UPDATE: Check out photos from our brewing session over on our Facebook Page.
–> CLICK HERE! (photo gallery)
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At the time of writing this article, I’m eagerly awaiting our departure to Atlanta for their annual Brew Your Cask Off party. My excitement isn’t owed solely to this being one of the country’s biggest and best cask ale festivals… it’s also because for the second year in a row we were invited to make a beer for the occasion.
BYCO – its abbreviated name – is an opportunity for all of us armchair quarterbacks who represent the beer industry through bars, distributors and publications to get weird with a beer if they like. With adjunct ingredients ranging from dried blueberries to wasabi (I kid you not!), guest brewers have a tendency to see how far off the deep end they can go.
Last year, I wanted to stay sensible but noticeable with my beer. The combination of porter, cocoa powder and nibs, vanilla bean, ancho chili powder and agave nectar seemed like a lock for the win. Somehow, the ancho powder overwhelmed the other flavors and delivered a lingering chili tingle. Oops. At least I didn’t get last place in judging. That lucky soul has to wear a gold-painted lavatory seat for the rest of the party.
The boss overheard my planning for this year’s beer and decided, because I wrecked last year’s, that he wanted a shot at a recipe. Fair enough… what’ve you got?
Japanese Mochi cake.
Ex-squeeze me? Mochi cake, what’s that? In this instance, it’s a red bean paste wrapped in a glutinous rice flour coating. Savory and sweet, this just might be odd enough to work!
We brought our own cooked red beans, jasmine green tea and mugwort – an ancient herbal antiseptic used in beer before hops were discovered – to replicate the flavors of the cake. Pale Belgian candy sugar and Trappist high-gravity ale yeast completed the batch of brown ale. Now, we wait and see how it turns out.
Inspired by their own maverick Dank Tank beer series, BYCO is a celebration of outside-of-the-box execution to the tune of over 100 cask offerings. Before I get too carried away this Saturday, I think I’ll warm up with a Dank Tank to get in the mood.
The current release is called Red Hot Mama. A fairly potent red ale at 8.6%, it pours up copper-rust brown with some shimmering scarlet highlights around the edges. Spicy, herbal hops greet the nose with copious amounts of pine needle, tropical fruit and grapefruit zest while a big malt bill has it smelling like fresh apple-spice cake, biscuit and caramel. Brown sugar, bread crust and toffee sweetness is kept in check by a quick rush of orange, mint and citrus with a curious, almost peanut brittle-like flavor finish.
Cheers to Sweet Water for their daring beer and generous brewing parties! Fingers crossed for the win!