Beer Name is Eminently Drinkable
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
The Scottish Bard Robert Burns penned that line about a bazillion years ago, and it certainly applies to Beer Name Ale.
You see, we were — and still are — ridiculously excited about this beer. It was something we’d been wanting to do for a while — an eminently drinkable Triple IPA using a new-to-us Kveik yeast and a new strain of hops — and we had the perfect opportunity to debut it at Extreme Beer Fest in Boston last month.
Then, the government shutdown happened and, like the mice that we are, our best-laid plans went awry.
However, we didn’t let that slow us down.
In order for us to bring you beer, we need the government. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau — what we call the TTB — has to approve all of our labels and keg collars before we’re allowed to send them out into the world.
Then, the government shutdown happened, screwing us. It definitely screwed a lot of people a lot more, but we were definitely affected. Not to the tune of not-getting-a-paycheck affected, but it caused us just enough stress that we were pulling out our hair.
“At the end of the day we only had some beers delayed or canceled,” says Innovation Director Brian Hink. “We didn’t lose out on collecting a paycheck and burn through our savings, so let’s keep some perspective here. But with that being said, it definitely affected my position with all of our releases and planning. It’s tough to innovate and come up with new and exciting offerings when we can’t release any new beers!”
We had a plethora of new beers that were affected by the shutdown, and even some plans for older brews. For example, the amount we brewed of our excellent American Barleywine, Sawyer’s Swap, was cut back. We were planning to can it up and release it as a packaged brew, but, since we can’t put it in our old bottles — for so many reasons — nor could we get a new package approved, we had to release it as draft-only.
Our entire spring lineup was affected. Luckily, we had some fan-favorite brands in the pipeline that already had TTB-approved labels and can collars, so we moved them up in the rotation.
“At the end of the day there were other breweries that were affected in greater ways than us,” says Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm. “Some were unable to open or brew at all! So, I think we made it through fairly unscathed, but if it shuts down again it’ll put a lot more strain on us as we’re getting into the plans for the summer. It’ll be really bad for us and many, many others.”
We were planning to call our new Triple IPA “Eminently Drinkable” and release it during our debut at Extreme Beer Fest. It was a perfect plan: we had this extreme new beer about which we were tremendously excited, and we could brew it up in time for the one beer festival on the planet that’s practically designed for a 13% Triple IPA. But, we couldn’t get it approved.
You see, we had an ace in the hole: an already-approved, generic label with the name “Beer Name Ale.” Luckily, there are a few elements of a beer label that the TTB doesn’t actually require — like a description or ABV — so we could throw the ABV on there later and include the description literally everywhere but on the can itself. Loophole. Workaround. Whatever you want to call it, we were down with it.
So, Eminently Drinkable is Beer Name Ale, which is still eminently drinkable. Everything was generic enough that we could still bring it up to Boston in time, where it went over extraordinarily well.
“It was probably the highest ABV IPA there this year,” Brian tells us, “and was definitely one of the most extreme versions of an IPA there. Lots of patrons had a hard time believing the 13% ABV considering how smooth and easy-drinking it is. Combine that with the complete lack of heat on the finish, people were really second guessing its potency. A lot of industry people came by and tried it and were blown away by it, so that was cool.”
Triple IPAs are few and far between, to begin with. Currently, this is only our second Triple IPA release after Snag & Drop; however, this is a completely different brew.
“Snag is a full-on West Coast IPA: dank, resinous, firm bitterness, clean yeast strain, restrained malt bill,” Brian says, “whereas Beer Name is way closer to a Northeast IPA, with its soft and pillowy mouthfeel and barely-perceptible bitterness. Beer Name is really fruity and tropical with an incredibly expressive yeast strain.”
Jimmy agrees that it’s very unlike Snag & Drop.
“This, of course, is very different from Snag’s flavor,” he says, “which is mostly dank and resinous with just a touch of orange and pine.”
This brew is the first time we’ve used a Kveik yeast strain: a wholly unique variety that produces very strong aromas of citrus fruits like lime and lemon, orange peel, as well as some pear and mango characteristics. However, Kveik is the Norwegian word for yeast, used in Finland and in the Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia, so it’s not one specific type of yeast.
“They’re only now being researched and cataloged by yeast scientists,” Jimmy explains, “so, for the few hundred years or so that they’ve been in use, they’ve been cultivated by individual brewers and passed on in families.”
Traditionally, the brewers would add wooden “crowns” to the fermenter and, after fermentation was complete, the yeast would cling to the crown and thus added to subsequent batches of beer. Those crowns would be handed down through the generations.
“Kveik yeasts vary greatly from family to family,” Brian tells us, “but they do tend to have similar attributes to each other. They’re drastically different than traditional Saccharomyces cerevisiae or Saccharomyces pastorianus in both flavor profile and fermentation characteristics.”
The brewers would dry out and store the crowns — oftentimes, they were stored for years at a time — so, these strains adapted to long periods of inactivity.
“In spite of being dried out and left inactive for long stretches of time, these strains work remarkably fast,” Brian says. “It’s not uncommon for Kveik strains to begin fermentation within a few hours of being re-hydrated.”
“Some people have reported seeing the tell-tale signs of fermentation only 30 minutes after adding Kveik yeast to some wort,” Jimmy says, “and have seen fermentations completed after only 2 days, as opposed to the usual 5 to 7 days for an ale and week or so for a lager.”
Part of their quickness is due to the fact that these little yeasties love warm temperatures — up to 30° higher than usual fermentation temperatures.
“Usually we ferment ales in the high 60°s,” Brian says, “with Belgian strains working well in the mid to upper 70°s. Generally, if you start going hotter, the yeast will create higher/hotter fusel alcohols that don’t have positive flavor attributes, but with Kveik strains, you can push it to 100° and still achieve great flavor profiles without a trace of fusels.”
This strain of Kveik is particularly alcohol-tolerant, so it won’t puss out when the alcohol gets to levels that might kill off other yeast strains.
“Beer Name Ale came in at 13% ABV, and some Kveik beers have gone even higher,” Jimmy explains. “So, everything about this yeast is different, it converts sugar to alcohol like the rest, but that’s where the similarities end.”
Nonetheless, everyone around the brewery was pretty excited that we were going to brew with a Kveik yeast.
“I completely nerded out when we decided to make a beer with Kveik,” says Lab Manager Lauren Appleman. “A bunch of us from production had gone to the district Master Brewers Association of the Americas meeting last year, and one of the talks was on Kveik and I was blown away.”
Lauren, being science-y, was taken with the hardiness of these yeasts: its high fermentation temperatures and the fact that it could be dried out for years and still do its job.
“The flavor profile is also a lot bolder than normal yeast strains,” she says, “so the hops that we used were chosen to help accentuate the yeast. The Kveik strain we used gives a sort of candied fruit aroma and flavor. When I drink this one, I will appreciate this magnificent little yeast.”
Not only was this the first time we’ve used a Kveik yeast, but this is also the first time we’ve used Cashmere hops.
“I’d heard of them before,” Brian says, “but at selection this year BSG had some samples of Cashmere out for rubbings and I was blown away by them: orange sherbet, vanilla, and coconut — super fruity — I really loved what this hop was giving off and couldn’t wait to get it into a beer.”
The yeast and the hops are truly a match made in beer heaven.
“Cashmere is loaded with big notes of tropical fruits but with a touch of herbs, coconut, and lemongrass as well,” Jimmy says. “These characteristics made it seem perfect to use in a Kveik IPA, with its fruit notes.”
With these highly-fruity ingredients, we knew we needed a grain bill that could support the amount of sugars that we’d require for an ABV this high but would still get out of the way of the yeast and hops.
“With the yeast being ridiculously expressive, and the hop bill being pretty aggressive, I wanted the malt bill to play a supporting role and not get in the way at all,” Brian says. “I wanted it to be a nice, supple support for the barrage of flavor.”
Along with our base malt, we used Carafoam malt, Honey malt, and oats.
“Carafoam malt is comprised mostly of unfermentable sugars,” Jimmy explains, “so it’s all about adding more body to a beer, increasing foam formation and head retention due to its high protein levels. Oats also add a lot of body as well as a slight grain flavor, and Honey malt has an intense sweetness to it that helps to bring out the malt character of a beer a bit more, but we used very little Honey malt in this beer. Just a touch.”
So, Beer Name is an eminently drinkable 13% Triple IPA with notes of over-ripened mangoes and exotic fruits, with lime and lemon zest hints in the background, balanced by a supple body.
Brian will be enjoying this beer “carefully. It is wayyyyyyy too drinkable: an unsuspecting person would think it’s closer to 6-8%, definitely not pushing 10% and certainly not hitting 13%.”
Jimmy sees it as the perfect after-work beer.
“At 13% alcohol,” he says, “this is going to be my just-got-home-after-work-and-looking-to-unwind beer, and with the unique flavor profile, I’ll be doing so before dinner when my palate is still fresh.”
So, be sure to catch this beer-that-almost-wasn’t. We only have 39 cases available, and it’ll be gone fast. Get your four-pack on Saturday!