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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.

 


95 Rating – Brooklyn Brewery – Black Ops

Responses from Brooklyn Brewery's founder and brewmaster Garrett Oliver.

Who came up with this beer's recipe?
The recipe is mine. We're often asked whether this beer is a "barrel-aged version of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout." And the answer to that is definitely not  it's very different.

What’s your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, etc.)? 
That it manages to be powerful, complex and elegant at the same time. Black Ops is not a big, sweet, cloying sledgehammer of booziness. All of the flavors are well-married and intertwined in a really pleasant way, and the barrel character is fully integrated with the beer. I think that's the key to successful barrel-aging.

Where does this beer’s name come from? 
Back in 2006, I wanted to make a barrel-aged beer, but I only planned to make about 150 cases. The sales team told me that this was far too little, and that it would just get them in trouble with retailers. They said it would be better if I didn't produce the beer at all. So we brewed it anyway, without telling anyone at the company. So it was called "Black Ops" because it was actually a secret for about six months. We gave everyone at the company a free case during the holidays that year we actually didn't sell it the first year.

Is this your "desert island beer?"
That would have to be a pretty chilly desert island. Maybe I would take Black Ops to a "dessert island" instead! No, I think for a desert island I'd go with our Sorachi Ace, which is very drinkable and versatile. I think Black Ops is beautiful, but it's more of an "occasion beer."

Can you describe this beer in 10 words or less?
Silky, powerful, voluptuous, complex, balanced, structured, elegant, and surprisingly agile.

Do you know a story – or have a personal story – that revolves around this beer?
After we gave away the first batch to our employees, I started to run into people who would lean in towards me and say in a near-whisper, "I've had Black Ops." It would turn out that they had some close connection to the brewery maybe a friend of a family member worked there. So the "buzz" about the beer grew organically until we decided that we needed to try and brew enough to sell. The other interesting story, which we have on very good authority, is that Seal Team Six actually drinks Black Ops for toasts. That's pretty cool.

Photo Credit: Brooklyn Brewery


95 Rating – Smartmouth Brewing Co. – Alter Ego

Responses from Smartmouth's president Porter Hardy.

Who came up with this beer's recipe?
The basis for this recipe came from a mix of historical research I did on Belgian farmhouse ales and several group tastings of test batches to find just the right yeast strain. It is very true historically to a non-sour version of a saison. We use German malt, German, French and Slovenian hops and Belgian yeast  all of which would have been available in 1800s Belgium.  

What’s your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, etc.)? 
I love the versatility of this beer. It’s a great beer to pair with foods  anything from smoked sausage to seafood to stinky cheese  because it has a wide range of flavors but still manages to be refreshing without overpowering your palate.

Where does this beer’s name come from? 
It's a call to arms for everyone to embrace their inner alter ego. I left my job as a lawyer to embrace my inner brewer and each of our other partners and employees have followed their own passion for craft beer to be apart of Smartmouth. 

Is this your "desert island beer?"
Oh, that's really hard. It might just be since it goes so well with seafood and is great when the weather turns hot!

Can you describe this beer in 10 words or less?
It’s effervescent, peppery, fruity, refreshing and dry.

Do you know a story – or have a personal story – that revolves around this beer?
While the brewery was still under construction we brewed a whole bunch of batches in one of our driveways to get the recipes nailed down. We instituted a sort of March Madness of brewing where we’d take 20 gallons of wort and pitch four different saison yeasts into four different fermenters then have a blind tasting. The two winners would get pitted against two more yeasts and so forth until we had a winner. Those are still some of my favorite memories.

Photo Credit: Ashley Lester


95 Rating – Oskar Blues Brewery – Death By Coconut

Responses from Oskar Blues' head brewer Tim Matthews.

Who came up with this beer's recipe?
This beer's recipe was formulated by former Lyons brewer Jason Buehler in collaboration with Shamrock Brewing.

What’s your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, etc.)? 
The chocolate flavor, which comes from Cholaca. That was great to work with.

Where does this beer’s name come from? 
It's a play on Death by Chocolate, since this is a chocolate coconut porter.

Is this your "desert island beer?"
Our special seasonals are for special occasions. One can has plenty of satisfaction. I would want to bring something more sessionable to a desert island.

Can you describe this beer in 10 words or less?
Delicious and crisp chocolate-covered beer candy.

Do you know a story – or have a personal story – that revolves around this beer?
Making Death by Coconut has been a wild ride. From a successful collaboration to a GABF silver medal to the challenges of production brewing, in the end, what we all think about when drinking this beer are the strained forearms and sore backs from hauling the bags of dessicated coconut into and out of the large tanks where we steep the beer.

Photo Credit: Oskar Blues Brewery


95 Rating – SanTan Brewing Co. – Grapefruit Shandy

Responses from SanTan's brewmaster Anthony Canecchia.

Who came up with this beer's recipe?
Gabe Wilson, Head Brewer , sourced local grown AZ Grapefruit from Sun Orchard.

What’s your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, etc.)? 
We love that Shandy has a tart and refreshing flavor but still tastes like a beer.

Where does this beer’s name come from? 
A slang term SanTan borrowed from Europeans that would mix beer and fruit soda/juice.  Popularized by Cyclists in order to re-hydrate after long rides. 

Is this your "desert island beer?"
It's our desert island, mainland, peninsula, isthmus and archipelago beer!!!

Can you describe this beer in 10 words or less?
A tart, refreshing spring and summer alternative to boring beer.

Do you know a story – or have a personal story – that revolves around this beer?
I lived in San Diego in 2004 and would cycle about 100-140 miles weekly.  After a long ride I would get back to Ocean Beach and chain my bike up at Sunshine Company on Newport.  I would order a small pitcher of fizzy yellow beer , a pitcher of soda water and as many lemons as the bartender would let me get away with taking then blend them in a pint and watch the green flash at sunset from the second story balcony.

Photo Credit: SanTan Brewing Co.


95 Rating – Terrapin Beer Co. – Poivre Potion

Responses from Terrapin's brewmaster and co-founder Spike Buckowski.

Who came up with this beer's recipe?
This is actually a recipe from our Homebrew Team Competition from January 2015. Each year at our Terrapin holiday party (held in January), we divide employees into teams and they brew a beer. The winner is featured as a side project!

What’s your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, etc.)? 
The surprising taste of pink peppercorns. It adds a nice complexity to the beer.

Where does this beer’s name come from? 
Poivre is “Pepper” in French. The Homebrew Team came up with it themselves!

Is this your "desert island beer?"
That’s a tough one. It’s maybe a little too high on ABV side to be a “desert island beer.”

Can you describe this beer in 10 words or less?
Complex, spicy, alcoholic warmth, with passion fruit notes.

Do you know a story – or have a personal story – that revolves around this beer?
Part of the homebrew competition involves skits – in an effort to describe their beer in an entertaining way. The team that made Poivre also made a video where they were all running around, wearing ascots and talking in bad French accents about how great the beer was (there was also some dancing involved)!

Photo Credit: Justin Evans


95 Rating – Grand Teton Brewing Co. – Double Vision Doppelbock

Responses from Grand Teton's brewmaster Rob Mullin.

Who came up with this beer's recipe?
This one's mine. My first professional brewing job was at Old Dominion Brewing Company in Ashburn, Virginia, which was primarily a lager brewery. While there, I learned from two of the best brewers I know: John Mallett (now with Bell's Brewing) and Ron Barchet (Victory Brewing.) Ron had studied at Weinstephan, the Bavarian state brewing school, and had very strong opinions about lager brewing techniques. His and John's bottling-line discussions about the merits of decoction versus infusion mashing are my seminal brewing memories. Though Grand Teton Brewing Company is primarily an ale brewery, we've brewed a strong lager every winter as long as I've been here. It's my tribute to the brewers who taught me most of what I know.

What’s your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, etc.)? 
I was drawn to imported and microbrewed beer in the late eighties because of malt. Long before I learned to appreciate bitterness in beer I loved the traditionally malty flavors created by small brewers at the time. One of my first favorites was Samichlaus, the strongest beer in the world then at 14 percent ABV. Though nowhere near as strong as that classic, Double Vision's malt profile reminds me of my early love affair with malt. Double Vision's yeast is from a monastery brewery near Munich, and it works extremely slowly at a very cold fermentation temperature, ensuring that the smooth sweetness comes through with just a hint of alcohol. That's what I love about the Samichlaus, too.

Where does this beer’s name come from? 
When we first brewed this beer it was called Illuminator Doppelbock, following the tradition of 'ator names for doppelbocks. We later discovered several other beers by the same name, so we changed ours. All the good 'ator names we could come up with were already taken, so we went with the alliterative and evocative Double Vision instead.

Is this your "desert island beer?"
If that desert island were an Arctic ice floe, then absolutely! It's my all-time favorite winter warmer.

Can you describe this beer in 10 words or less?
Toffee, cocoa, raisins, molasses, and brown bread in liquid form. 

Do you know a story – or have a personal story – that revolves around this beer?
We were recently gratified to learn that one beer ratings website lists this as the number 7 doppelbock in the world. I'd love to take credit for that, but the truth is we've cheated. Our brewery water is Teton Mountain glacial runoff, filtered through Teton granite and limestone over the course of 300-500 years before it bubbles up at a spring a half mile from the brewery. When I got here in '02, I wanted to brew with that water in its pure, untreated form. Our goal is not to mimic styles from great brewing cities around the world, but to brew Teton Valley beer. As luck would have it, our local water fresh from the spring is much like Munich's water. So it's easy for us to brew Munich-style beers. We're using German malt, yeast, hops – and even Munich water!

Photo Credit: Constance Mullin

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