This Beer Really Ties the Room Together
The big news around the brewery is our collaboration with Left Hand, our cream stout, Ties the Room Together.
Well… the wait is over! Ties the Room Together hits the Tasting Room on Friday.
“As with any collaboration,” says Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm, “the best part is getting to meet other brewers and nerd out on beer for a while, especially during the design phase, just bouncing ideas off each other and getting various points of view. It’s a great learning experience as well as being crazy fun.”
Collaborating is always a great time. We’ve had a lot of fun cementing some of our friendships this year through collaborations, but this collaboration with Left Hand was particularly easy.
“Ryan set up a conference call to brainstorm some things,” says Head Brewer Brian Hink, “and after the pleasantries were exchanged, someone from Left Hand asked if we had ideas we wanted to throw out there, and I laid out the plan for the white Russian-inspired white stout, calling it ‘The Dude Abides’ or something like that. There was silence for maybe five seconds before everyone said, ‘Yup, that’s it. No need for further discussion,’ and we all had a good laugh at how easy that was. Once that was decided, we sent some recipe ideas back and forth with Left Hand before settling on the final design, so, all in all, it was really smooth.”
Brian has been wanting to do a white Russian-inspired stout for a while, but wanted to turn it on its head, making it cream-colored and adding coffee and cocoa nibs to give it the perception of a stout. He brought the idea to Hank back in the winter of 2013-2014.
“I figured at that point it’d be fun to add some vanilla and lactose,” he says, “and by that point of the thought process it was sounding very White Russian-ish — and what do you think about when you think of White Russians? The Big Lebowski, of course. The idea didn’t start out as ‘let’s make a Big Lebowski-inspired beer’, but more ‘let’s make a fun/different/weird/out there beer.’”
And this one is definitely different. It’s a white stout, so we didn’t use the usual dark grains to get those heavy roasted and chocolate flavors. Instead, we used special grains that have a bit of that roasted flavor but without the color.
“Then with the coffee and cocoa nibs, we obviously get a bit more of that,” Jimmy says. “It doesn’t have nearly the level of roasted character and the chocolate note is a bit sweeter, having come from cocoa nibs as opposed to roasted grains, which tend to have a bit more of a bitter chocolate quality.”
Yet, as Lab Manager Lauren Appleman will attest, Ties the Room Together still has the body of a stout.
“We used London Ale yeast: a top cropper to give it that nice, pillowy mouthfeel,” she says. “Add to it the residual sugars from having such a high starting and finishing gravity, and you get that alcohol but none of that dry finish. I think this beer will mess with your perceptions a bit: you’re not fully expecting the cocoa and coffee to come from such a light-colored beer.”
Ties the Room Together is the latest in a line of cocktail-inspired beers we’ve seen over the past few months. Crushin’ It, Harmonic Rhythm, even You’re Welcome, to an extent — each of these beers have found their inspiration from behind the bar.
“I think these cocktail-inspired beers are popular because they’re exploring new flavor combinations that we haven’t seen in beer for a while,” Jimmy says, “so part of it is interest on the fans’ part to try something new. But that goes for us brewers as well: we love trying new ideas and playing around with flavors, so these kinds of drinks have become a natural source of inspiration for us.”
Like Jimmy, Brian likes that the cocktail-inspired beers are fun and different.
“For so long, beer just tasted like Beer™,” he says, “and then the Craft Beer Revolution happened and people realized beer could have flavor! That flavor originally was in the form of malt character, expressive yeast strains, hops — you know, the ingredients that make beer.”
The craft beer community started playing around, primarily, with hops — seeing how we could use them to get a wide range of flavors into IPAs, giving rise to East Coast IPAs, West Coast IPAs, White IPAs, Black IPAs, New England IPAs… the list goes on and on.
“Suddenly, we’re taking our inspiration from the dessert aisle in the grocery store, the produce section, the smoothies, really any and everywhere,” Brian says.
Ultimately, cocktails ended up becoming a great source of information simply because there’s a lot of overlap in the audience: beer lovers and cocktail lovers, if they’re not the same people, hang out with like-minded individuals.
“When that cocktail drinker’s beer drinking friend gets a cocktail inspired beer,” Brian says, “it’s a pretty easy sell to get the cocktail drinker to give it a try, and more often than not, they say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know beer could taste like this!’ Then, all of a sudden, we have ourselves a new beer drinker!”
So, after all this inspiration — the ease of collaboration and the obvious Lebowski tie-in — we’ve ended up with a beer that totally confounds the senses. You’ll expect a light, easy-drinking brew, and you’ll get a wildly complex brew with flavors of chocolate and coffee that’s still light and easy-drinking. Robust and innovative with a touch of sweetness that belies its 8% ABV, Ties the Room Together is the perfect brew to enjoy after winning a league game or investigating a kidnapping.
“This is a great, unique beer, and like The Big Lebowski, there’s so much going on I don’t think I can find just one thing that’s my fave,” Jimmy says. “It really is greater than the sum of its parts. I take comfort in that.”
“It’s a really fun and playful beer,” Brian says. “It’s definitely unique.”
Lauren’s hoping to find it on nitro.
“Being a collab with Left Hand, who is widely known for their nitro milk stout, I’m really hoping to be able to enjoy this one on nitro,” she says. “Come on guys, make it happen!”
No worries, Lauren. A birdy told us that they’ve kegged a few in nitro. We’ll have it available soon!
Swing down on Friday night for the release party. Don’t be fatuous.