Drink This Beer: Orpheus Transmigration of Souls
We talked to Orpheus Brewing founder and brewmaster Jason Pellett about their newest year-round release.
Tell us about the development of Transmigration of Souls (TMOS). How did you come up with the recipe?
This was long enough ago (early 2012) that it’s hard to remember the details. I really have no idea why I thought I should brew a 10% IPA and then keep brewing it – that’s not something I would generally seek out. It was part of my hop experiments at the time that really got their start with the beer that turned into Lyric Ale, which used to be much more aggressively dry-hopped. I wasn’t an IPA fan back then. I found them unpleasantly bitter, too heavy on crystal malts (I’ve never used any in an IPA), and generally focused too much on the resinous side of the flavor instead of the fruity. I used a very simple grain bill of mainly pale 2-row plus a little wheat, no bittering hop addition, massive whirlpool, and massive dryhop. That’s pretty standard now, but was pretty unusual 5 years ago.
How about the name?
It was originally our Spring IPA. Spring is a time of rebirth and the Orphic cults also centered on the idea of rebirth through Transmigration of Souls/metempsychosis. Seemed like an obvious choice. Also, one of my favorite concerts was the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s performance of John Adams “On the Transmigration of Souls”.
Orpheus’ artwork is always unique. What’s the story behind this one?
While we generally have an artist do a single label, we’ve had Sam Parker do six labels (one hasn’t been used yet). Before opening the brewery, I was his son’s trumpet teacher for a few years and got to be pretty obsessed with his art. Our IPAs were originally going to just be a seasonal rotation of four (Transmigration of Souls, Peace.War.Truth.Lie., Life.Death.Life.Truth., Truth.Body.Soul.), with the other three names coming from inscriptions on Orphic bone tablets and all centered around the concept of duality/rebirth. We wanted Sam to do them as a set. As with how we approach all of our artists, we just gave Sam that basic thematic idea along with some examples of the work of his we were most inspired by and he did the rest. I later got him to tattoo me with Transmigration of Souls and Truth.Body.Soul.
What was the initial reaction to it?
We originally released it about a week after the rest of our launch beers. Launching with just sours and saisons was supposed to establish us as not an IPA brewery. The initial reaction to Transmigration of Souls quickly overshadowed our other beers for many people. If we had launched it as a year-round I don’t think we could have grown Atalanta (Tart Plum Saison) to be flagship we wanted it to be. We knew that going year-round was inevitable pretty quickly though.
What was the decision behind making it a year-round release?
The biggest driver was that we knew people wanted it. It’s a difficult beer to make and puts a lot of strain on our resources. It took some significant improvements in our production process and the development of a killer team of brewers to get us comfortable taking it year-round.
It’s a sneaky big beer at 10%. Interesting that you’d make a year round release from it.
Tell me about it. I look at it as an occasional treat and mainly stick to sensory samples (my main drinking beers at the brewery are the 4.4% Noise and Flesh, 5% Calliope, and 5.25% Atalanta).
TMOS is replacing the Rites. As a Rites fan myself, will we see it make a comeback?
Hopefully when we have more production capability. With Serpent Bite and Transmigration going year-round we just had to cut something, and Atalanta and Lyric Ale are a bigger part of who we are. I will miss having a smaller IPA around, but am super excited about this new lineup.
What’s coming up for Orpheus? What can we expect in the coming months?
For the next few months we’ll beer mainly concentrating on trying to keep up with the new lineup. Beyond that, I’m most excited about finally bottling Noise and Flesh, a barrel-aged wild ale that’s been on tap in the tasting room as our house beer since September. The wild culture that we’ve been re-pitching from a spontaneously soured Atalanta about 2.5 years ago is normally used just to sour our main sour beers like Atalanta, Serpent Bite, and Sykophantes before boiling and fermenting with another yeast. It’s a very diverse culture though, and we use it for the entire fermentation of Noise and Flesh.
Aaron’s Tasting Notes:
When I went to the brewery to pick up some samples of TMOS, I was told “be careful with this one!” And they were right. Like we mentioned before, at 10% ABV, it’s a sneakily drinkable beer. You could have two or three of these with no problem…just make sure you’ve got Uber on speed dial.
Orpheus says that TMOS pairs well with “another TMOS,” and I’d tend to agree – it’d be hard to pair this one with anything but really spicy (Korean, maybe Szechuan hot pot?) food. I’m thinking this is a great end-of-the-day beer, sitting out on the porch.
While Jason admitted that his wheelhouse is more in the sour/wild ale category, this is a fantastic double IPA. It’s got a nice malty backbone, and there’s no real overwhelming bitterness. But thanks to the dry hop addition, it’s got a really nice tropical aroma, and the flavor follows. If you’ve got one of those friends who hates IPAs because they’re “too bitter,” put this one in their glass. Orpheus is known for their bold choices for year-round releases, and this is no different. While I’m still hoping that the Rites makes a comeback, I’m putting TMOS in my regular rotation.
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