Monday, January 4, 2010

A Challenge to Bloggers/Readers

My somewhat over active brain has been at it again, damned thing really should know when to quieten down and just let me get some sleep. Today's post really comes out of a conversation I had with a colleague from the Starr Hill Brewery yesterday in the tasting room. Sundays are usually seriously quiet and so we have more time to talk, one topic that came up was the kind of range of beers a brewery has, in particular the core brands, using Starr Hill as an example, the core range is as follows:
  • Jomo Lager - a Southern German style lager
  • Amber Ale - an Irish Red Ale
  • Pale Ale - erm, guess what, it's an American Pale Ale
  • Northern Lights - an American India Pale
  • The Love - a hefeweizen
  • Dark Starr - a dry Irish stout
Obviously some breweries have far larger ranges, but I think in general Starr Hill covers the bases of what most people drink in the US. Part of the conversation was what range of beers would we have if we had our own brewery? A challenging thought, especially given all the styles of beer that are out there, but it got me thinking, what kind of beers would I make if I owned a brewery or brewpub - which is in some ways like asking which of the beers I already brew at home would I carry over into a business?

The first thing that I would say is that I would want to push cask ale as much as possible. Having tried the same beer on keg and on cask at a brewpub near Washington DC recently, all I can is that Tandleman knows a thing or two because the cask was infinitely superior. Running concurrent to a commitment to cask ale would be insisting on bottle conditioning. I know of only one brewery that bottle conditions over here (admittedly there are huge gaps in my knowledge of the American scene at the moment), but I think it is no coincidence that Bell's Brewery make my favourite beers at the moment.

As for the range of beers, I would have a core consisting of:
  • Experimental Dark Matter - dark mild, very dark, complex and yet perfectly sessionable
  • Blondynka - a proper pilsner, yes, triple decoction, Saaz hops, only Pilsner malt, at least 45 days lagering
  • Copper Head - a best bitter, like many things British, a much maligned style because it isn't done properly
  • Old Baldy - an American IPA, big malty brew with hops galore, none of your thin hopbominations here
  • Skippy Porter - a smoked chocolate porter, hopped only with Fuggles and it tells
  • 94 - a Dortmund Alt, not a common style over here, but one that I love so it would have to be there
My challenge then to my readers and other bloggers is what kind of beers would you make if you ran or owned a brewery/brewpub? I know a few of my readers already do brew on a commercial scale, what do you think of my line-up?

Happy thinking!!

9 comments:

  1. I arrived here just surfing. Congratulations on Your nice site and best wishes from an Estonian living in Italy

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  2. Thanks for your comment, I hope you come back regularly and read more.

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  3. Ha ha. Me and Boak *might* have had this conversation once or twice in the pub...

    The short answer is, one of each colour at all times, plus some interesting things in bottles.

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  4. I think keg can be good if done properly. Often it is over carbonated and over chilled. Cask, of course, can be fantastic but does suffer from the problem of quality when a number of beers are required to be on at the same time.

    Anyway, your beer lineup sounds great. I bet you would want to try the occasional experimental beer though.

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  5. I could pretty much put 'ditto' under Bailey's comment (except that I wasn't discussing it with Boak). One of each colour sounds good.

    Given a realistic choice I'd want half my own beers and half guest beers (maybe 10-12 taps total?). I'll have a proper lager, sub-4% pale session beer, a good best bitter/ESB (if you can find one), a hoppy 6% IPA and a 5% full-bodied stout. Then obviously a few special brews - DIPA, imperial stout, belgian dubbel, something a little wild... something like that.

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  6. Well for myself, and this is something I may do some day I would certainly pick from the following range of beers I have brewed. These can be found on my blog (use the search)
    Firstly I need a crossover: Blonde Beggar
    Secondly a good session ale, on cask or naturally conditioned keg: Quaff (English bitter/pale ale).
    Thirdly a spicy Wit: An Bán Oráiste
    I also need a stout: Cloaked stranger is a perfect example.

    These would be the four staple beers that I would (for the moment) have to brew and keep on tap. After that I would have other yet to be decided/brewed beers.

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  7. I've often thought of this...
    It's clear to me my beers would run awfully dark.
    I would start with...

    -Dunkelweizen or Weizenbock (I'm not much of a hefe or wit fan)
    -At least a Wee Heavy, and possibly several other Scottish ales.
    -Robust Porter
    -India Pale Ale
    -Abbey Dubbel
    -Crossover/Light Beer would be toughest for me. Maybe an Oktoberfest or Vienna, but since even those might be too heavy for the light beer crowd, a Cream Ale or maybe even a well made American Pale Lager.

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  8. Dave,

    Agree entirely that kegged beers are often overly fizzy. On the quality of the cask issue, I am not sufficiently fundamentalist about these things to be adverse to using a cask breather, if it extends the life of the beer.

    ToA/Dan

    I often wonder if having a "crossover" beer shows a lack of belief in one's products as much as it is a way of bringing non-craft drinkers into the fold? I wonder how many breweries with that crossover option end up with that beer being their best seller because people get no further than the blonde ale that is really not that different from the Budweiser/Carling/Heineken they were drinking before.

    Obviously I would have a rotating range of specials, tying in various times of the year:

    - Wee Heavy for St Andrew's Day through to Burns Night
    - Imperial Stout for January - February
    - Lime Wit for summer
    - Annual vintage barley wine a la Fullers Vintage

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  9. man, what beer geek hasn't mulled over that one!
    Well, when the Birdsong Brewery taphouse opens I'd have to have three taps devoted to perfectly quaffable session beers. True session beers at or under 5% ABV covering a range of UK, US and Belgian styles. Surfin' Bird saison, Birdhouse brown, Bird Dog porter, Early bird oat stout... stuff along those lines. I'd then have 2 seasonal/special "Backyard Beauties" (many of these will be on the funky/sour side), 1 completely funky experimental "test pilot" tap (hmmm, all brett and pedio fermented cherry chipotle chilli stout anyone?.. could call it Firebird), 1 "migratory" guest tap and 1 guest traditional lambic on handpull. 8 taps in total should be managable (2 guest and 6 own brews).

    There would of course be some bottled Birdsong experiments/specials. No permanent guest bottles but taking a page out of Alvinne's book I would offer a 3 or 4 bottle themed tasters menu featuring only guest beers (Perhaps a US sours theme until it runs out then beers from Thornbridge until they run out, and so on and so forth).

    Being this is Belgium I'd have to have at least a short list of wines.. yeah.. sad huh? However I'd only offer US wines plus one or two Birdsong meads.

    The place of my dreams would not be complete without food though. I'd have to have my ultimate charcoal and wood fired kitchen turning out some stellar fire-kissed food. Imagine chic and refined Belgian/french cuisine head-locked by american brashness in the form of southern barbecue. Yeah, that needs some more working out. So anybody want to throw some money at this?... anyone? No?... Ok I'll shut up now.

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