Friday, August 29, 2014

Chocolate Wheat – Badger State Brewing

                Badger State Brewing, Green Bay’s newest brewery is in the process of brewing a few test batches on their pilot system to expand their lineup a bit and branch out into beers that defy the traditional style definitions.  One such beer is the chocolate wheat, a new beer that Brewmaster Sam Yanda is working to perfect.  With craft breweries ever in the process of pushing traditional style guidelines I suppose it was only a matter of time for chocolate wheat beers to make their way onto the scene.  Since this is still an experimental brew, there may be a few changes to the recipe before it gets brewed on the new, 15 barrel system, but here are my notes.

They Say:

                According to Brewmaster Sam Yanda: Chocolate Wheat is a straight forward wheat recipe w/ chocolate malt and cocoa powder added. The mash temp is lower to give it a light body, than say a porter or stout. Real easy drinking dark beer.

I Say:

                Chocolate Wheat pours a deep, dark black with a moderately thick almost mousse-like dark tan head that holds excellent retention (although notice the radically different head formation in each of the three glasses…Yes, glass shape does matter) .  It has the look more of a stout served under nitrogen than a wheat beer with the addition of chocolate malts, the kicker being that it was poured out of a growler 3 days after it was filled.  The aroma has subtle notes of roasted barley on the front end with a hint of coffee and earthy cocoa nibs.  The earthiness transitions to a subtle smokiness and then a rich, full cocoa powder note on the back end with just a hint of vanilla.  The aroma rising off the glass was vaguely reminiscent of a high end hot chocolate.

                Enjoying the first sip, I am greeted by an extremely smooth concoction with very strong up from notes of milk chocolate with a slight hint of roasted barley.  The subtle barley notes lead the transition to a deep full, dark chocolate flavor, like an 80% chocolate truffle.  There is the slightest note of astringency, perhaps from the cocoa nibs.   The beer dries on the back end with a long lingering dark chocolate finish.  Chocolate wheat is medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

                The chocolate wheat test batch from Badger State Brewing is pretty amazing beer.  The combination of the chocolate malt and cocoa nibs with a wheat beer base works surprisingly well.

                That’s all for tonight, I will get another review up next week!  Have a great weekend and Happy Drinking! 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sheep Eater Scotch Ale – Grand Teton Brewing Co.

                The latest Cellar Reserve beer from Grand Teton Brewing Company was released this past Friday, August 15th; although it may still be another couple weeks before we see a bottle this far east.  The third beer in the 2014 Cellar Reserve series is the Sheep Eater Scotch Ale, a beer which originally debuted in the 2009 Cellar Reserve series and has become the more requested Cellar Reserve release in the years since.  I personally enjoy the Cellar Reserve series and look forward to each new release.

                I was fortunately able to get ahold of Grand Teton Brewmaster Rob Mullin to get his take on Sheep Eater so be sure to check that out at the bottom of the “They Say” section.  It’s always great to get additional information direct from the brewmaster.

                Over the next few weeks I am sure that ratings for the 2014 release of Sheep Eater will start to roll in on the two major ratings sites.  The previous release scored a 90 on Beeradvocate and received a 92 from the Bros.  Over at ratebeer it received a 97 overall and a 95 for style.  On to the review!

They Say:

Sheep Eater Scotch Ale was first brewed in 2009 and has become our Cellar Reserve most-requested for a comeback. Scotland's cold, blustery climate lends itself to the growing of barley and oats but not to the production of hops, which are almost always added sparingly. In order to create depth and diversity in the beers brewed in Scotland, malts were roasted and kilned to help bring out hidden flavors.

Scotch Ales are some of the world's most flavorful beers. The specially roasted and kilned malts used in the mash impart roasted, caramel, and raisin sweetness to the flavor profile. Our ale is brewed with black roasted barley and peat-smoked malt, adding even more complexity to the palate. It is gently hopped, fermented cool and aged cold for exceptional smoothness. The result is a copper-brown color and a pleasant mouthfeel and body.

We ferment this beer colder than most ales ferment so that we do not risk producing any flavors driven by yeast-produced esters. Instead, we want the malt to shine through and provide all the wonderful flavors Sheep Eater has to offer.

Drink this beer at cellar temperatures between 47-57 degrees Fahrenheit. The strong dark malts and high levels of alcohol will make this beer an ideal candidate for prolonged cellaring. Enjoy this beer with flavorful meats such as honey ham, well-marinated and grilled steaks, and roasted root vegetables lightly seasoned with salt. With dessert, try crème brûlée and a side of berries; the light and airy texture of the crème brûlée and tartness of the berries will balance nicely with the thick, sweet mouthfeel of Grand Teton Brewing’s Sheep Eater Scotch Ale.

Alcohol by Volume: 7.5%.
Original Gravity (Plato): 22˚
Color (Lovibond): 20˚
IBUs: 21

Sheep Eater Scotch Ale will be available August 15, 2014 in 1/2 and 1/6 bbl kegs and bottle-conditioned 750 mL cases.

Brewmaster Rob Mullin adds:

                Sheep Eater is definitely one of my personal favorites. It was originally inspired by my memories of McEwan's Scotch Ale, over twenty five years ago my first exposure to strong, flavorful beer. If I had to choose one beer that inspired me to brew, it'd be McEwan's. Thick, rich, complex, almost syrupy malt, balanced by mellow warmth and a hint of smoke.

                Of all the beers in our Cellar Reserve Series, I think Sheep Eater best demonstrates the appeal of aging beer. This year's version was brewed with the same recipe we used years ago, and the specs are
almost identical, yet through its time in the cellar I was a little worried. It just didn't have the rich complexity I was looking for,
and remembered from the first batch. We bottled the 12 ounce samples a
few weeks ago, and racked some kegs. That beer, with just a little age, has already gained most of what I remember loving about Sheep Eater. With more time it will only get better. The phenolics from the
peat will mellow, the edges will smooth out, and the flavors will blend even more harmoniously. I'm really excited to drink this one over the next couple of years.

                If this is a style you like, I'd recommend buying a few bottles. We filled fewer than 400 cases so I don't think it'll be around long.

I Say:

                Sheep Eater Scotch Ale pours a very clear deep mahogany with a thick, creamy, light tan head with moderate rocky breakup on top.  The headstand holds very good retention, sticking around minutes after the pour, but not through until the end of the glass.  This is a very pretty beer to look at, but no one ever buys a beer just to stare at it, at least no one in their right mind.  The aroma is dominated by sweet, toasted malts that signal more complexity to come.  Slight caramel notes are evident, alongside dark raisins, and a subtle, peaty smokiness that lends additional complexity.  Earthy hop notes and caramelized sugars round out the back end.

                Much like the aroma, the flavor is dominated by malts.  There is a pleasant upfront caramel malty sweetness which quickly becomes considerably more complex.  Notes of raisins, and toasted malts transition to more caramel and peat smoke to a touch of roasted barley and earthy hops in the background.  The roasted barley dries out the finish, although not so much that there is a persistent slightly smoked caramel aftertaste.  Sheep Eater is smooth and sweet up front, transitioning to a semi-dry finish.  It is on the full side of being medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

                I have never made a secret of the fact that I enjoy the beers coming out of Grand Teton Brewing, and that I feel the Cellar Reserve beers are some of the best I have had.  The Sheep Eater Scotch Ale is no exception, it is a remarkable beer that I will be stocking up on to enjoy once the weather gets colder.  As Rob noted above however, this is a particularly small release, so it might be a hard one to find in stores.  If you see it though, I would recommend that you do pick up at least one bottle to see what it’s all about.

                That’s all for tonight, I will get another review up next week!  Have a great weekend and Happy Drinking!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Badger State Brewing - Interview with Andrew, Sam, and Mike

            Very rarely do I have the opportunity to speak to, and interview a brewer, or in this case the three founders of a craft brewery so soon after founding.  Heck, very rarely am I stumped when I go to look up directions to a brewery that I am familiar with and find out that there is a relatively new one that I am hearing about for the first time.  Such was the case with Badger StateBrewing.  The brewery, which has been open since November, 2013 is a stones throw from restaurants and bars that I have tailgated at whenever I am in Green Bay.  Little did I realize that instead of the standard fare of excellent, yet decidedly less local craft beer, there was a great, local craft brewery just around the corner.

It was with cautious hope that I reached out to the three founders of Badger State Brewing on Twitter to find out where their beers were on tap.  Little did I realize at the time that Andrew, Sam, and Michael would invite me by the brewery to get an informal tour and sample their core lineup: Bunyan Badger Brown Ale, Walloon Witbier, their Belgo Pale Ale, an Imperial Maple Porter, Green Chop Session IPA, and a couple test batches of their upcoming beers.  I had the good fortune to meet the three founders of Badger State Brewing a couple weeks ago when I was up in Green Bay on a business trip.  Badger State is definitely going to be my new go to spot for Packers tailgating.  Whether you are in town for a Packers game or not, you should definitely stop by and try their offerings, not to mention hang out for a few beers in their soon to be opened taproom!

What you really came here to read though is the interview, so let’s get on with it.  Stick around at the end for a few brewery pictures.

The Current Taps

The Interview

WIBG: Sam, you started brewing in 2005, with Mike and Andrew picking up the hobby shortly after, is that correct?

Badger State Brewing: Yes, looking for a hobby during college I found brewing to be a fun way to relax and hang out with friends on weekends. When my cousin Michael got curious I invited him to join me and we went from there. Andrew was aware that Michael was brewing with me and asked to teach him after receiving a brewing kit from his brother as a Christmas gift.

WIBG: When did you decide to jump up to all grain, and then move on to developing your own recipes?

BSB:  We would always make our little tweaks to the brewing kits when we started. Change the hops, other ingredients, etc. The jump to all grain was really a decision made by all three of us when we decided to get serious about pursuing the brewery idea someday. 

WIBG: What made you decide to get into commercial brewing?

BSB:  Andrew was the one who started the whole thing. He began writing a business plan and scouting potential locations. He presented it to Michael and I and asked us to join him. We all knew it was something one person could not do themselves and after lots of coaxing we thought we should give it a shot.

WIBG:  I know that you are in the middle of an expansion and about to open a taproom, which will hopefully be open during the Packer season, what scale are you sizing up to?

BSB:  We will begin brewing on a 15 BBL system once the expansion is complete.

WIBG:  Is there any one beer that you foresee being your flagship beer, or will you let sales be the judge?  The success of Bunyan Badger probably puts it in the running.

BSB:  Our flagship beers include Bunyan Badger: an English-style Brown Ale, Walloon Witbier: a Belgian-style Witbier, and Green Chop: an American Session IPA. Each one has sold extremely well and will continue to be the beers we brew constantly.

WIBG:  You currently have six, pretty awesome, beers on tap.  How many beers are you planning to have in your year round line up?

BSB:  The six beers currently on tap will be the ones you see almost year round. We would like to get to 12 different styles and then mix in seasonal and one-offs.

WIBG:  With the wide selection of hops currently stocked in the walk-in cooler, are there any plans to brew more IPAs?  Please tell me that you have more of that great Nelson Sauvin IPA that I had when I was up there in the works!

BSB:  Lots of IPAs will be brewed because Andrew is a quote “hophead”. Unique hops make for fun and exciting brews. If any of those stick we will consider making them full time beers. More of the New Zealand Style IPA with tangerine peel will be brewed too!

WIBG: Do you have any special releases coming up? 

BSB:  We have some fall beers in the works and our second high gravity beer planned as well – a  Belgian style gold ale with some hoppy “oomph” to it.

WIBG: Do you currently have plans to distribute your beers outside of the brewery?

BSB:  Our beers are currently available at around ten bars and restaurants around the Green Bay and Fox Valley area. You will see this number increase once we begin brewing more beer on the new system.

WIBG: Wisconsin is a pretty big farming state, with the fields of barley and wheat in the state, and with hop growing taking off, do you have any plans to source ingredients locally?

BSB:  Our malt comes from Chilton, WI. A decent amount of our hops come from right here in the state as well. We will be brewing an “all Wisconsin” products beer this fall too.

WIBG: What is your favorite beer style?

BSB:  Sam says he will drink anything, especially a craft beer he hasn’t had before, recently he has been on a sour beer binge. For myself (Andrew) it’s all about the IPAs and barrel aged beers. Michael seems to prefer the weird stuff – Heather ales, anything aged on natural oak, brewed with grape must or dandelions or whatever.

WIBG: Is there one brew of yours that you would say is your favorite?

BSB:  Sam – Bunyan Badger and his newest creation chocolate wheat. Andrew – the IPAs we make AND Dubious Ruffian our Chocolate Stout. Michael loves the Belgian Witbier

WIBG: Do you have a favorite beer, from any brewery?  Is there a beer that you look forward to every year?

BSB:  Nothing particular. We all like to see what’s new and to see the return of the special stuff like the big barrel aged stouts and imperial beers year in and out. We aren’t delivery truck chasers though. Having the chance to try Heady Topper earlier this year was pretty cool, that is an amazing beer.

WIBG: Is there a particular brewer or brewery that you look up to?

BSB:  We all have read Sam Calgione’s book so we are fans of his. Other than that we have a tremendous respect for the other brewers in Green Bay and around the rest of WI whom we have had the chance to meet over the last year.

WIBG: Are you planning any upcoming collaborative beers with other breweries?

BSB:  Several things in the works with local WI brewers. All top secret!

WIBG: Do you have any advice for home brewers that can help them brew better beer more consistently?

BSB:  Attention to detail and good notes is key. Besides that, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to your processes and keep self-teaching and reading constantly.

WIBG: Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in starting a craft brewery?

BSB:  You have to be a little bit insane to pursue it legitimately. Make sure to pay attention to the little details. Only do it if it is something you truly love because it will break you down some days, your family and social life will be affected too. But if you do it as a labor of love it will get better over time.

WIBG: Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you would like my readers to know about your brewery?

BSB:  Hope to see you all stop in for a beer sometime soon!

The Most Awesome Growler Filler Ever!
The Current Brewhouse
The Current Fermentation Tanks

The New Brewhouse

A New Fermentation Tank