Sunday, February 11, 2018

Brewing Allies: Southeast Meets British Isles

"No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent."
-- John Donne, English poet

Article by Owen Ogletree
Printed originally in Southern Brew News

Creative and scientific talents were in full gear at London's hip Beavertown Brewery last September. Beavertown owner Logan Plant (son of Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant) had invited Cigar City brewer Wayne Wambles over for a collaboration brew, and Wayne's analytical mind sprang into action. While Beavertown brewers ran around gathering hops and crushing specialty grains, Wayne looked over water chemistry statistics while explaining to Beavertown's lead brewer Cosmo Sutherland why he thought the brewery's water should be modified for the special, collaborative beer. Without batting an eye, Sutherland followed Wambles' recommendation.

Wambles also brewed at Adnams Brewery in Southwold, England the week before, and Adnams' head brewer Fergus Fitzgerald also found it easy to follow Wambles' suggestions. "I really enjoyed the technicality that Wayne brings to brewing," noted Fitzgerald. "It's tempting to talk about brewing in simple terms, but Wayne is one of the few brewers I know who is keen to discuss technical details from the latest research."

In addition to Wambles, two other brewers from the Southeast have traveled recently to the British Isles to engage in a bit of teamwork. John "J.R." Roberts, brewer and co-owner of Atlanta's Max Lager's Wood-Fired Grill & Brewery, set up cooperative brews with buddies at Ireland's Rye River Brewing and Galway Bay Brewery. Terrapin's Brian "Spike" Buckowski headed to England a couple of years ago for a cask ale collaboration with the UK's massive Wetherspoon pub chain and Everards Brewery in Leicestershire, followed by an Irish joint brew at Eight Degrees Brewing in County Cork last February.

Cooperation Builds Creativity

Buckowski ranks international collaborations as one of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of his career. "Besides the fun and excitement of being in a different country and seeing the sights, getting to know the host brewers and seeing their particular breweries in action is the best part of collaboration for me," he said. "Working on the recipe together via email is always a fun adventure as well."

Buckowski insists that rye be a part of the grain bill in all his collaborations, and at Eight Degrees in Ireland, he helped create a 6% ABV black rye IPA with Cascade, Simcoe, Citra, Mandarina Bavaria, Amarillo and Mosaic hops. Eight Degree's co-owner Scott Baigent explained, "We had so much fun with the collaboration with Spike. We merged Spike's well-known love of rye with Ireland's love of the dark stuff and came up with something that was dark, spicy and bitter. The beer got a great reaction in Ireland."

At the award-winning Rye River Brewery in Ireland's County Kildare, Max Lager's John Roberts co-formulated a Belgian-style pale ale with pilsner malt, wheat, oats, grapefruit zest, grapefruit juice and Ekuanot hops. This might have been the first use of a Belgian yeast strain in the brewery. Roberts pointed out, "It's interesting to feel the sense of American influence and newness that craft beer has in such an old country steeped in tradition. The Irish approach craft beer like they approach most things - with joy and pride, with just enough sarcasm to keep things honest."

Information Flows Both Ways

Roberts was fascinated by Rye River's use of slaked lime in relation to the pH of the finished beer. "UK and Irish beers generally have a much lower pH than one would expect," he said. "Alex at Rye River makes adjustments to buffer the water and keep pH somewhat higher, which has a profound effect on hop character and drinkability. It's not something I've seen done before, but I'm stashing it in my bag of tricks."

Rye River's Alex Lawes credits Roberts as one of his original inspirations. "We first met while I was still a homebrewer looking to go pro," Lawes explained. "J.R. took me under his wing for the day at the brewpub and answered all my numerous questions. It was pretty great that when we met again we'd be brewing on my kit in Ireland, and it was a lovely, fuzzy feeling all around."

Creating a Diversity of Flavors & Styles

Wambles' frequent journeys to the UK stem from his intense love of British cask-conditioned ale. "The UK is one of my favorite places on Earth to drink beer," Wambles shared. "It's rare to find a country that is built on an abundance of full-flavored, sessionable beers."

In contrast to session beers, Wambles' group effort at Beavertown resulted in an imperial porter infused with coconut and cocoa. Originally wanting to make a beer featuring a unique UK candy that tastes like chocolate and orange, Wambles and the Beavertown crew decided eventually to move in a different direction, concocting a dark base beer with intriguing tropical notes - like a strong English porter with a touch of Cigar City and Florida. A portion of the beer is also being aged in rum barrels.

At Adnams, Wambles and Fitzgerald came up with Two Bays Oaked Pale Ale that's similar to Cigar City's White Oak Jai Alai. The beer circulated through a special infusion system holding wood spirals in a closed tank to minimize oxidation and preserve hop character much better than simple barrel-aging. The American-inspired pale ale came out at 4.5% ABV with a fruity hop character complemented by toasted oak notes. Fitzgerald added, "There is an energy about craft beer in the U.S. that up until recently was unique in the beer world. I think this has migrated to the rest of the world now."

Keeping Up with Progress

Will Avery, former brewer for Burnt Hickory in Kennesaw, Georgia, now runs the brew kettles at Galway Bay Brewery in Ireland. Last February, John Roberts and Avery put together a delicious India dark lager with Mosaic hops, pilsner malt, midnight wheat, and Munich and melanoidin malts. "Some might think that this beer is too much lager for an IPA, while others might consider it too hoppy for a lager," commented Avery. "Collaborations give us a chance to not only hang out as friends and peers, but have a flow of information. At the rapid pace that brewing is progressing, it's nice to talk about new processes and ideas."

Beavertown's Logan Plant shared, "To me, collaboration is sharing knowledge and experience, creating a new vision, or attacking and dissecting an old style. Beer really is an endless vista, a blank page. Collaborating should always be about pushing one another as brewers into new realms, learning from each other's experience in creating something unique and stimulating."

Enthusiastic craft brewers seem to have no trouble connecting, getting along and sharing ideas around the world, and craft beer makes the perfect catalyst for collaboration and friendship. On John Roberts' last night in Galway, he was at a pub with Will Avery and the late Dan Rosen who wanted to start MAZURT brewery in Atlanta. "Dan was calling it a night, and when he went to give Will a hug goodbye, one or the other spilled a pint," Roberts recalled. "The bartender mopped up and grabbed a fresh pint - all while Will and Dan were still hugging. The bartender looked at me with a sly Irish grin and said, 'It's turning into a bloody romantic moment over there.'"

For videos featuring all these collaborative brew sessions, check out the author's YouTube channel.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018 Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting AMAZING Beer List

Check out the jaw-dropping list below of exclusive, one-off cask ales served at our 14th annual ATLANTA CASK ALE TASTING on January 20, 2018. 

Winners from the morning judging session are listed in red...
ACAT benefits the Atlanta Humane Society
Photos by Phil Farrell

  • 5 Seasons Westside Chevallier Bitter is brewed with a beautiful UK heritage malt, East Kent Golding hops, and a traditional English yeast that adds lovely peach and dark cherry nuances. 4.5% ABV.
  • Abbey of the Holy Goats Chèvre Noir, a black saison, was rested on coffee from Indonesia, vanilla beans from Madagascar, and cocoa nibs from the Yucatán. Dark roasted malts and slight fruity esters from the saison yeast balance the sweet additions, resulting in a delectably smooth beer.
  • BlueTarp Juicin' IPA offers a succulent malt character as the canvas for a massive amount of brewing hops and dry-hops such as Amarillo, Cashmere, Mosaic and Simcoe.
  • Burnt Hickory King Zeke. This flavorful cask was filled with young, fresh pale ale, and lemon juice and dry-hops were added. A grainy, malty, yet wonderfully hoppy ale at 6% ABV.
  • Carolina Bauernhaus Pikant Nacht. We aged our Nacht imperial Belgian-style stout in a 13th Colony Bourbon barrel, then added habaneros, cocoa nibs, and a touch of cinnamon and vanilla to this special cask.
  • Chattabrewchee Southern Brewhouse Hadrian's Wall - A Scottish Export-style ale offering garnet hues and an exceptional malt/hop balance. Named after the wall separating Roman England from Scotland, this beer is light in carbonation but with a malty backbone.
  • Cherry Street / Lincoln Fill Station Collaboration Nightmare After Christmas - A "Belgo/Ruskie" stout infused with eggnog custard powder, lactose, vanilla beans, and chocolate. 10.5% ABV.
  • Cherry Street Cortez the Killer Mexican Spiced Stout - Our award-winning OASIS Stout infused with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, Vietnamese cinnamon, and a blend of three types of chili peppers is pleasantly spiced without too much heat - like alcoholic Mexican hot chocolate! 10.5% ABV.
  • Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale - An award-winning, 5.5% ABV Northern English Brown Ale brewed with flaked oats to impart a silky body and mesh the roasted, toasted, and chocolate components.
  • Coastal Empire Brewer's Reserve Bacon Cherry Porter - A 6.6% ABV Robust Porter with cherry wood smoked malt to enhance the bacon flavor. In secondary, we added sweet and tart cherries, as well as house-smoked bacon from Savannah's Ogeechee Meat Market.
  • THIRD PLACE CLASSIC STYLE: Creature Comforts Wheeler’s Drum - A 5.6% ABV Oatmeal Stout made with all North Carolina grown grains from Epiphany Malting. Look for notes of caramel, burnt marshmallow, and rich espresso.

  • Dry County Double Chocolate Milk Porter. To satisfy your sweet tooth, we took our 8% ABV imperial chocolate milk porter and added copious amounts of liquid cacao and extra Ugandan vanilla beans to this exceptional cask.
  • Eagle Creek Smoke & Mirrors! A flavorful, smoked brown ale with a French saison yeast strain and fresh cranberries added into both the fermenter and cask.
  • Eventide Rye Golden Ale was brewed as part of the brewery's Anniversary Series. Expect pleasant aromas of lemongrass, dill, and honey. Flavors of apricot, lemongrass, citrus, coconut, and vanilla lead to a pleasing alcohol warmth in the finish. 9% ABV.
  • Harvey’s Christmas Ale - A traditional, malty English Barleywine with a biscuit malt and vinous fruit palate balanced by pleasant hop bitterness. ABV: 7.5%. (UK)
  • THIRD PLACE UK STYLE: Harviestoun OLA DUBH 10th Anniversary Edition is an 8% ABV English Old Ale aged for two years in Highland Park 12-Year single malt Scotch whiskey barrels. (UK)
  • Hi-Wire's Signature Hi-Pitch IPA was dry-hopped with Simcoe and El Dorado in place of Mosaic and Centennial. This cask displays notes of pine, citrus, and tropical fruit over a base of rich malt.
  • Ironmonger "Hey! Syrah!" is our Double IPA that was dry-hopped with Galaxy and El Dorado, then rested over Shiraz grapes. At 8.6% ABV and 22 IBUs, this special brew forms part of Ironmonger's Anvil Series.
  • Jailhouse Brewing Chateau d’If is a sour saison with green tea and fresh mango for added complexity and depth.
  • Jekyll Southern Juicy Juice - This 6% ABV ale offers flavors and aromas of pineapple, mango, and tropical fruits supported by a fluffy mouthfeel. We also added passion fruit and a third round of dry-hops to this select cask.
  • Left Nut Brewing The Prime Minister’s Porter - An English-style brown porter with smoked malts and black cherries. Aromas of roasted malt and smoke give way to flavors of smoked wood, chocolate, and cherries in the dry finish.
  • Little Cottage More Than Metal - A rum barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout conditioned on vanilla beans for a rich smoothness and elegant complexity. 13% ABV.
  • Max Lager's Doppelbock is based on a style brewed originally by Munich monks as “liquid bread.” Our version is a strong, smooth malt bomb with light caramel and toasted notes followed by a dry-ish finish. 9% ABV.
  • FIRST PLACE SPECIALTY: Max Lager's Virtue of Patience - A Bold Monk preview beer from a blend of two diverse barrel fermentations that created a lightly tart and subtly complex beer with notes of tropical fruit and barnyard Brettanomyces with port wine and Cabernet barrel character. 12% ABV.
  • Monday Night Cool Han Blue. Blue is the color of the light side, so it only made sense to take our hazy Han Brolo pale ale and add blueberries, vanilla, and lactose for a chewy and light take on a fruity dessert.
  • Moon River Captain's Porter with chocolate and orange is our 6% ABV Robust Porter with a medium/full body and rich, roasty notes of chocolate and coffee. We added flavors of natural chocolate and orange to turn this cask into a holiday-themed treat.

  • FIRST PLACE UK STYLE: New Realm Fourteen Twenty Dark Mild ranks as the new brewery's very first cask ale! Based on a historical recipe from an Adnams Mild brewed in 1914, this beer was brewed by New Realm on its five-barrel pilot system using three types of English malts, flaked oats, and dark sugar. Malty and complex for 4.5% ABV and 20 IBUs.
  • Old Rail Bourbon Barrel-Aged Barleywine is an American Barleywine hopped with Galaxy, Mosaic, and Citra, and aged for six months in Old Forester Bourbon Barrels at Louisiana's Old Rail brewpub. ABV: 10.3%.
  • Omaha Brewing The General's Select Richland Rum-Aged 7.62 Imperial Brown Ale aged on toasted coconut. At 8% ABV, this small batch brew offers rich notes of dark malts, rum, vanilla, and satisfying coconut.
  • Piedmont Brewery & Kitchen Bad Moon Rising Rye Milk Porter aged on toasted coconut. This complex brew features a spicy rye malt profile that plays well with the sweet lactose and nuttiness of the coconut. It’s like a liquid candy bar! 6.3% ABV, 30 IBUs.
  • Quest Brewing Smoking Mirror Porter with serrano peppers, cinnamon, and cacao nibs is a Mexican-inspired version of our porter with slight smoke and spice on the front that's balanced with rich chocolate notes.
  • Red Brick Eastern Standard Beer is a malty ESB fermented in second-use bourbon barrels that provide a soft oak and honeycomb character.

  • Red Hare Soft J IPA pours with a hazy appearance and smooth bitterness with notes of orange juice and zest. We dry-hopped this beer with Amarillo, Citra, and Idaho 7, then finished this cask off with a dose of Galaxy and experimental hops for more tropical and tangerine notes. 6.8% ABV, 69 IBUs.
  • Reformation Mocha Declaration. We casked up our imperial stout with cacao nibs, Peets cold-brewed espresso, and Bourbon vanilla beans.
  • Scofflaw Barrel-Aged Absentium Imperial Stout. This deep, dark, rich, viscous ale offers added complexity from additions of vanilla, cacao nibs, coffee, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chili peppers. 13.9% ABV.
  • Second Self Urbosa's Fury - This IPA strikes nearby palates with loads of Amarillo, Mosaic, and Motueka hops. All opponents will tremble in its awesome power, drinkability, and complexity.
  • SECOND PLACE SPECIALTY: Service Brewing Grisette is a flavorful and aromatic saison-like ale brewed with wheat and oats and fermented with our house yeast. Huell Melon and Equinox hops blend with an addition of Douglas Fir spruce tips, providing a refreshing blend of floral and evergreen notes. 4.1% ABV.
  • Southbound Passion Fruit Joker & The Thief - Bursting with tropical and citrus notes, this hazy IPA was fruited with passion fruit and dry-hopped with Amarillo. At 6% ABV, Joker & The Thief will be your finest partner in crime as you fly into the night.

  • Southern Brewing Company has produced an Amarillo dry-hopped blend from a variety of golden-colored, sour, wild ales from the Athens brewery. Smooth, lightly tart, and highly drinkable, this cask offers a wonderful depth of complexity from fermentation character and balancing hops.
  • Steady Hand Tangerine Flower Business is a Double IPA with tangerine and experimental hops. Aromas of freshly squeezed tangerine, bright citrus, and tropical fruit mingle with subtle pine and floral notes. 9% ABV.
  • Superstition Meadery's cask is a hazy mead hopped during fermentation and dry-hopped with 100% Citra. We added a bit of lactose sugar to leave a little sweetness, since honey is completely fermentable.
  • SweetWater With a Little Help from My Friends IPA. This slightly hazy, refreshing, 8% ABV IPA will put you in a happy place. Made with flaked wheat for a good body and head, the hops and fresh tangelo peel contribute papaya, mango, kiwi, and passion fruit notes with hints of black tea.
  • Terrapin Beyond the Galaxy - Major Tom Edition is our Beyond the Galaxy single-hopped IPA with additions of Tang, the favorite drink of astronauts. This cask has an orange and grapefruit nose, balanced by juicy bitterness. Please be responsible and don't consume while flying a spacecraft.
  • THIRD PLACE SPECIALTY: Three Taverns Banana Foster Float Imperial Coffee Stout - A fruity, rich and decadent coffee stout with flavors of flamed banana, cinnamon, and brown sugar. 10% ABV.
  • Torched Hop Anthem of the Angels is a medium-bodied, American-style Porter that was rested on hand-toasted coconut flakes, vanilla beans and fresh green chilies.

  • FIRST PLACE CLASSIC STYLE: Twain's Smoke & Cinder - A 7.4% ABV, smoked robust porter brewed with cherry wood smoked malt. The smoke, roast, ash, and caramel tones come together to form a fun and unique tasting experience.
  • Urban Tree The Only Cider. Cherry and chocolate abound in this cider that was made for winter. Cherry juice from Washington state lends notes of fruit and tartness, while Peruvian and Ecuadorian cocoa nibs mellow and balance the wintry character.

  • PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD: Variant Brewing Midmorning is an imperial breakfast stout brewed with coffee, cinnamon, and maple. At 10% ABV, the robust mouthfeel and alcohol warmth contribute to a rich, delicious experience.
  • SECOND PLACE CLASSIC STYLE: Wicked Weed Angel of Darkness. Using one of the most rare and exciting beers we've ever produced, this cask holds a barrel-aged American sour ale blended with boysenberries, blackberries, raspberries, and cherries. The beer was then aged in Oloroso sherry puncheons for 2+ years. We give you the first ever cask of Angel of Darkness!

  • SECOND PLACE UK STYLE: Wild Heaven Bestie Pub Ale ranks as a standard, UK-style bitter brewed with traditional British malts and black treacle. Hints of toasted malts and complex fruity esters make up the backbone of this scrumptious, super sessionable ale.
  • Wild Leap Ventured Oatmeal Chocolate Stout featuring toasted pecans, toasted coconut, and cinnamon. This exclusive cask was conditioned with caramel. 8% ABV.
  • Wrecking Bar Choco Mountain Imperial Breakfast Stout. Flavors of bittersweet dark chocolate, mocha, dark fruit, and smoothness from oats and wheat shine in this decadent strong ale. Costa Rican coffee, maple syrup and cacao nibs were included, and this cask was conditioned on toasted coconut, vanilla beans, and cinnamon sticks. 8.5% ABV, 70 IBUs.