I’ve previously written a little about how I’ve come up with some beer recipes. But that post talks primarily about relatively standard beer styles. With over 4000 breweries in the U.S., do those really differentiate my brewing? Or is some beerxperimentation needed? Most people have heard of pumpkin beers by now. Other beerxperimentations that I’ve read about include a beer where an entire pizza was put in the mash, beer brewed with yeast found in the brew master’s beard, a coconut curry beer and even beer made with rocky mountain oysters. Some of these might be a bit beyond my comfort level for beerxperimentation. But I have attempted to make a few unique beers.
My first beerxperimentation started in November 2005, when I embarked on a mission to create a strawberry braggot which is half beer, half mead. I created a basic pale ale, added nine pounds of wildflower honey, then part way through fermentation, I added two and a half pounds of pureed strawberries. I fermented it. I aged it. I aged it some more. In October of 2006, nearly a year later, I bottled it. I thought this was going to be a magical elixir. The pinnacle of my then short brewing
career hobby. I was going to show it off to everyone to show them what kind of awesome genius brewer I was. This was my life’s work. … But it didn’t work. Being inexperienced, (this was only batch 15) I didn’t know that so much sugar all at once from the honey would basically kill any yeast that it came in contact with. It ended up at “only” 9.5% alcohol when it should have been near 14%. It was ridiculously sweet. I couldn’t part with it so I put it in the basement in a corner. The next year, we moved and it moved with us. It’s still in the basement today. I just cant seem to let it go.
In another experimentation, I set out to create a red wheat beer using a newer variety of hops that accentuated strong earth tones as opposed to floral or fuity. “Earthy” was an understatement. When I let people try it, I warned them that it had a tendency to taste like dirt. Back to the drawing board with that one.
A more recent experimentation is something that might make it to the tap lines at the brewpub in a year. Inspired by a natural cranberry bog on some land my family owns, I set out to create a beer using cranberries. What about a cranberry saison with some orange peel? I gave it a shot. cranberries are tart, but it actually turned out pretty drinkable. Clean, light, fruity, and a hint of cranberry flavor, with a touch of orange. This one has potential.
Barrel aging is popular these days, and some very rich and delightful beers are created by barrel aging. I love barrel aged beer. Thanks to a very good friend, I acquired an eight gallon rye whiskey barrel. I made 10 gallons of an 11% alcohol imperial stout, filled the barrel with eight gallons, and put the other two into a keg for later comparison. A month later and…Yes, there’s a distinct difference. The barrel aged stout is boozier, but smoother. Flavors of oak, smoke, vanilla and that hint of rye augment the rich roasty coffee flavors of the stout. This, in fact, is the current culmination of my brewing knowledge and experience. It is, in my opinion, a magical elixir. The few friends who have tried it seem to agree. This one I look forward to recreating at the brewpub.
My most unique experimentation is with smoked hops. Twice, I’ve taken hops fresh from the vine and carefully smoked them and used them to flavor a pale/amber colored ale. I’ve tried mesquite and apple wood and have found very district differences. I hope to have this concept become a recurring fall experimentation at the brewpub, potentially using different hops and/or different woods each year for smoking.
I’m sure my experimentation will continue as I’m inspired by new ideas. We’ll see which ones pan out as drinkable.