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
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." 
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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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.