Aiding & A’bretting
Over the past several months, we’ve tasked the folks in production to devise recipes as departments. The cellarmen gave us Maize Haze, the guys in packaging gave us Baddest Cat in the Whole Damn Town, and now the lab has had the chance to devise Aiding & A’bretting.
It should come as a surprise to exactly no one that Lauren and Matt in the lab used their science background to their greatest advantage in devising their brew. It’s not exactly out-of-the-ordinary to do a 100% Brettanomyces-fermented brew — we have Crusty Barnacle in our lineup, but that’s one that if you don’t catch while it’s here, you’ll miss it.
“It came and left in, like, a week-and-a-half,” Lauren says.
So, with a record like that around here, another 100% Brett beer was certainly a welcome addition.
If you’ve never seen the lab in the production facility, it’s a tiny, little room. It’s got a window overlooking the production area so it’s not too bad, but it’s really close quarters — maybe 5’ by 8’. (We asked Hank if he knew the actual dimensions, and he said “small x smaller.”) Lauren and Matt work overlapping shifts, but they end up spending a lot of time in there by themselves. Even so, they’d only really discussed the beer in passing.
“We didn’t really discuss the recipe much until [Head Brewer] Brian [Hink] met with us,” Matt says. “From there, he helped us out a lot, because neither of us really have experience in designing a recipe. I knew how I wanted to sculpt the beer and Lauren had her ideas, so it just came together.”
“To be honest, we kind of kept forgetting to talk about it,” Lauren admits, “until Brian said, ‘We kinda need this beer now.’”
“We pretty much wanted the same things, though,” Matt says.
With these beers, Brian is more of an advisor than anything. Kinda like when you’d go into your guidance counselor’s office in high school and tell him, “I’d like to be a baton-twirling astronaut. And, also, a master chef and orchestra conductor, and if I could be a venture capitalist on the side, that would be great, too.” Then he’d say, “Awesome. Let’s make that happen,” and, together, you’d choose your Sophomore year classes, somehow getting together a schedule that would touch on all of those things while making sure you still had English, health, and gym.
“Brian showed us how he usually designs a beer,” Lauren says. “He’ll say, ‘This is what you could do, let’s look at some of the other recipes we’ve done.’”
“It was a pretty open conversation,” Matt says. “He’d ask things like, ‘How bitter do you want the beer? If you had to pick one of our beers to base this one on, what would it be?’”
Even though Matt and Lauren say that they were still up in the air on a lot of things, Brian is pretty happy with what they had when they walked through the door.
“Matt and Lauren drove the conversation on this,” he says, “and I just helped get them where they wanted to be. I made suggestions, of course, helped coached them through the malt bill and hopping schedule, but they came in with a pretty clear idea of where they wanted to land.”
However, Lauren is a big fan of Brett, so she went in knowing that she wanted to do something with Brett.
“I drink almost exclusively sours,” Lauren said. “If I go out to a new place, I’ll look for a kettle sour. They’re exciting and fun.”
She’d always been a huge fan of sours, but, with such an active sour program, she says that her love for sours has picked up a bit in her year-and-a-half here.
“You can get burnt out on all the IPAs and porters and stouts,” she says, “but sours are always something different.”
Matt, on the other hand, isn’t as familiar with those little buggers.
“I haven’t really had the chance to work with it much,” he says. “I haven’t had many beers by it, but I was down to try something new.”
“If you’re gonna use Brett, you might as well go all the way with it,” Lauren laughs. “If we could have barrel-aged something for six months, we would have, but we needed this beer a little sooner.”
And, you’ve got to keep in mind that it’s literally the job of these two to make sure that nothing like Brett gets into “clean” beers. The bacteria and microorganisms that we use in our sour beers — Brett included — can do some serious damage to a beer that’s not supposed to have them in there.
“Our goal is to keep all of this out of our ‘clean’ beer,” Lauren explains, “but when you intend it to be in there, it can be really good.”
Because of the Brett, we actually had a pretty difficult time canning Aiding & A’bretting. We couldn’t use our usual canning machine for fear of contaminating the entire system with a bug that would multiply assiduously, potentially contaminating everything else that ran through it.
“The cans were hand-filled with love,” Lauren says. “It wasn’t automated.”
We essentially filled these cans with little hand guns, and the beer wasn’t coming out as quickly as some of our other runs. We only had three going at a time, with one guy seaming the cans closed. It was a long and arduous process.
Matt and Lauren wanted to use Idaho 7 in Aiding & A’bretting, a variety of hops that we haven’t really used in a while. However, Brian found a great strain at hops selection, and Matt’s always been a big fan.
“I’ve had a few beers with Idaho 7,” he says, “and every single one I’ve thought was delicious. It’s a lot of pineapple, which works really well with the Brett. I’m not the biggest fan of pineapple in the world, but in the beer, it works nicely.”
Azacca, Citra, and Centennial round out the remainder of the hops bill.
“Citra plays well with just about everything,” Lauren says. “And Azacca is very citrusy, as well.”
“The Idaho 7 definitely comes through the most, though,” Matt says, with Lauren nodding in agreement. “Centennial worked well for bittering.”
With pilsner, wheat, and oats in the malt bill, it’s sort of designed to get out of the way and allow the hops and yeast in Aiding & A’bretting to take center stage.
“We really let the hops and Brett shine,” Lauren says, “and the bit of oats give the whole thing a pillowy mouthfeel. It finishes really dry, but to start off, it’s very fluffy, you might say.”
These two well-loved science nerds are both really diggin’ the can design on this brew, too. If you look closely, you might recognize the distinctive DNA double-helix design and other molecular structures throughout the can.
“The cans are pretty sweet,” Matt says.
“We got plenty of kegs,” Matt assures her.
In all, Aiding & A’bretting is well-loved by just about everyone out in production.
“This beer is phenomenal,” Brian says. “It’s straight-up Dole pineapple juice. It’s also bone dry because of being 100% Brett fermented, which makes it wayyyyy too drinkable. It’s so dry and crisp that you have no idea it’s 8.5%. It drinks like a 6% IPA at most.”
Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm agrees.
“I love Brett beers, and Brett IPAs are a really awesome breed,” he tells us. “I’ve tasted it already and it’s amazing, so I know it’s gonna be good!”
“I love it,” Matt says. “I’ll be drinking it responsibly, though, because it is 8.5%.”
“I’ll be enjoying this as frequently as I can,” Lauren says. “Until it runs out, those will be my weekly growlers. I love it.”
Aiding & A’bretting releases Friday from the Tasting Room. Be sure to swing down and check it out!