Last Hurrah and New Year’s Resolution
List of things that you will likely hear over New Year’s:
- “Woo hoo!”
- “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to miiiiind! Should… all.. Merf-merf-merf mahhh merf merf… iiiinnn days of.. merf-merf-merrrrrrf….”
- “Ugh. I’m never drinking again.”
It’s a yearly cycle: we party it up on New Year’s Eve, then resolve to cut back in the following year. Sometimes, our resolve even lasts a week. Each year, you look forward to the previous year’s Last Hurrah followed by a New Year’s Resolution.
This year, as we bid a fond farewell to 2018 and accept 2019 into our hearts and minds, at CMBC you can get your Last Hurrah and your New Year’s Resolution in a can: a big, boozy Imperial stout called Last Hurrah, and a recalcitrant Brut pilsner called New Year’s Resolution.
At 15%, this is the biggest, boldest, booziest beer we’ve ever brewed. In a 16-ounce can, one is essentially all you’ll need on New Year’s Eve.
We definitely wanted to know how. How did we brew such a big beer?
“Magic. Next question,” Innovation Director Brian Hink jokes.
Brian had been researching high-octane beers on the homebrew forums — believe it or not, they’re a great resource for brewers of all stripes. He learned that the brewer from The Bruery out in California gave a talk at Homebrew Con on the subject a few years ago.
“Up until this beer, we used to make sure all of our sugars were added on the hot side,” he explains, “and in designing a 15% beer, it was going to need a lot of malt and a lot of other sugar sources to hit that 1.134 starting gravity.”
For perspective, Coastal Evacuation has our highest original gravity of our core brands at a 1.076.
“The biggest takeaway from reading up on what The Bruery does is they limit their starting gravity to a 1.100,” he says. “Any higher than that and you’re putting too much osmotic pressure on the yeast and they’re likely to shit the bed on you way quicker than you’d want.”
Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm explains osmotic pressure.
“Since part of how yeast and bacteria uptake nutrients is based on osmosis, which means it’s just absorbed into the cell,” he explains, “having too much of something like glucose or CO2 can create an overload of these compounds going into the cell, creating something of an overload on the yeast and they become stressed out and not as active.”
Sugars, particularly glucose, can cause this. And, as you know, sugar is what the little yeasties use to turn into alcohol, and, with an ABV this high, we needed a lot of it. So, we added all of the simple sugar additions — dextrose, honey, maple, brown sugar, etc. — downstream as fermentation is nearing completion.
“It’s a really unique approach to brewing a beer,” Brian says, “and something that really opened a lot of possibilities for us. It became a really fun beer in the cellar, navigating sugar additions, monitoring the yeast health along the way.”
We chose the malts in this bill pretty carefully.
“It was all about layering on this one,” Brian says. “I really wanted a nice, layered, complex grain bill — too much of any one dark grain and it can take on a really astringent flavor, acrid and bitter. Not pleasant.”
Jimmy is fond of the complexity of the grain bill.
“The best stouts have a well-balanced variety of dark malts for a complex flavor,” he says. “More than just chocolate or just roasted character, this beer has it all plus a nice, grainy note, and even a hint of brownies. It’s got so much going on, and the flavor really develops from the first sip to the aftertaste.”
Then, to round it all out, we added Bravo hops for bittering.
“Bravo is a workhorse,” Brian says. “I really love that hop. It has a clean, almost Noble-like bitterness to it, but it also has a massive amount of Alpha acids, so a little goes a long way with this hop. It’s so efficient!”
Regardless, it’s safe to say that the guys are extraordinarily proud of this brew. It’s quite the achievement.
“We brewed this beer to say we did!” Jimmy jokes. “No, other than the fact that it’s really friggin’ cool, there are flavor benefits of this much alcohol, too. There’s more than just ethanol that’s created, and these ‘higher alcohols’ have flavor to them that add to the complexity of this beer. It’s not really a ‘big beer’ until you can get those higher alcohol notes in there.”
Brian is pleased to finish off the year with Last Hurrah.
“What better way to finish off the year then with a massive Imperial Stout?” he asks, rhetorically. “And if we’re going big, why not go bigger?”
Lab Manager Lauren Appleman is looking forward to the beer, as well.
“This is a huge beer that doesn’t drink like a 15% beast,” she says. “I will probably only have one of these because big, boozy beers aren’t really my style. When I do have one it will be an after dinner drink, likely paired with some dessert, and definitely shared with some friends and family.”
On the other hand… New Year’s Resolution is essentially the exact opposite of Last Hurrah. At a smooth 4.2%, it’s the beer you’re going to want to reach for during your hair-of-the-dog moment on January 1st.
“This is totally the lightest and easiest-drinking beer we’ve made,” Jimmy says, “at least since I’ve been here. But, who said beer has to be big and powerful? Sometimes something easy-going is just what you need. These releases are all about going to extremes, with Last Hurrah at 15%, so even though it’s ‘easy drinking’, it’s extremely easy-drinking!”
And Brian pretty much classifies it the same way.
“Yeah, this is probably the closest we’ll come to ever brewing a light lager,” he says. “It’s very crisp and refreshing, with the bone-dry finish really making it quaffable. Definitely a good drinking beer, doesn’t require any effort or thought, just clean and easy-drinking.”
Pilsners, though fine beers, are well-known to be easy-drinking. So, when you add the Brut aspect into the mix — using amylase enzymes to take out every last bit of remaining sugar — this beer is one of the driest beers we’ve ever seen.
“It’s pretty dry,” Brian says. “The other Brut-style beers we’ve done have had other elements to play off the dryness of the beer (the orange in Crushin It, the grape and wine-like characteristics of Fizz the Season, the fruity hop character in “traditional” Brut IPAs), but with New Year’s Resolution, there is very little there to distract the palette from the dryness, so the gentle bitterness really shines with the clean, lager finish really shining strong here.”
If you’re up on your science, Jimmy has a way of envisioning this beer that will make your jaw drop.
“Let’s just put it this way: it has a lower density than water, which is rare for a beer,” Jimmy explains. “Imagine water, and then something with less body than that: that’s how dry this is.”
“The flavor is very clean and very approachable,” Brian says, “but the beer is unique in its dry-crispness. It’ll be a very satisfying, easy-drinking, low-alcohol, high-flavor, extremely sessionable Pilsner.”
It’s a one-trick hops bill, but Noble Saaz is able to carry a beer on its own.
“Saaz are my favorite Noble hop,” Brian says. “They’re super clean with subtle bitterness and that spicy undertone that really imparts a nice zing to the finish. I think they’re the perfect hop for brewing clean lagers — but are also perfectly home in a heavily hopped Saison! — and this beer really showcases their attributes.”
The malt bill was designed to lay low, as well.
“The malt bill was definitely designed to be clean and out of the way,” Brian says, “like a good Pilsner grain bill should be. The touch of Munich malt is in there to give the slightest hue of color and a little depth of malt character, but for the most part this grain bill is all about high-quality pilsner malt.”
If this beer doesn’t sound like much… you’re right. It’s not. It’s the least beery thing you’ll get in a beer can from a brewery. But that’s exactly the point. After getting bogged down by Last Hurrah, this is precisely what the doctor ordered.
“This beer is great, very refreshing,” Jimmy says. “I really think it’ll be my New Year’s Day breakfast beer. It’ll wake me right up!”
Last Hurrah and New Year’s Resolution will both be available on Saturday, December 29th, just in time for New Year’s Eve, from the Tasting Room. Check them out!