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Brewer Q & A – Spring 2016 (Issue 23)

For beers that receive a score of "Excellent" or above (91+), we've asked the brewer a few questions regarding that beer's origins.

97 Rating – DESTIHL Brewery – Wild Sour Series: Flanders Red

Responses from DESTIHL's founder and brewmaster Matt Potts.

Who came up with this beer's recipe?
I did.

What’s your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, etc.)? 
Flanders Red is a unique representation of this style with deep flavors of tart cherries, making it one of the more unique canned sours on the market.

Where does this beer’s name come from? 
The Wild Sour Series as a whole gets its name from the fact that we have never purchased a sour culture from a lab, and that our wild microflora strain used in all of our sour beers was naturally cultured from the local terroir.

Is this your "desert island beer?"
Our Wild Sour beers could also make great desert island beers since we would not need a microflora culture shipped by lab to brew the beers on the island and could just use what was naturally on the island to ferment our beers. 

Can you describe this beer in 10 words or less?
A combination of tart cherries, complex malt and bold acidity.

Photo Credit: Illinois Craft Brewers Guild


97 Rating – Great Divide Brewing Co. – Espresso Oak Aged Yeti

Responses from Great Divide's founder Brian Dunn.

Who came up with this beer's recipe?
Espresso Oak Aged Yeti's reciped was developed by Ryan Fox, Great Divide's Director of Brewery Operations.

What’s your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, etc.)? 
I love the coffee, and I also like what the oak does to mellow out the rough edges of the beer.

Where does this beer’s name come from? 
We came up with the Yeti name a long time ago. I think the beer and the name are a perfect fit. The name really represents what the beer is all about: big, bold and elusive.

Is this your "desert island beer?"
If I was stuck on a desert island, I would want more than just this one beer because I like to mix things up a little.

Can you describe this beer in 10 words or less?
Coffee notes with big roasty malt character and oak overtones.

Do you know a story – or have a personal story – that revolves around this beer?
Ground coffee can be hard to manage in the brewery. One year, we packed a 2-inch stainless pipe with ground espresso – packed it so hard, in fact, that it took hours of work to get it unplugged.

Photo Credit: Great Divide Brewing Co.


96 Rating – Heavy Seas Beer – 20 Year Storm

Responses from Heavy Seas' brewmaster Christopher Leonard.

Who came up with this beer's recipe?
It was a group effort. While I made the final decisions on the details, the general idea throughout the brewery was to brew a more potent version of Winter Storm as an homage to the beer that was the first-ever beer branded with the "Heavy Seas" moniker. I decided to use imported Optic malt as the base, tweak the hops more towards an English balance (Winter Storm is a decidedly American-hopped beer) and our Brewing Team Leader, Chris Schultz, suggested the bourbon barrel-aging.

What’s your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, etc.)? 
The balance is what I find most appealing. All of the components came together even better than I had hoped  the nutty English malt, the herbaceous English hops with just the right amount of American hop assertiveness, vanilla and oak from the barrel-aging and the surprising drinkability despite the beer's considerable heft and ABV strength. It's a very harmonious beer.

Where does this beer’s name come from? 
As I mentioned, Winter Storm, our 8% ABV fall/winter seasonal, was the first ever "Heavy Seas" beer. Couple that with our 20th Anniversary in 2015 and the name was self-evident.

Is this your "desert island beer?"
Only if I were on a desert island in the North Sea.

Can you describe this beer in 10 words or less?
Bold, adventurous, caramel, vanilla, oaky, slightly boozy, rich yet drinkable.

Do you know a story – or have a personal story – that revolves around this beer?
This beer almost didn't get made. We had a substantial increase in our portfolio for 2015 in which we added more than eight new products. Also, we increased our production by almost 20 percent. So, there were some internal discussions mid-year about whether we could even execute this beer the way we wanted. If we weren't going to be able to barrel-age it and/or condition it for (what I deemed) a sufficient period of time, we were going to scrap the project. Fortunately, our production team was determined to honor the accomplishment Hugh Sisson has reached with 20 years of Heavy Seas beers. We're probably as proud of this beer as any we've ever made.

Photo Credit: Tristan Gilbert


96 Rating – Avery Brewing Co. – Vanilla Bean Stout

Responses from Avery's "Barrel Professor" Travis Rupp.

Who came up with this beer's recipe?
Three years ago our Special Projects department was playing around with a couple of beers and ended up creating a flavor combination we knew we had to bottle. For the sake of experimentation, we filled a few fresh Bourbon barrels with Czar Imperial Stout and a few more with Out of Bounds Stout.

While each project was decent, neither was great... the less astringent malt bill of The Czar left some lingering heat, while the roasted malt in Out of Bounds accentuated the charred oak. We began a series of blind tasting sessions to see if we could come up with a blending ratio that improved both beers. After a few blind panels, it looked like a blend of 2/3 Czar and 1/3 Out of Bounds Stout. 

Everyone loved the blend, but the Bourbon barrels still imparted a bit too much charred oak flavor and astringency. Thoma Ledder, our Barrel Romancer, had the idea to balance those harsh flavors with vanilla beans. In the next blind panel, it was unanimous that the blend with vanilla helped the Bourbon and charred oak notes shine without allowing them to overpower the beer. As we do with our smaller experiments, we tapped this beer in the Avery Tap Room to gather feedback from employees and customers. The night it went on tap, Adam Avery drank four pints of it and then ran up to our brewers and said, "We have to bottle this." Eventually we moved into our new beer palace and had the capacity to work on our dream projects, so we blended the malt bills from Czar and OBS, acquired an absurd amount of Bourbon barrels, and went to town. 

What’s your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, etc.)? 
We’re proud of the fact that we didn't just buy the first vanilla beans or extract we could find and throw them in the beer. Instead we tried eleven different kinds of vanilla beans, split them by hand, infused them into kegs of Czar, and had them repeatedly blind-tasted through our sensory panel until we had a handful of runaway winners. So when we were ready to go big and fill the first 300 Bourbon barrels of this beer, we felt completely confident that this combination of flavors would be great.

Where does this beer’s name come from? 
There was definitely some debate on this name, as some of us wanted to come up with something more exotic. But we're also trying to make this beer year-round to introduce more people to the wonderful world of barrel-aging. The one-off beers in our Barrel-Aged Series have unpronounceable Latin names because those beers are the most experimental beers produced in our experimental brewery, and because it's entertaining to watch people try to pronounce them. But the beers in our Botanicals & Barrels Series are the product of our decade of experience in barrel-aging, and we're finally to the point where we feel we can make consistent barrel-aged beers. And sometimes you're at a bar and don't want to jump through flaming hoops to figure out what you're going to order next. You can look at the menu, close one eye to solidify things, and know that you're about to buy a barrel-aged stout with vanilla beans. As it says on the labels, "Simply Named ~ Complex Creation."

Is this your "desert island beer?"
When I drink a bomber of Vanilla Bean Stout, my chest hair instantly turns into a shag carpet. Is that good for a desert island? I would think so.

Can you describe this beer in 10 words or less?
Vanillatastic. Beany. Stouty. Smooth. Boom.

Photo Credit: Avery Brewing Co.

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