. A Vietnam veteran, Garza worked for Cal Fire for 35 years before retiring as a training officer. He also was a trustee of the Elk’s Club, a member of the Hollister American Legion, and a former commander of the Hollister VFW Post #9242.

“My favorite beers are double IPAs,” Mike said. “And Jesse really liked them too. When Laura suggested the name of the beer, I loved the idea.”

Mike sat down with Mad Pursuit co-owner Paul Swearingen to discuss his preferences in beer characteristics and the result was a list of 25 ingredients and processes that go into the making of GRZILA.

“Mike has supported us wholeheartedly, so we are making this one extra special for him,” Swearingen said. “We asked a few questions, like what’s the inspiration for this beer, what kinds of beer are similar to it, how strong he wanted it and things like that.”

The first step of the actual process of making the beer took place in the early morning hours of May 22 as Mike and Laura fed four different types of grains, primarily Admiral Pils and Maiden Voyage, through a machine, which ground them into pieces so they could more readily absorb water.

“We talked about the beers I made in the past at home,” Mike said. “I have done it maybe 30 times, but only five gallons at a time. And I have always used a pilsner malt because, for me, it makes a nice little beer.”

For the next step, DeLeon had Mike measure out gypsum, calcium chloride, and salt to return minerals lost in the filtering process, adding them to the hot water that would serve as the base of the beer. Lactic acid was also added to give the beer a sour edge. 

After that, Laura began scooping in the grains into the water as Mike stirred the mash, which, for all intents and purposes, looked like a giant vat of oatmeal. This was followed by a series of heat exchanges and the final ingredients which included yeast and several types of hops including Lupomax Centennial and Chinook, Columbus Tomahawk and Zeus, and Simcoe.

“We used Pliny the Elder as our inspiration,” Swearingen said. “Some are there for bitterness, some will give it a piney character, and others are there to give it flavors and aromas as well as a citrus character of grapefruit and orange.”

The beer was left to ferment, with two more additions of hops: Simcoe, Lupomax Columbus, and Centennial mixed in seven days before bottling, and Simco, Chinook, and Amarillo to finish the beer four days before bottling.

On June 19, the process ended as the beer was sent into barrels and readied for its debut three days later. 

Grzila labels. Photo by Robert Eliason.
GRZILA labels. Photo by Robert Eliason.

“I think my favorite part is the end result,” said Swearingen. “Hopefully, the person we’re collaborating with drinks the beer and says ‘Oh, yeah, this is exactly what I wanted.’ But it is also a way to take the pulse of our customers and find out what they like to drink.”

And the final judgment?

“I’m a sour ale gal, so It’s really not my go-to beer,” Laura said. “But it is really very nice, and we had a lot of fun with this. We are definitely going to do it again next year.” 

Mike was more enthusiastic, saying the beer far exceeded his expectations. 

“This was exactly what I was looking for and I can’t wait to do it again,” he said. “My favorite moment was when we were kegging the beer and finally got to try it. I would do this whole thing for free anytime they need any help making a beer.”

Mad Pursuit beers. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Mad Pursuit beers. Photo by Robert Eliason.

On release day, I had a chance to try GRZILA, along with three other recent Mad Pursuit releases.

The Beers of Mad Pursuit

Tatooine Sunrise (5.5%) – A very easygoing wheat beer with a roasted nutty aroma, Tatooine Sunrise starts off with flowing citrus notes from the addition of blood orange which mellows into hints of sourdough toast. The finish is short and clean, leaving a swirling acidity on the tongue. 

Lunch Beer (6.4%) – A dark-smelling blonde ale with a light, crisp taste of caramel and fruit. There is just enough hoppy bitterness to ground it, and it is smooth to a fault. A nice beer and very easy to drink.

Zealander Hazy Pale Ale (5.5%) – The fragrance is light, with some floral and citrus notes, and the flavor carries that through with a mix of fruit, orange peel, a light creaminess, and just a pinch of acid that warms the back of the throat. 

GRZILA Double IPA (8%) – This is absolutely one of the best beers I have tried at Mad Pursuit. You know you are in for a fun ride as you take in a wild and bountiful aroma that bursts with complex notes of jasmine, citrus and evergreens. The flavor is even more complex, with the piney notes that Swearingen was looking for, leading with a sweet grapefruit that resolves to an undercurrent of almost coffee-like bitterness that drifts along but never becomes aggressive. This one will not last long, particularly considering the crowds leading up to Mad Pursuit’s second anniversary. It is a must-try, and if you don’t catch it this time, expect to see it on the menu again.

Recommendations for future Eat, Drink, Savor articles can be emailed to roberteliason@benitolink.com.

BenitoLink thanks our underwriters, Hollister Super and Windmill Market, for helping to expand the Eat, Drink, Savor series and give our readers the stories that interest them. Hollister Super (two stores in Hollister) and Windmill Market (in San Juan Bautista) support reporting on the inspired and creative people behind the many delicious food and drink products made in San Benito County. All editorial decisions are made by BenitoLink.