Misty Dawn Sails Again!
A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.
Back in the 80s, Mop Man and his brother Jimmy found that out the hard way when their beloved 46-foot Chesapeake Bay Bottom fishing boat sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic.
For the past few weeks, we’ve had much the same thing going on with Misty Dawn, our spring Saison named for that ill-fated ship.
Like the Misty Dawn, Misty Dawn Saison was off the radar. We weren’t going to brew it this year.
Nonetheless, in life, sometimes there is a beacon to guide us home. And this time around, we found that beacon in Rabbit Hill malt.
For some time, we’d wanted to design a beer around Rabbit Hill malt. In our initial introduction to their malt during the development of Three Plows, it was as an element of an all-New Jersey beer — a means to the end of creating a beer entirely made with New Jersey ingredients.
“We had many discussions about the best styles to utilize their malt, a potential gap in our portfolio, and something we all wanted to make and enjoy,” says Head Brewer Brian Hink, “but we kept on coming back to the style of beer. We all assumed a farmhouse- or Saison-style beer would be best.”
Because of the floor-malting process they use, South Jersey’s unique terroir stays in the grain instead of being baked away in a kiln.
“It has a light rustic note that really matches the flowery esters and perfume-like phenols,” says Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm. “Plus, a farmhouse ale was originally made by Belgian farmers with whatever grains they had leftover at the end of the harvest season, so they really were unique to each farmer’s particular grains. Having that shine through here is really something special to me.”
While we assumed that a farmhouse or Saison would be best, without actually trying it in a number of different styles, we really couldn’t be sure. So, rather than take months of brewing up every style of beer known to man, we decided to have a little competition.
We tasked some of the guys on the brewery floor as well as Blair Bakker, one of the owners of Rabbit Hill, to come up with some recipes with the caveat of using Rabbit Hill’s malt as an ingredient. The beers in that competition went in two directions: IPAs and Saisons.
“There were a bunch of IPAs that came out great,” Brian says, “and the Rabbit Hill malt definitely worked great for IPAs, but at the end of the day you didn’t really pick up any of their malt. In an IPA, you want the malt to get out the way and let the hops take center stage, so if the point of this beer was to showcase Rabbit Hill’s malt, brewing an IPA where you don’t want the malt to get in the way seemed kinda silly.
“With Saisons you want the malt and hops to act as complimentary notes to the expressive yeast character,” Brian says.
Ultimately, the Saison brewed by Cellarman Eddie Siciliano was the clear winner.
“Saison yeasts give off a nice flowery and slightly fruity ester profile along with a bit of a peppery and perfume-like phenol,” Jimmy says, “and these flavors match the floor-malted grain characteristics very well, especially when using things like wheat and rye. Eddie’s beer really stood out, he found a fantastic yeast strain that complemented the malt without overpowering them. It really shines.”
The yeast is the main character in any Saison, but giving it the right companions in the malt and hops makes the beer shine even brighter. Rabbit Hill’s malt does exactly that.
In this iteration of Misty Dawn, we used Yeast Bay’s Saison Blend II — a first for us. A combination of two Saccharomyces strains, they complement each other perfectly for a Saison, yielding an exceptionally complex flavor and aroma profile: one strain creates an ester profile of grapefruit and orange zest while the other provides a mild earthiness and spiciness.
“Eddie’s used it a bunch homebrewing and absolutely loves it,” Brian says, “and after trialing this one, throughout the process I fully understand why he was so eager to use it!”
So, with Eddie’s recipe, we can resurrect the Misty Dawn.
And we could do so by remaining true to our Core Values.
Just as Mop Man didn’t notice an issue with the Misty Dawn until it began taking on water, there wasn’t really anything wrong with the original recipe of Misty Dawn. As with anything we do, some people liked it, some people didn’t, but we could always Make It Better — Core Value #6.
And we could Make It Better by Being a Good Neighbor (Core Value #4) and using the excellent malt produced about an hour away.
And we could Be a Good Neighbor by Fostering Creativity (Core Value #3) amongst our team members.
And we could Foster Creativity by Having Fun (Core Value #7) and having a homebrew competition.
And we could do all of those things while retaining a brand name that’s near and dear to our hearts. The Misty Dawn is at the bottom of the ocean for everyone except for those who loved her.
The new-and-improved-but-not-because-there-was-really-anything-wrong-with-the-old-one-we-just-wanted-to-make-it-better Misty Dawn releases March 1. Swing down to the Tasting Room and give it a try!