As the days grow shorter and the air grows cooler, we are happy to introduce a new beer for the season. Our Autumn 2023 Hanabi Lager features a German heirloom barley variety named Isaria. While it has been grown there for a century, in recent decades it has become difficult to find, supplanted by modern varieties. The flavors of Isaria are distinct— aromatic hazelnut and conifer forest— and strike us as the perfect accompaniment to fall and wintertime table fare.

The Joys of the Harvest

As we move into the most nostalgic and contemplative time of year, we have been reflecting on what prompted us to start Hanabi Lager in the first place. Really, it was born out of a deep affection for the harvest season, and of working together with a down-home community of people to create something fundamental that we can drink together and make merry with.

We envisioned a brewery business that felt more agricultural in spirit than industrial: seasonal in nature, with close ties to the agriculture of our ingredients, and inviting broader participation of friends and family to share in the ancient joys of harvest and related autumnal agricultural activities (of which we consider brewing to be one of them).

Working by the seasons was an integral part of my upbringing in the San Juan Islands, in the far northwest corner of Washington State. Each turn around the sun began by watching the wild roses unfurl and bee hives come alive in the spring, and then cutting and bucking hay in the early summer, ‘woods work’ in mid-summer on the handle of a machete or chainsaw or log splitter, salmon fishing at the end of summer, and then smoking fish, drying fruit, and working at the local family owned Boundary Point sawmill pulling green-chain in the autumn. Homebrewing always commenced once the weather cooled off (better outdoor natural cooling for the fermentations) and as the days got darker, we began to stockpile beer for the winter ‘festive season’. I worked with my uncle to learn the craft when I was 12 years old, and a love of it was sewn into my fabric from a young age. I have brewed every year since. When Jennifer and I met in the fall of 2002, our first dates involved brewing and other autumn harvest related activities.

This passage by Portland-based author, Amy Terepka, perfectly captures the profound importance of seasonal work and its ability to connect us to our humanity:

“For hundreds of thousands of years, humans lived in intimate connection with the seasons. By necessity, we responded to the unique demands and gifts of each time of year, and our lives were therefore shaped by this connection with the earth. In relatively recent years, we have disconnected from this important relationship, particularly in western culture. We’re taught to admire control and predictability, not the untamed life-giving natural world. We are expected (or expect ourselves) to sustain the same energy year-round regardless of seasons. We work the same hours, have many of the same social commitments, and have access to much of the same food throughout the year. We inherently stray from our seasonal connection with the local land and cycles that sustain us. And yet, our psyches have not changed. We are intimately intertwined with the earth. We still feel the desire to hibernate in the winter, the burst of energy in the spring, the expansiveness of summer, the nostalgia and release of Autumn. How do we honor these seasonal characteristics? A lack of communion with nature in this way can leave us without a sense of belonging. Something feels empty and nothing else can fill the space. This is where simple intentional connection comes in, and returning to experiencing seasons as not only important, but sacred.”

Here in the Napa Valley, we love the excitement in the air this time of year, as the trucks traverse the roads loaded with fruit bins, you see picking crews working all night with lights and in the early morning, the leaves are turning, the smell of wine fermentation will fill the valley in the weeks to come. The nights will be getting crisp, and foggy mornings lovely. The kids and grandparents will be gathering walnuts in the autumn light, with the sun getting lower in the sky, olives will come off the trees soon, and the harvest kitchen is warm and fragrant with the Delgado brothers cooking wonderful things for the Oakville crew to eat.

Working with sacred grains to brew beer can elicit just such a scene, and this is our vision for Hanabi Lager, where brewing is an anticipated and celebrated event. Our idea was to frame the year with four special brews that were intended to draw our attention to and reflect the energy of the four seasons Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Acknowledging the ancient agricultural origins of beer and brewing is of great importance to us, and we hope to help steer the industry back towards its agrarian roots.

Autumn 2023 Hanabi Lager – Isaria Helles Style Lager

Our beer for this year’s Autumn season showcases an heirloom, nearly forgotten variety of barley from Germany named Isaria. We think its demeanor fits perfectly with the nostalgia, the thoughtfulness, and the dreaminess that envelops us this time of year. The flavors of fresh hazelnuts, conifer, rosin, and mint harmonize well with seasonal foods.

When we were talking with our supplier about this special grain, they relayed the scene around the grain bin, where the tractors come with freshly harvested grain straight from the field, that resonated with us. It’s southern Germany at the end of summer and the grain is standing heavy and sweet. The grain buyer has brewed a special harvest batch of ‘low (alcohol)-beer’ and has an ice-cold tank of it at the grain receival area. The tractors are coming in, and while they are idling in line while those ahead are getting off-loaded, the farmers have a refreshing glass of this low-beer, and chat about the harvest, how the different fields are picking out, how the different varieties of barley, wheat, and spelt did this year, and so on.

This to us, is part of the essential, thousands of years old culture of beer. Historically, beer has been intimately intertwined with the harvest season, and with celebrating the hard work of spring and summer and the gifts of autumn. Beer has been seen as a refreshing, restorative beverage in this context of human agriculture. It developed a long time ago, alongside bread and staple cereal grain food crops. We are inspired by this history of beer, and think that there are perhaps numerous important things to learn, that are applicable to us here in the modern age.

May we study history, and consider our innate connections to the earth and each other to help inform our way forward…


Blessings to you all, and may the harvest be good to you!
- Nick, Jenn, and the entire Hanabi Lager family