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The beer situation thus far

On Aug 21, 2012 - 15 Comments - Beer

As you may be aware, Modern Times has a brewing prodigy at its disposal: Mike Tonsmeire, known to homebrewing internet users as The Mad Fermentationist. Years ago, I traded some pretty rare commercial beers for a box full of Mike’s sours. The beers were exceptional; a few were world class. I knew right then that if I ever had the chance to bring Mike’s beers to a wider audience, I would.

Very early in the development of Modern Times, I managed to enlist Mike in the project, which I still regard as a major coup. He’s agreed to consult on recipe formulation and to help kick off our barrel program once the brewery opens. If things go smashingly, he just might come on full-time, but we’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, we’re collaborating on recipes. This generally means we exchange a million emails to get a recipe figured out, he brews it in DC, then he ships it to me once it’s ready to drink. It’s not the easiest or the cheapest way of doing things, but I’m entirely convinced it will result in some pretty great beers.

So to catch you up on what we’ve accomplished so far and to give you a rough outline of what the Modern Times line-up might look like, here is the current beer situation:

  1. Amber IPA with Nelson hops. Inspired by two of my favorite hoppy beers, Alpine Nelson and Troegs Nugget Nectar, we devised an amber, medium-bodied hoppy beer prominently featuring Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand. The resulting beer was exceptionally dank and very fruity, but didn’t have quite enough IBUs. For the second iteration, it got a little darker, a little more bitter, and even fruitier. We’ll probably keep the bitterness, but split the difference on the color; we’re still deciding on the third hop variety. Go back to Ahtanum? More Nelson? Something else? In general, this one is shaping up really nicely though.
  2. Oatmeal Coffee Stout. Born of our desire for a very flavorful but close to session strength stout, this beer has progressed a lot. The first batch showed promise, but suffered from some astringency (probably due to a faulty process suggestion by me). The second batch was much improved: loads of coffee flavor and aroma, with a delicious chocolate character despite being fairly dry and low(er) gravity. This will get slightly less dry, but it’s mostly there.
  3. Hoppy wheat. Designed to do for citrusy hops what the Oatmeal Coffee Stout does for coffee: deliver a big dose of flavor in a fairly small package. Despite having great potential, the first batch didn’t really work out, possibly due in part to my insistence on using Calypso hops (you may be noticing a trend). The second batch, which I tasted for the first time yesterday, is excellent and quenching, with a great nutty wheat flavor supporting a big burst of Citra/Amarillo hop flavor and aroma. It came in a little under gravity though, so we’ll see how it works as a slightly bigger beer (around 4.5% ABV).
  4. 100% Brett Trois IPA. A beer that marries the citrusy qualities of American ‘C’ hops with the fruity qualities of Brettanomyces. The result is a complex melding of orange, pineapple, and intense hop flavors and bitterness, and is tasty as all hell. Remarkably, it only took about a month to make. Mike pretty much nailed this one on the first try, but the use of wild yeast creates some potentially complex logistical issues. Hopefully we can figure out a way to package it without contaminating the rest of the brewery.
  5. In the pipeline: a 100% Lactobacillus Berliner Weisse; hopefully a sessionable sour, although early results indicate some changes will be needed. A boldly hoppy American pale ale featuring Simcoe & Amarillo hops, which work together legendarily well. A hoppy red rye featuring grapefruity/spicy hops. A Brettanomyces bottle-conditioned Belgian single; lots yet to be decided on this one, but a fun experiment either way. Also coming up is a spelt session saison.

We’re going to be completely open with the recipes (something I like to call “open source brewing”), so if the idea of shaping a brewery’s line-up excites you, then get excited. We’re listening. Leave suggestions in the comments.