Hanging out after brewing Berry’d Alive® yesterday the question comes up again, “Is it really one pound of berries per gallon of beer?” My answer, “Yup!” I could add, “Yes, $70 worth of berries for two kegs of beer.” To which you may respond, "Really?"
The reason is, if I’m going to make a beer named “Berry’d Alive”, you should feel like you’re buried in berries when you enjoy it. See, there’s this old cliché phrase in brewing, “go berries or go home.” Well, actually there isn’t, I just made that up – and it’s not really very funny.
But the point is. Berry’d Alive is a Belgo-American Wheat Ale base that’s buried in mixed berries, and (pun warning) berry delicious! I brewed it yesterday, you can expect it to be on draft on April 9th.
I brew an Irish Red Ale because the character of a Red suits the tastes of my son Robin, and I use an enzyme in the process that removes gluten. Robin doesn’t consume things containing gluten. I also brew an Irish Red Ale because, done well, it's a really satisfying pint for Craft Beer newbies and old timers both. For newbies because it’s just a really comfortable imbiber, and for old timers because we know how hard it is to get it right.
Now I’ve had a pretty good idea of what I liked in a Red Ale for a long time. But it was really tuned on May 31st 2014 when I enjoyed a pint of O’Hara’s Irish Red at Vaughan's Eatery in Dublin Ireland with my first dinner of a three-week European holiday.
O’Hara’s Irish Red has everything this style is supposed to bring to the table. A comfy smooth malt backbone well balanced by restrained hop bitterness, and a lovely garnet color offered as a feast for the eyes. When I brew a Red Ale, that’s what I’m aiming for. O’Hara’s hit the target bang on.
So fast forward a couple years and I’m brewing an Irish – Ok, Irish American – Red that my son can drink. Working the recipe, and I remembered that first beer of my holiday. I decide to craft a beer with the character and color of O’Hara’s, but tuned to the tastes and temperatures of Southern California. An Irish Red Ale carrying the comfort and satisfaction of the classic style, with a body that suits enjoying a pint, or two, or three (you can see where I’m going) on a 90F degree Southern California afternoon.
Now we’re on Batch #3 of Robin’s Red, and I brew batch #4 in five days. Time to side by side it with the beer that provided some inspiration, O’Hara’s Irish Red. Not a competition mind you, because if you have two good brewers making the same style of beer, you should be equally satisfied with the results, but in slightly different ways – and that’s what I find in this case.
There’s an extraordinary similarity to these beers. The O’hara’s has all the comfort and satisfaction I recall. Robin’s Red has very similar characters, great balance and lovely color, and yet a lighter body suited to our warmer climate – plus the bonus of gluten removal (lab tested less than 10ppm).
Robin’s Red is a lovely, enjoyable, and quite quaffable beer. Thanks to the want of brewing a beer my son can drink, a little inspiration from Carlow Brewing, and some tips on getting the color right from my friend Chris at Nocturna Brewing Company in Ensenada Mexico (they also make a terrific Red Ale).
Batch #4 will be the way it will be done from now on. An Irish American Red Ale, with American base grains and yeast, specialty grains from the Isles west of Europe, and a bit of brewing wizardry to remove the gluten.
You may ask, “Why do you watch your ratings on Untappd.com?”. Well I have a good answer. Untappd is where the market meets the mug. Folks from Craft Beer neophytes to nationally ranked BJCP judges weigh in with a zero to five rating on your beer, and the web site ranks you in relation to the rest of the beer universe.
So, how are we, BCT Brewing Project, doing? Well, I watch the brewery’s overall rating in relation to other highly regarded breweries in the local-ish market (OC and Riverside counties in So Cal), and the overall rating for the “most popular” beer we brew. Now we don’t yet have enough ratings to land in the global ranking for an individual beer or a brewery, but beer and brewery overall ratings are still calculated.
As a brewery, for the popular Orange County and Riverside County California breweries that are our market peers, we’re just about in the top of the mix of the best ranked. Not bad considering Orange County CA has some of the highest globally ranked breweries.
Our “most popular” beer (seems to be a mixed measure of the number of check-ins and rating) right now is Robin’s Red, a Red Ale (surprised me too). If Robin’s Red had enough check-ins at the current rating to get global ranking, it would be among the top ten rated Red Ales on the planet on Untappd. Now you may ask me, “Why is that cool Mr. Turtle?” – and of course I would have an answer.
You’d think a Red Ale is easy to brew, but no…
Achieving a comforting balance between malt characters and hop bittering is tricky.
Balancing malt and hop characters, and achieving a deep garnet color at the same time is even more challenging.
Then add the fact that Robin’s red is crafted to reduce gluten and lab tested to be less than 10ppm gluten.
Robin’s Red basically bleeds the BCT charter “Nothing Fancy, Something Special”. This of course makes me happy as I crafted this beer mostly to please the tastes and preferences (he’s gluten sensitive) of my son Robin.
So some day, Robin’s Red might get enough ratings to be in the global rankings – that would be nice. But even without that, I’m making a Red Ale that my son Robin enjoys and can drink without the typical next day challenges a gluten sensitive person might experience after a few pints of beer.
Top 10 on the planet would be nice. Top 1 for my son – even better.