Saturday, October 25, 2008

2008 Scotch Ale & Really Old Brown Dog

Well, it looks like we’ve made it through the Summer of Sans Hops. We received our first shipment of 2008 harvested Cascades last week and it was almost enough to make this old brewer cry. The initial reports are of a bumper crop and it looks like we’ve turned the corner on the hop shortage. Of course the prices haven’t come down yet, but I guess expensive hops are better than no hops. Even though new hops are slowly arriving we’re still have a few malt forward beers lined up in the Big Beer Series.

Right now we have our Scotch Ale bottled and in the stores. This is a classic Scottish style ale which we’ve brewed with a touch of smoked grain. Last year we tried peat smoked malt, but returned this year to a beech wood smoked malt as we felt it added a smoother character.

Next up will be the long awaited return of the Really Old Brown Dog Ale. This beer was initially brewed in honor of our friend and mascot, the late Olive Francis Egelston. The original batch was more in the vein of a brown porter / old ale. We’ve revised the recipe to be more like an old ale / English barleywine. It’s fermenting away right now and smells amazing. We’re planning on finishing the beer with a few weeks on some port soaked oak chips. I have really high hopes for this beer and can’t wait to check out the blend of big malt notes with the port wood. As we head into winter here in New England I can only imagine how great this beer will be on a cold evening. You should be able to see this beer in stores by mid-December.



Friday, September 12, 2008

Working through the Hops Shortage

So it seems that the experiment with strategic hopping of our Big A IPA worked out well. I think that beer came out great and we’ve been hearing real positive feedback. I’ll be heading down to the Publick House in Brookline for the 5th Annual HopHead ThrowDown this Saturday to personally see how the Big A stands up to this countries best DIPA’s. Man, do I ever stop working? It’s tough, but dern it, someone’s gotta do it.

Luckily we got our creative hop juices flowing as we’re starting to make some changes to our Finest Kind as certain varieties become scarce. After dropping an obscene amount of money we were able to secure an extra amount of Magnum so our bittering addition hasn’t changed too much. We’ve decided to use some Super Styrians as a substitute for the Simcoes we were adding with the Magnums in the bittering addition. This was mostly done to save the Simcoes for the flavoring additions where that hop can really shine. As Simcoes are incredibly tight right now we’ve starting blending some Centennials into the flavor additions. We’ll run out of those and start to look at Summits, Glaciers, and Nuggets depending on what kind of horse trading (or straight up theft) we can do. Our whirlpool addition changed a bit as well as we’re now blending Cascades, EKG’s with the Santiams we’ve always used. The dry hopping has remained the same with Amarillos adding their distinctive aroma. The first batch is tasting great and should be out in the stores in the next few weeks. As we get closer to harvest and supplies run low we may have to make some other changes. It’s certainly been a challenging year but thankfully early indications are pointing to a great hop harvest this year. Maybe even a bumper crop. Hopefully that happens but we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed.


Note, Dave's post was originally written in mid-July. Recent signs point to an excellent hop harvest, which is taking place at this very moment, but there is still a good deal of uncertainty in the market. Stay tuned...

Monday, March 31, 2008

Big A IPA - 2008 Edition

It’s Big A IPA time of year again and the fearless brewers at Smuttynose have thrown both caution into wind and a vast amount of their ever dwindling supply of hops into the kettle (and fermentor, and bright tank) for your (and our) lupulinic enjoyment. This was our first beer which required a different approach because of the current hop shortage. 

Typically we would contact our supplier and see what interesting hops were available, usually looking at varieties we hadn’t used before, and make the Big A recipe from that starting point. The twist this year was to see what we had enough supply of in our ’07 contract and then build the beer around those hops. I think we’ve succeeded, though I’ll let ya’ll be the judge of our efforts. For our hopping regime we went with Cascade and Nuggets in the boiling addition. Centennials were added every 5 minutes for the last 30 minutes of the boil. We added Crystals into the whirlpool. Dry hopping was done in both the fermentor after primary fermentation and the bright tank. We used a mixture of Chinook, Nuggets, and Sterlings in the fermentors and whole leaf Centennials in the bright tank. 

Hopefully we won’t have to use this kitchen sink approach too many more times, though it’s certainly an interesting creative exercise as well as a unique insight into what Tod Mott must go through on a fairly regular basis at the Portsmouth Brewery.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Baltic Porter - First Edition

2/6/08 - Baltic Porter - I gotta say that it's been a while since I've been this excited about the upcoming release of a new beer. This is our first attempt at a Baltic Porter and it's been tasting great out of the fermenter. Huge body with lots of fruit notes balanced by dark roasty goodness. We've even been getting hints of licorice which I find intriguing.

Our decision to add this beer to our Big Beer Series was based on having a beautiful label that had already been designed by Miss Teen USA, Joanne Francis. Years ago we released a Winter Porter with a great image of Father Time on the label. That beer eventually evolved into our Robust Porter. The label sat dormant, sadly biding its time (get it?) waiting for another shot in the show. Since I'm always happy to add styles to the Big Beer Series I figured it'd be fairly easy to change Winter to Baltic and we'd get a new beer to brew.

The biggest decision in terms of what we wanted this beer to be was whether to brew an ale or lager. There always seem to be conversations about this in the beer world. We decided to take the lager route and I'm glad we did. It adds a nice twist to the big chewy dark beer. Considering that our Imperial Stout is the next release this will be an interesting comparison to taste the two side by side. I hope ya'll enjoy drinking this beer as much as we liked making it.

Dark Crystal 120
Carastan 35
Chocolate Malt
Black Malt

OG - 22.3° p
TG - 6.6° p
ABV - 8.7%

IBU 40

Bittering - Magnum
Flavoring & Aroma - Liberty