Tuning my cask for Brew Your Cask Off cask ale festival
After my last insipid, yet bizarre, entry into the competition for the SweetWater Brewing Co’s’ Brew Your Cask Off Cask Ale Festival (March 5th, SweetWater Brewery, 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm), the powers that be suggested I should pair up with some talent, like their brewer maybe? Was it that obvious?
Steve Farace, marketing gonzo from SweetWater, suggested I call Adam Beauchamp and see if we could produce something that, if not winning a medal, would at least be enjoyable to drink. As one of about 80 entrants I do have some bragging rights on the line and the Atlanta beer crowd is a tough bunch.
Here is our communication about building a cask of, hopefully, delicious beer.
On Jan 6, 2011 Daniel Bradford left a voice mail
Adam, this is Daniel Bradford. Your guy has put us together to help me do a better job with my cask this year than the nightmare I made last year. The bitch of it was, it wasn’t good enough to place in the top, nor bad enough to place in the bottom.
However, I think it was a great idea that simply got out of control. Perhaps working with you I might be able to realize my vision a lot easier.
Adam, I’ve always been attracted to holiday beers, but thought they were generally overstated. I’d like to capitalize on the softness of the low carbonated cask and craft something very holiday/desert-ish.
What do you think? I’m in Vail right now at the Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywine Festival. You’d be in heaven with this collection of beers.
On Jan 7, 2011, at 1:42 PM, Adam Beauchamp <email@example.com> wrote:
I just listened to your voice mail. I hope you’re enjoying Vail. We still have plenty of time to put your cask recipe together. I like the idea, and I think the porter base beer that we are using would lend itself well to some spicing. I actually made a cask today with the porter and some spruce extract that smelled incredible. Please allow me a little time to do some research and come up with some ideas for your cask. I will call you afterward and we can discuss some options. Is there a specific time that is good for you to talk?
Adam Beauchamp, Brewer, SweetWater Brewing Company
On Jan 7, 2011 at 2:49 PM, Daniel Bradford wrote:
Many thanks for the reply. Spruce and porter sounds fabulous. I, also, have a very old New England heritage (Mayflower!) and ale sounds wonderful. I’m here through the weekend. I have to get to Columbia, SC next Wednesday and Thursday. Otherwise, I am relatively available. Thanks for helping me, Adam. I appreciate it a lot.
Daniel Bradford, Publisher,All About Beer Magazine
On Jan 15, 2011, at 4:02 PM, Adam Beauchamp wrote:
Sorry I’m just getting back to you. We got snowed in here in Georgia and I’m just beginning to think about work again. I thought about your recipe for a while today. I’ve got a couple of suggestions and some rough ideas and I’d like to see if I’m on the right track. I want to present them to you in an email to give them a bit more order. You described a desertish holiday spiced porter originally. Of those spices I think our options are quite diverse for different combinations of allspice, star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg, black pepper, spruce, and vanilla. If you are set on using any of these let me know. From experience with these things, I recommend keeping the recipe simple, especially for the first time brewing it. We should limit ourselves to 2 spices, 3 at most.
The porter that we are using is fairly well attenuated and will need a little boost to come off as a little more rich and desert-like. I would suggest a half-pound of lactose, which will lend body and make the beer a touch richer without running the risk of being cloyingly sweet.
Personally, I think allspice would be a nice ingredient to try. It’s a really warm spice that smells like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves combined. With that I thought it could be interesting to add either dates or figs. A subtle dark fruit component could enhance the chocolaty porter and combined with the allspice should come across as a holiday desert. I think dates would work well because they taste almost like chocolate to me.
Let me know if I need to go back to the drawing board on this one or if you were thinking about something different.
On Jan 17, 2011 at 2:54 PM, Daniel Bradford wrote:
We are so on the same channel. This is exactly what I wanted to do last year, specifically the lactose and allspice. I did want to include star anise, however, and the homebrewers switched out lactose for malt. Then is really started going downhill.
Now the dates, that sounds like an amazingly interesting idea.
This may be over kill, but I can’t help but think it would need a third flavor note to add a bit of excitement. I’m not great here; Adam, but we’ve got a strong floor with the dates, lactose and porter. Then we’re going to round it all out with one spice that sounds like a full range of holiday spices. Could it use something to tease the tongue a bit, with a slight contrast or something? What are your thoughts?
On Jan 17, 2011, at 4:14 PM, Adam Beauchamp wrote:
How about ginger? Its spicy/sweet pungency would compliment what we already have going on but could just put the whole thing over the top. I’ll need to check into the quantities of all these things to ensure that the flavors can be detected but aren’t overbearing.
What do you think?
On Jan 17, 2011 at 3:25 PM, Daniel Bradford vwrote:
That sounds pretty interesting. Is there a way to guess at the amounts to keep it as a counterpoint and not a central, if discordant, element. By the way, have you read Jitterbug Perfume, a novel about making perfume? Pretty interesting. I’m also thinking about how some painters add a drop of color from the other side of the spectrum to add “luminosity” to the image. That’s what I’m thinking about, Adam.
Does my original thinking make sense to you? The strong base from porter, lactose and dates, with the color provided by the allspice. Want me to ask a few friends and see if anyone has some quantity recommendations?
By the way, how are we preparing these? Are we adding them dry, or whole with the dates, to the cask, possibly in a “tea” bag? Or are we going to “cook” them in advance.
On Jan 17, 2011, at 4:44 PM, Adam Beauchamp wrote:
I like the painter analogy. And yes, I think this beer will work well if we can get the balance of these flavors right. I’ve got some pretty good reference material in my home library that I will go through and give some suggestions for concentration. If you know someone with experience brewing something similar it couldn’t hurt to ask. My general philosophy with spiced beers is that any spice should not be too far beyond the threshold of detection. When you get it right people will notice that there is some spice beyond the typical profile of malt, hops and yeast, but not be able to put their finger on exactly what that spice is.
When we make the cask the plan is to put any solid ingredients into a hop bag so they don’t interfere with serving, once tapped. The lactose will need to be dissolved in a small amount of water and boiled. It would be a good idea to add the dates to that boil to kill of any potential spoilage organisms. If possible, we should de-pit and puree the dates as well. We could then pour this mixture through the bag, into the cask, so that the solids remain in the bag.
On Jan 17, 2011 at 5:09 PM, Daniel Bradford wrote:
That sounds perfect. If you notice the spice than there’s too much. I’d like the drinking to be the experience and not the noticing, if that makes sense. The peak experience is when you just know you really enjoy what you’re doing; instead of having so much of something that it distracts you from the experience itself.
But what am I saying, you do this for a living!
On Jan 28, 2011 at 8:08 AM Daniel Bradford wrote:
I heard from a friend about making a tincture. We could add the spices to an alcohol base, extract the flavors and put the resulting extract through a coffee filter. Then test the extract with the porter in a graduated test tube and extrapolate the addition. My friend says this may be overly scientific, but a little spice can go a long way, and much is stripped out during fermentation. I’ll give you a shout.
On Wed. Jan 26, 2011 at 12:06 PM Adam Beauchamp wrote:
Funny! I got your message yesterday but I was working in the noisy factory at SW until 10. I like the idea, but it doesn’t work for the TTB (the federal agency that regulates breweries). We could go the same route without the alcohol and use a precise scale to replicate a couple different levels of spices in the porter, say in a growler. I could have 2 growlers ready on cask day that we could try together and go from there. I could put the dates and lactose in these as well. The beer would be very similar to what the finished product would taste like. If neither growler is right, at least we would have a better frame of reference.
On Jan 31, 2011 at 9:42 AM Daniel Bradford wrote:
Sounds like a plan, Adam. I’ll get to Atlanta Friday Feb 11th in time for our brew time of 2:00 PM. I’ll get over to the brewery much earlier so we can test these growlers ahead of time. What shall we name it? Adam’s All About Beer Holiday Cask?