GoodLife Brewing Co. is unveiling secrets for 2017 — in the form of its Secret Stash Experimental IPA series, introduced at the beginning of the year. The brewery plans to release a new, specialty beer, each featuring a different recipe, every two months. The idea is to allow the brewers’ imaginations to guide the process, with different hops and variations in each batch.

“Our regional sales manager, Steve Denio, thought we should do an experimental IPA series,” Marketing Director Chris Nelson said by email. “(Owners) Curt (Plants) and Ty (Barnett) always wanted to use the name Secret Stash for just the right project. We thought it would be fun to experiment within the style, and pushing it, while using hops that we like.”

The first beer in the series launched in January and was a double-strength northwest IPA, full of pine and earthy citrus character. For April and May, the brewery brainstormed a lighter-bodied ale for the seasonal transition into spring. It released Secret Stash #002, a “spring IPA,” at the beginning of the month.

GoodLife’s lead cellarman Curtis Nelson and brewer Brittany Schuler developed the recipe, aiming for a lighter-bodied ale with bright, fruity hop character. Over a light Pilsner malt base they opted for a blend of German and American hops and finished with a bit of lemongrass for a citrus twist. The combination was selected to highlight bright, springtime flavors.

In recent columns I have explored traditional spring beer styles such as bocks and Trappist ales, malty, stronger beers to complement the cooler temperatures and drizzling rain of the season. For the sunny, warmer days, however, GoodLife makes a strong case for a lighter-bodied, hoppy ale with Secret Stash #002. It only brewed 90 barrels (180 kegs’ worth), and it is on draft only through May before the third iteration arrives in June.

I enjoyed a pint on a recent visit to its Bierhall. The beer is pale gold in color and crystal clear, with ample notes of tropical fruit and a bit of lemon peel in the aroma. It’s light and easy-drinking and balances a tropical grapefruit juice character with a bright, savory peppery flavor. Overall the beer does remind me of springtime, with notes of young arugula greens and fresh-squeezed juice.

Innovating with hops is nothing new to GoodLife. It was among the first Oregon breweries to implement “hop bursting,” a method of extracting hop flavor and aroma without excessive bitterness. Rather than adding hops throughout the boiling of the beer, standard practice for nearly all brewers, GoodLife adds them during the whirlpool stage at the end of the boil. The resulting beers emphasize fruity, floral hop character and less stringent bitterness.

And with the Secret Stash series, GoodLife joins a growing number of craft brewers experimenting with hops across variant recipes. Portland-based Hopworks Urban Brewery, for instance, has been brewing its IPX Single Hop Ale series of beers for several years. Each release features a different single hop variety in an otherwise identical recipe. The use of only one variety of hop allows the brewery to highlight the signature aromas and flavors of that specific strain.

Another with a significant experimental hop program is Block 15 Brewing, located in Corvallis. Best known for Belgian-style beers and intensely hop-forward ales, Block 15 brews Sticky Hands, its year-round double IPA “Hop Experience Ale” with a secretive blend of hops that emphasizes floral and fruity flavor. The brewery occasionally releases variants, with names such as Marmalade and Tropical Slam hinting at the sensory components exhibited by the hops.

It also produces a Dab Lab IPA series, taking “experimental” a step further by utilizing CO2 hop extract and lupulin powder in addition to the normal hopping regimen. Both the extract and the powder inject an intense, distilled essence of hops into the final beer without adding any of the vegetal character that would be extracted from a comparable volume of the plant itself. Closer to home, Sunriver Brewing also incorporates hop extract into several of its beers, including Resin Nation Double IPA.

GoodLife’s experimental IPAs will be released through the end of the year, and after that the Secret Stash changes; plans call for a different base style each year. Right now you have until the end of May to sample its taste of spring with #002.

— Jon Abernathy is a local beer blogger and brew aficionado. His column appears every other week in GO!