Monday, November 21, 2011

Of Horses and Ships

My good friend Max over at Pivni Filosof is asking the following question today on his blog:

"If you had a brewery with a capacity of 3-5hl a batch, what sort of beer would you have as your "workhorse"* and which would be your "flagship" and why?"

As a beer lover and homebrewer it is the kind of question which inevitably crops up fairly often, usually though in the context of the kinds of brews that would form the core range. Having to decide though on two beers to really be the heart of the line up is more challenging.

As with any business plan, it is important to consider your market and what they expect when they drink beer from your brewery. It would be all too simple to say, I live in America therefore I need a big hoppy pale ale. You have to remember that I live in Virginia, and so what are the local beer tastes? Given the success of the core ranges of Devils Backbone, Starr Hill and Blue Mountain, one thing is clear - lager has a following in this neck of the woods.

Again it would be too simple to extraoplate from that and give in to my love of Czech lagers by making my workhorse something akin to Budvar or the magnificent Kout na Šumavě desitka. I am not convinced that the majority of the American public really understand pilsner lagers, equating them with brands like Miller and Budweiser.

Dark lagers though are very much taken to, if our experience of brewing Morana and the Barclays London Dark Lager at Devils Backbone was anything to go on. Both 10 hectolitre batches sold out in less than a month if I recall. Thus I would  make my workhorse beer a Czech tmavé.

As for my flagship beer, I think this is the right venue for allowing my preferences more rein, and so this decision is easier in many ways, though my market still needs to be considered. I love history and brewing beers based on recipes from years gone by, so my flagship beer would be something from the 19th century, some from Scotland perhaps, something to confound the expectations of know it all beer bores who think Scottish beer is all about sweetness and a lack of hops. I would recreate William Younger's 140/- ale from 1868, which Ron Pattinson wrote about.

So there you go, a dark lager and a historic beer to mess with peoples preconceived notions of a nation's brewing traditions.

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