Sunday, October 23, 2022

The Erdinger Experience


 
Our recent Brewtopia Tours trip to the 2022 Oktoberfest in Munich brought the group into Bavaria a day early to recover from jet lag. Staying for one night in a Munich airport hotel, our group's choice of an early bonus beer experience was easy. We grabbed some taxis and headed to the nearby town of Erding to enjoy a marvelous tour and tasting at the world-renowned Privatbrauerei Erdinger Weißbräu Werner Brombach - a classic beer producer known for its namesake Bavarian wheat beers.
 
Some participants on our Bavaria tours express the opinion that wheat beers are not their favorite. This state of mind evaporates immediately after one sip of the extraordinarily fresh and satisfying wheat beers available in the region. Erdinger did not disappoint. 
 
Erdinger's wheat beers express wonderful, complex notes of refreshing banana and clove weizen yeast fermentation character. These lightly-hopped wheat beers boast a high level of carbonation, wheat and cereal grain notes, a dry finish, fluffy mouthfeel and a typical ABV range of 4.3-5.6%. Adding some caramelized malts to the wheat beer recipe produces a darker version known as Dunkles Weissbier. Boosting the fermentable sugars produces a higher alcohol version of the style called Pinkantus Weizen-Bock. Erdinger also produces flavorful non-alcoholic wheat ales. 
 
 
The Erdinger experience begins in the brewery's "fan shop" where visitors can purchase all types of Erdinger merchandise and fresh beer to take home. An experienced guide takes groups on a fun and educational walk through the brewery and the history of Erdinger Weissbiers. See the brew kettles, warehouses, bottling line and massive distribution bays. 
 
After the tour, beer fans experience the full range of Erdinger wheat beers alongside traditional Bavarian snacks in the brewery's atmospheric tasting room. Savor the brewery's flavorful range of wheat beers alongside traditional white sausages and massive pretzels. Including the tasting, Erdinger's tours last around three hours. See more information on booking a tour by clicking HERE
 
 

Top Seven Reasons Why We Love Hofbräuhaus München

Beer and a hearty meal at Munich's state-owned Hofbräuhaus rank as a goal on many craft beer lovers' bucket lists. Several reasons exist as to why the Hofbräuhaus just might be the most recognized bar in the world. Our recent Brewtopia tour group to Oktoberfest in Munich was capped off by a joyful and boisterous evening at Hofbräu in the center of the city.
 
Here are the top seven reasons why we love the Hofbräuhaus:
 
 
7. THE BUILDING
Upon walking through the doors of this Bavarian institution, visitors are immediately struck by the historic and intriguing interior of the building. The expansive space is marked by traditional wall décor and arched ceilings. 
 
6.  ATMOSPHERE
Hofbräuhaus is where visitors from around the world flock to soak in the true Bavarian beer hall experience. “Oans, zwoa, drei, Gsuffa!” 
 
5. MUSIC
The "oompah" band cranks out all the traditional, favorite songs and tunes that encourage customers to have fun and enjoy the food and exceptional beers. You'll be singing along in no time. 
 
4. FOOD
Looking for hearty, traditional Bavarian fare? Look no further than the roasted chicken and pork dishes at the Hofbräuhaus. The tavern serves millions of plates of food each year, but we've never had a bad meal there. Customers are assured not to leave hungry.
 
3. BEER
Hofbräuhaus produces excellent examples of classic Bavarian beer styles such as Helles, Dunkel, Bock, Festbier and wheat beer. When ordering a beer in a glass smaller than a liter, patrons might get a judgmental glance from the waitstaff, but it's all in good fun. There's something special about hoisting a liter of amazing lager inside the Hofbräuhaus.
 
 
2. A SLICE OF OKTOBERFEST YEAR-ROUND
People who shy away from the massive crowds at Munich's Oktoberfest don't need to worry. The party atmosphere of Oktoberfest exists in a somewhat smaller form at the Hofbräuhaus tavern that's filled with Gemütlichkeit - a German term used to convey a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness and happiness.
 
1. CAMARADERIE 
Pick up your liter stein of beer and toast with new friends from across the globe at Hofbräuhaus. It's impossible to be in a bad mood when seated at this extraordinary Bavarian beer hall. Prost!
 
 

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Brick Store's Cask Bar: What's Old is New Again


By Owen Ogletree 

Around two years ago, Dave Blanchard walked up the stairs of his popular and pioneering Brick Store Pub in Decatur, Georgia. He glanced to the right at the small, non-descript seating area at the top of the stairs, and an ingenious plan popped into his mind. He thought, "Why not bring a tiny bit of England to this small section of Brick Store?" The journey toward the pub's beloved cask ale bar had begun. 
 
Brick Store Pub opened its doors over 25 years ago with a mission of spreading the love for classic craft beer styles in Decatur and Atlanta. The laid-back main bar serves outstanding draft craft beers alongside a creative and eclectic pub food menu. Several years ago, the owners installed a beautiful Belgian-themed bar upstairs to the left and a vintage beer cellar room to the right that houses prized high-gravity bottles at a cool 50 degrees F. The pandemic then tasked the Brick Store with creating a lovely outdoor beer garden in the backyard that boasts a Bavarian-like setting. All that seemed missing was a little flavor of the British Isles. 
 
A FIRKIN BRAINSTORM
 
Brick Store co-owner Dave Blanchard shared the idea of a small upstairs cask ale bar with business partners Mike Gallagher and Tom Moore. 10.8-gallon "firkin" casks could be stored in the chilled vintage cellar, with an insulated pipe running through the wall to supply cask ales to handpump taps on a compact bar in the seating area at the top of the stairs. Gallagher and Moore seemed not too optimistic about the success of this venture but agreed to let Blanchard give it a go. No one expected the impressive level of success that the Brick Store's cask ale bar would achieve since it opened almost a year ago. 
 
 
Cask ale was not new to the Brick Store. Most days, the downstairs bar offered a cask ale, and many customers seemed interested and supportive. "When we started in 1997, the first cask we put on downstairs was Blind Man Espresso Stout from Athens, Georgia," notes Blanchard. "I've traveled to the UK several times and came across some beautiful beers. For me, it's more about the culture of the pub, how the beer is drawn, and the traditions involved. People now come upstairs to our new cask bar who have never seen an English-style beer engine handpump, and it's fun to explain the process. Once you've tasted a proper cask ale, you get hooked."
 
Blanchard was never thrilled with the former vibe of the seating space at the top of the stairs, and creating a cask ale destination there seemed like the perfect solution. "Before COVID, this area was a small dining space without the energy, intimacy and appeal of our Belgian bar," Blanchard explains. "I saw it as kind of a purgatory area. We talked about the vintage cellar providing a cool place to house the casks, and the idea of building a bar and popping the plumbing through the wall made lots of sense. We had to get the measurements down to within inches to install this cask bar and the new seating."
 
SOURCING THE RARE ALES
 
Once the cask bar was built-out, plumbed, and decorated like a classic UK pub, Blanchard began locating excellent quality cask ales from independent regional breweries. This task presented a bit of a challenge at first, but as soon as word began to spread about the unique vibe of the cask bar, local breweries began lining up to fill firkins. Blanchard adds, "We now have great relationships with many impressive craft breweries nearby."
 
Along with a bunch of new cask bar devotees, Blanchard now enjoys spending time in the new area. "The whole project has been fulfilling," he says. "The cask bar is centrally located where customers can look down into the restaurant. People love having English and European soccer on the television behind the beer engines, and the cask ales have been extraordinary. Most brewers love cask ale and want others to love it as well."
 
A challenge for local breweries making special, traditional brews for the Brick Store has been how to sell the remainder of the beer that doesn't go into firkins for the pub. Unfortunately, English mild ale, bitter, ESB and UK golden ale styles don't currently create a great deal of excitement with younger craft beer drinkers who frequent brewery taprooms. Blanchard notes, "The nearby Three Taverns Brewery made us three firkins of a delicious clone of the UK's Old Peculier Ale. Our firkins were consumed in only three days, but the rest of the beer on tap at Three Taverns took a while to sell out. Halfway Crooks brewery has a small test system to brew one-barrel batches, and they've used this to create some firkins for us a couple of times."
 
Other breweries supplying mouth-watering cask ales to the Brick Store include Wild Heaven Beer, Monday Night Brewing, Arches Brewing, Green Bench, Bell's and New Realm. Blanchard was pumped when Sierra Nevada in North Carolina agreed to keep the Brick Store stocked with casks of its exceptional unfiltered pale ale with Cascade dry-hops in each cask. Blanchard recalls, "A couple of Sierra Nevada brewers were in Atlanta for a meeting, and they stopped by Brick Store to check out the new cask bar. When they were impressed enough to immediately get on board, I knew our cask bar would succeed."
 
CASKS ARE CHALLENGING BUT SO WORTH IT 
 
Neil Callaghan, beer manager at the Brick Store, has been thrilled with the public's reception of the cask bar. He notes that the contagious excitement for cask ale among the staff spreads quickly to customers. "The success of our cask bar shows that the consumer understands and appreciates the uniqueness of the program and how great cask ale can be," he says. "Our biggest challenges with the cask bar include planning ahead, coordinating between the different breweries, and keeping an inventory of firkins. We just can't look at distributor inventory sheets and order firkins like we do kegs. Casks are special." 
 
Blanchard loves that some local breweries are now filling casks with fabulous UK beer styles made from ingredients on hand. Creature Comforts in Athens, Georgia, produced an exceptional clone of Timothy Taylor Landlord ale made with American hops and barley along with the classic Timothy Taylor yeast from the UK. The beer, known as Vujà Dé Landlord, inspired Creature Comforts to recently install its own UK cask cooler and beer engine in the Athens taproom. 
 
Blanchard, Zaboroskie, and Callaghan 
 
Sam Zaboroskie has served as Brick Store's general manager for two years. Her favorite aspect of the cask bar is sharing samples and educating customers. She notes, "In a typical week, I can share so much love of cask ales with our patrons. Customers seem to think more about what they are drinking while they sit in this intimate and cozy atmosphere." 
 
Blanchard devoted many hours to ensuring that every little detail of the cask bar came across as perfect. The cask bar pays loving homage to English pub traditions, from the dartboard and hidden television that pops out for English football to the classic UK pub wallpaper and eclectic photos that adorn the walls. "The atmosphere of the cask bar is just so pleasant and authentic," Blanchard adds. "It's amazing that every time professional brewers show up, they head straight to the cask bar. This is the greatest validation for the project that I could ever hope for."
 
Read more in the online edition of:
 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Explore the Athens, Georgia Beer Trail

 

By Owen Ogletree
 
Brewers and the local Convention & Visitors Bureau in Athens, Georgia, teamed up in 2021 in the creation of an enjoyable short YouTube video called Beer: The Athens Way. The presentation showcases the welcoming college town and all six of its personable craft breweries.
 
Beer: The Athens Way began as an idea hatched by local craft beer retailer Sachin Patel and PR specialist Nerissa Rajcoomar. In Nerissa's mind, the early days of the Athens craft beer scene seem like a rock band or sports team going through struggles and learning how to succeed through passion and goal-setting. "I realized how special a time it was for the beginnings of craft beer in Athens in the early 2000s," she recalls. "Hearing stories from the brewers felt relatable and inspiring to me, and I thought it might do the same for others. Bringing these individuals together to create the mini-documentary video was the thing to do."
 
Inspired by the video, the Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau came up with the scheme of an Athens Beer Trail where visitors check out each brewery and collect stamps in a printed "field guide." Field guide booklets are available at any Athens brewery or the Athens Welcome Center, and participants who get a stamp at all six breweries earn a branded Athens Beer Trail mug.
 
Hannah Smith of the Convention & Visitors Bureau notes, "Athens is many things: the birthplace of public higher education in America, home to hundreds of bands, center for top college sports action, and a diverse and vibrant arts and food scene. Athens has also quietly become the all-American beer town."
 
Athens' six craft breweries come in all shapes and sizes, with each location possessing its own personality, philosophy and vibe. Visitors should score a hotel room downtown and spend at least two days making their way to each brewery taproom by city bus, rideshare options or a designated driver. 
 
 
Akademia Brewing Company
150 Crane Drive
Athens, GA 30606
 
Akademia opened its doors in 2017 and ranks as the city's only brewpub. Located on the busy Atlanta Highway just a few miles west of downtown, the full-service restaurant, brewery and event space has quickly become a top spot in Athens for people to socialize, hear live music and enjoy fabulous food and beer.
 
Akademia brewer Morgan Wireman sees the brewpub's location on the west side of Athens as a perfect spot to hit on the way into or out of town when folks are heading down the Atlanta Highway. "With our giant outdoor space, excellent restaurant and 22 taps of house beers, Akademia offers something for everyone," Morgan explains. "We try to mix in classic beer styles with more modern takes on beer. I do a lot of reading and research on different styles, and if I see something that sparks my attention, I'll obsess over it until I come up with the perfect recipe."
 
 
Athentic Brewing Company
108 Park Ave.
Athens, GA 30601
 
Athentic Brewing began in 2020 in the vibrant Normaltown neighborhood of Athens. Homebrewing sparked the interest of Athentic cofounders Paul Skinner and Mark Johnson back in 2011, and the two soon collaborated on the dream of owning a commercial brewery. 
 
Athentic's motto of "crafting good times" seems a perfect fit. Kimberly Wise, taproom manager at Athentic, notes, "We pride ourselves on being a welcoming community meeting spot where the neighborhood and people from town can get together in a joyous, social manner. We feel that if you come to Athentic, it should feel like you are coming home to a great place where you can be yourself. Everyone loves that we specialize in beer-flavored beers and classic styles. We have so many different styles that it's easy to find something to meet your taste."
 
 
Photo courtesy of CCBC
Creature Comforts Brewing Company
271 W Hancock Ave.
Athens, GA 30601
 
As Athens' sole downtown brewery, Creature Comforts makes its home in the historic Snow Tire facility. Brewery general manager John Apostolik believes that the best way to experience Athens comes in supporting local businesses. "We believe that our curiosity, small-town tenacity and southern regionality brings a distinct approach to how Creature Comforts creates its beer," he declares. "Aside from having a wonderful and welcoming space in the heart of downtown and a diverse selection of quality beer, Creature Comforts believes that good companies are good neighbors. Creature Comforts has recently been awarded B Corp Certification and has committed to 1% of its revenue going to community efforts."
 
 
Normaltown Brewing Company
149 Oneta Street
Athens, GA 30601
 
Housed in an old, rustic industrial complex just outside of downtown, Normaltown Brewing ranks as Athens' smallest and coziest brewery. The nanobrewery cranks out a fun range of eclectic beers in a friendly and sociable atmosphere. Co-owner Heath Yarbrough relates, "People love the size and intimacy of the brewery. Folks can come in, meet the owners, try all our beers and relax. We brew in small batches and have constantly rotating taps."
 
Normaltown's taproom manager Erich Fietkau adds, "I love working at Normaltown because of the beer and the people. I've been able to meet all the movers of the Athens craft beer scene, and this has been a blessing in terms of my beer knowledge. I also enjoy talking to customers and getting direct feedback that helps us tweak recipes."
 
 
Southern Brewing Company 
231 Collins Industrial Blvd.
Athens, GA 30601
 
SBC's co-owner Brian Roth worked in Athens for years as craft beer director of a local distributor. As his passion for brew blossomed, so did his desire to create a destination brewery of his own in his beloved home of Athens. Housed on several acres of land just outside downtown, SBC sometimes seems more like a blend of a brewery and a recreational green space. The casual, welcoming taproom's back doors lead to an expansive lawn space, outdoor game area and live music pavilion.
 
"SBC's large venue space allowed us to remain open and support local artists, musicians and charities during much of COVID," Brian says. "I'm really proud of our collaborative efforts with local businesses, breweries and organizations. We've enjoyed working with the University of Georgia on yeast research, and SBC now has 87 exclusive wild yeasts collected from the Athens area, many of which we have used in fermenting our beers. We always try to have at least 30 taps that run the gamut of an array of beer styles that we keep on constant rotation. Our beers are tasty, interesting and creative."
 
 
Terrapin Beer Company
265 Newton Bridge Road
Athens, GA 30607
 
Founded by Georgia brewers John Cochran and Brian "Spike" Buckowski, Terrapin released its popular Rye Pale Ale at Athens' Classic City Brew Fest around 20 years ago. Shortly after, the beer was awarded a gold medal for best American pale ale at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Terrapin had made its splash on the American craft beer scene with an amazing beer and a simple plan of contract brewing long enough to raise funds for the construction of its 40,000 square-foot pioneering brewing facility in Athens. 
 
Terrapin president Dustin Watts takes pride in the brewery's creative beers and environmental initiatives. "I think Terrapin is special for visitors to Athens," he says. "We have a beautiful taproom with around 16 different beers on draft. Visitors can also check out our huge yard, outdoor bar and beer garden, where families and dogs are welcome. We call it 'Athens' largest backyard.' Terrapin also has a test brewery at Truist Park in Atlanta, and its small-batch beers show up at our Athens taproom."
 
Craft Beer Nurtures a Community
 
As a producer of Beer: The Athens Way and founder of Athens' popular Five Points Bottle Shop, Northside Bottle Shop and Westside Bottle Shop, Sachin Patel believes that beer is a gift from God. "Before we knew science and the process of fermentation, beer was considered magical," he says. "Beer provided sustenance and gave us the chance to engage, enjoy ourselves and bring communities together. Beer is the quintessential beverage of history. Athens ties in because of its organic vibe that nurtures the craft beer scene and allows it to flourish. Just as beer has been important to history and civilization, it is now an integral part of Athens."
 
First Published in:

Friday, April 1, 2022

You're Gonna Need a Biggerstaff

Brewery Profile:

Biggerstaff Brewing 
Atlanta, GA
 
By Owen Ogletree
 
Located in the up-and-coming Edgewood neighborhood near downtown Atlanta, Biggerstaff Brewing ranks as one of the city's newest craft breweries. Nope, the name doesn't mean what some people might think. Rather, Biggerstaff refers to a family name of co-owner Clay Davies' wife, Sarah. With beers named after current family members and the farming ancestors of the owners and brewer, a strong focus on family seems to make up a central philosophy of this welcoming brewery and coffee shop.
 
"A few years ago, we visited the Biggerstaff family farm in North Carolina," explains Clay Davies. "I immediately thought that this would be a great name for a brewery. Our beer names and farm-fresh food items with a southern slant are all inspired by family."
 
Biggerstaff's co-owner Clay Davies (left) and brewer Chris Collier.
 
Family Roots
 
Clay Davies' son Cole somehow became interested in homebrewing when he was only 13 years old and immediately got his father involved in the hobby. Cole, a world-class barista with experience in all the top coffee places in Atlanta, now runs the coffee program at Biggerstaff Brewing. The coffee counter located just inside the front entrance opens each morning, providing customers and neighboring business people with delicious wake-up beverages. Don't worry - the beer taps also open each morning around 10 am, making Biggerstaff an ideal start to an Atlanta brewery crawl.
 
John "J.R." Roberts of Atlanta's Max Lager's and Bold Monk brewpubs consulted with Davies during the early stages of purchasing and installing brewing equipment. When the time arrived for hiring an initial brewer, J.R. immediately thought of award-winning Atlanta brewer and beer judge Chris Collier who was instrumental in making tasty beers at North Carolina's Nantahala Brewing and getting Hopstix brewpub established in Chamblee, Georgia. "I met with Clay and Sarah just as the company where I worked closed its doors," Collier recalls. "It was good timing for me to help out with Biggerstaff. The pandemic prevented us from opening in a timely manner, so I just stayed on full time."
 
Biggerstaff brewer Chris Collier prepares a transfer in the brewhouse.
 
Creating the Brews
 
Collier has enjoyed assembling and learning the nuances of Biggerstaff's sparkling new 10-barrel Deutsche Beverage Technology brewhouse from North Carolina. He adds, "We also have 20-barrel hot and cold liquor tanks, five fermenters and seven brite tanks. I've been impressed with our glass lauter grant device that sits just off our mash tun and prevents compaction of the mash and allows access to runoff as the mash gets lautered and sparged."
 
Collier's Biggerstaff beers shine with impressive balance, drinkability and distinctive hops, and the initial recipes include two IPAs and two pale ales. Also, look for a smooth and flavorful kettle-soured ale, a California Common, dry stout and pilsner. " My goal is to have three or four hoppy beers on at all times. I've also done some kegged variations that include a Citra hopped pale ale dosed with our house coffee from Intelligentsia. The result was a nice light ale with a beautiful coffee backdrop and finish. I like to have some hazy beers on tap, but our West Coast-style IPA with 75 IBUs is also one of my favorites."
 
Biggerstaff's attractive facility includes a beer garden/patio out front, a coffee stand and an open and airy main seating room with the brewery visible through the glass windows behind the bar. With decor combining industrial with farmhouse, the modern walls of Biggerstaff's seating areas are decorated with antique doors and botanical designs. 
 
The brewery offers a fully stocked coffee counter.
 
Can't Live on Beer Alone
 
During the construction of Biggerstaff, Clay Davies met chef Ryan Smith from the award-winning Staplehouse restaurant next door. Since COVID, Staplehouse has transitioned into a provisions market, and Ryan Smith provided input and an extraordinary influence on Biggerstaff's food menu. Davis King, Biggerstaff's new executive chef, has valuable experience at acclaimed Atlanta restaurants The Optimist and Bacchanalia. "Davis makes the ideal chef," notes Clay Davies. "He is upbeat, charismatic and passionate about food, and we are so proud of our menu at Biggerstaff."
 
Patrons can pair Collier's exceptional beers with Biggerstaff food items that include smoked Vidalia onion rings, pumpkin soup, roasted oysters, smoked brisket sandwiches, slider burgers, honey butter ribs and shrimp & grits. The owners want the food to be just as good as the beer. "Biggerstaff takes a crossover/marriage approach between the kitchen and brewery," says Chris Collier. "The kitchen reduces our beer down to use in some recipes, and our amazing onion rings have a batter made with our pale ale. We even produce our own malt vinegar. Our dry stout reduced down with some maple syrup makes a delicious flavoring for our coffee, and the kitchen added a yuzu fruit dish to pair with our special yuzu sour ale."
 
Challenges and Rewards
 
Of course, COVID formed a frustrating obstacle that prevented Biggerstaff from opening on time. It was June of 2021 and the city office that handles permit approval was understaffed, slow and backlogged. "September 15, 2021 was supposed to be our grand opening," Collier recalls. "The license finally came through the morning of our opening - just in time. We also waited forever on our brewing license that arrived less than a month before our opening, so we brewed for five straight days. It was a crunch that didn't allow time to reflect on the first batches - we just had to get the tanks filled."
 
Davies and Collier both agree that their hard work and patience while weathering the challenges were well worth it. Biggerstaff ended up better than both of them imagined, and the entire staff enjoys being a part of the exciting growth and development happening in Atlanta's vibrant, revitalized Edgewood neighborhood. Area residents and neighborhood business owners constantly come into the brewery and thank Davies and Collier for choosing Edgewood as the home for Biggerstaff. 
 
Davies adds, "The most rewarding thing for me has been talking to customers about our beer and being honored by everyone's responses as they enjoy the beer, food and vibe that makes Biggerstaff special. People really get happy and love our beer."
 
Biggerstaff Brewing Company
537 Edgewood Ave SE
Atlanta, GA 30312
(404) 796-9919
www.biggerstaffbrewing.com
 
This article appeared originally in Southern Brew News.
 

Monday, December 6, 2021

Ironshield Brewing Bucks Modern Craft Beer Trends

 

Ironshield's Glen Sprouse in the brewery's malt storage room.
 
Ironshield Brewing
394 N. Clayton Street, Lawrenceville, Georgia
770-882-2171
www.ironshieldbrewing.com
 
By Owen Ogletree
 
In our modern craft beer world filled with offbeat trends and unconventional styles, Ironshield Brewing focuses much of its energy, passion, and determination in the creation and promotion of classic beers that showcase outstanding technical merit and appeal. How does this young Georgia brewery market these traditional beers? Education is the key. 
 
Glen Sprouse, Ironshield's founder and brewmaster, expresses amazement that many of his taproom patrons have never tasted many styles of authentic German-style lagers. Ironshield's taproom servers discuss the fascinating histories of these beer styles and provide tasting samples. More often than not, this creates a new appreciation for Ironshield's beers and expands the drinkers' horizons. 
 
Sprouse fell in love with German lagers at quite an early age. "I was raised in an army family, and we seemed to live in all the towns with 'fort' in the name," he explains. "I remember being a kid in Stuttgart, Germany, with my family touring wineries and breweries on the weekends. I had my first sip of helles lager at five years old, and, even at that young age, I thought it was wonderful."
 
Sprouse's brewing roots in the Atlanta area run deep. He started Phoenix Brewpub in 1996 and stayed with the brewery for a time after it became Five Seasons Brewing. The restaurant aspect of the business made for a constant source of frustration for Sprouse. Upon leaving Five Seasons in 2008, he transitioned into brewery consulting and automation while putting together a grand plan for his dream brewery. Ironshield Brewing eventually opened its doors in mid-2020, with COVID creating enormous challenges. Ironshield made it through the rough parts of the pandemic by using its vast, well-equipped brewing facility for contract brewing for other companies. 
 
 
Sprouse adds, "Our contract business dried up a bit when the fall COVID shutdown took place, but it took off again in early 2021 when we increased our contract volume six-fold in four months. Right now, we are at capacity with contract brewing, and this keeps the tanks full. Our Ironshield beers are doing extremely well too, with our taproom business doubling in the last six months." 
 
Ironshield's flavorsome house beers showcase traditional, high-quality ingredients that come together in mouthwatering fashion. Flagship examples include Karneval Kolsch, Heroes Helles, Seven Sisters Munchner Lager, Half Cork'd Irish Red Ale, Sgt. Mackenzie Scottish Ale and Nitro Dry Irish Stout. Ironshield's 7% ABV Warhammer Maibock debuted in the early spring of 2021 with an outstanding malt profile and alcohol warmth, and the luscious lager quickly became one of the brewery's best-selling beers. So as not to ignore trends completely, Sprouse also plans to release a hazy New England-style IPA called Hop Legends
 
Glen Sprouse and Jason Carroll
 
Jason Carroll, Ironshield's head brewer, hails from Cork in Ireland and lists a ton of brewing experience on his impressive résumé. Carroll contributed valuable insight into the formulation of Ironshield's Irish red ale and nitrogenated stout, and he worked with Sprouse at his home kitchen table in the early days to plan out brewery automation and recipe formulation. "I met Glen Sprouse when I worked at a brewery in Peachtree City where Glen was a consultant," Carroll recalls. "We took the Ironshield concept from something raw to something solid and productive. The experience has been rewarding, and our beer has been solid from the first batch. We love keeping traditional styles on the forefront and educating customers as to why these styles are so worthy of attention."
 
Part of what draws Sprouse to classic lager styles stems from the fact that these beers exhibit an impressive range of aromas and flavors simply from the four traditional Reinheitsgebot ingredients of water, malt, hops and yeast. Sprouse explains, "Lagers are complex, yet subtle. The challenge in making a great lager is that every single step must be correct. Lagers show every fault and take longer to produce, so we must have more tanks for lagering and keeping up our volume. We also believe that filtering our lagers produces sparkling clarity and allows the beautiful malt and hop profiles to shine through."
 
Master brewer Glenn Sprouse checks the progress of a brew.
 
October 2 saw Ironshield's annual Oktoberfest celebration take place in the taproom and beer garden. Patrons loved the German food trucks, traditional music and décor, and Sprouse's sublime Oktoberfest lager served in traditional steins.
 
Sprouse holds esteem and affection for Ironshield's staff and customers. "Our gifted staff has been a blessing," he says. "It has been tough finding workers during these challenging times, but our people show up, get things done and love our customers. We don't really go for a certain customer demographic, as we want everyone to share a love for our beers. Most of our regulars are more mature, but it doesn't take long for younger beer drinkers to come to Ironshield, fall in love with our beers and feel at home." 
 
Published Originally in:
 

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Best-of-Show Craft Beer Blind Competition 2021

 

 
Owen Ogletree gathered brewers and beer judges Neal Engleman, The Beer Wench, Ashton Smith, Samantha Eaves, Tim Schiavone and Ben Halter to sample and comment on 12 exceptional examples of classic craft beers on the market now. This blind beer evaluation was done in a "best-of-show" format, and beers were commented upon and ranked according to Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) style guidelines. First, second and third places were awarded to the beers we felt represented their styles in an extraordinary fashion. Photos by Ashton Smith. 
 
Munich Helles - 4A.
Arches Brewing Heritage Helles Lager.
SECOND PLACE
- Golden color; clear; beautiful white foam; mild aromas of flowers, honey and pilsner malt; flavor notes of honeysuckle, light jasmine, just a hint of corn.
 

German-style Landbier/Kellerbier - 7C Pale Kellerbier.
Good Word Brewing & Public House Chronovisor Landbier.
THIRD PLACE
- Brilliant clarity; gorgeous golden color; herbal note; grassy, hoppy nose; flavors of flowers, hops, light citrus, pleasant bitterness, egg white hint; sulfur hint; ends dry, clean and hoppy. 
  

Marzen - BJCP 6A.
Tucker Brewing Company Tucktoberfest Marzen Lager.
- Spot-on copper color for style; excellent clarity; good head retention; maple and caramel nuances; dark toasted bread; herbal; grassy; cracker-like note; nice dry finish. 
 

Helles Bock - BJCP 4C.
Creature Comforts / Burial Beer Company Culture Keeper Maibock.
- Hint of chill haze; attractive golden color and white foam; floral hops; citrus hint; grassy; flavors of sweet malt, sugar, pale malt; hoppy finish is pleasant but may be too much for style; quite floral; finish seems a bit too bitter for this malty style. 
 

New World Cider - BJCP C1A.
Urban Tree Fan Cider.
- Nice gold color with light carbonation; apple note dominates; fruity; clean; hint of dark sugar and acidity; well-balanced between sweetness and apple nuances; lovely apple note comes through mid-palate; dry finish; refreshing; simple, yet pleasant and elegant. 
 
 
American IPA - BJCP 21A.
Creature Comforts Tropicalia India Pale Ale.
- Deep gold color; slight haze; aromas of candied oranges, citrus, pine resin and dank hops; good malt/hop balance; clean malt goes well with rich hops and mild bitterness; nice dry finish; bold citrus and piney hops are the star of this IPA. 
 

Double IPA - BJCP 22A.
Akademia Brewing Parallel Shift West Coast Style DIPA.
- Quite hazy and opaque; dark gold/orange color; nose seems like candy sugar, earthy malt, light caramel hint; flavors of earthy malt, orange, apricot, tropical fruits and hops. 
 

Doppelbock - BJCP 9A.
Birds Fly South Ale Project Sometimes Goats.
- Great clarity; deep tan head with nice retention; brown/mahogany color with a ruby/orange hue; aromas of chocolate, raisins, prunes, dates, dark sugar; flavors of leather, dark sugar, cherry hint, light fruit; hint of alcohol warmth; melanoidin finish balanced with a hint of hops; dark, toasty malts; slightly bitter finish. 
 

Schwarzbier - BJCP 8B.
Wild Heaven Beer Schwarz Helmet.
- Dark brown color that's almost black; good clarity; light tan head; aromas of roasted malt, coffee, hint of dark sugar and caramel; flavors come across as moderate; dark malt; roasted malt is soft on the finish; pleasing bitterness in the end from dark malts and light hops; nice and dry; a great dark lager. 
 

American Barleywine - BJCP 22C.
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine 2021.
FIRST PLACE
- This amazing barleywine was voted best beer of the bunch. Mahogany color; dark auburn; deep amber/copper hue; aromas of dark caramel, lots of American hops, raisins, leather, pine, wood; flavors of massive hops and clean, rich malt; well-rounded and packed with flavor; not harsh at all; hop character is outstanding; beautiful, long hop finish; a big, bold, breathtaking beer. 
 

Imperial Stout - BJCP 20C.
Bold Monk Brother Ivan.
- Deep black hue with a dark tan head; small amount of particulate matter in the beer; aromas of spice, roasted malt, smoke hint, dark cocoa, bitter chocolate, Maduro cigars and subtle fruit. Flavors of dark malt; dark bitter chocolate; anise and chocolate candy. Luscious, full mouthfeel. 
 

Imperial Stout with vanilla, chai, coffee and oatmeal - BJCP 20C.
Terrapin Vanilla Chai Late Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout 2020 Reserve.
- Deep black color with dark head. Aromas of green coffee and roasted malts. Flavors reminiscent of peppers, chai latte, spices, dark sugar, viscous oatmeal, caramel and dark sugar. Ends sweet with a warming alcohol hint.