October 21, 2010

Brewing to the occasion

Every year since we were our in our twenties, some good friends and I spend a few days each fall and spring to fish the runs of Lake Superior trout as they migrate up their home rivers. Every fall and spring I brew a batch or two of beer for the trip.

Nothing emphatically seasonal about these fall-run and spring-run beers - no Oktoberfest or pumpkin beer in October or Maibock in April - but the solitary brewing and communal enjoyment of them commemorates our own seasonal migrations and makes for a unique and tasty way to collectively mark the passage of time; a quiet constant next to the flashing-by signposts of life: jobs, wives, babies, the occasional bright fish.

Flies are tied to the chugging sounds of airlocks; tackle gets checked, tested, sorted, packed, unpacked, rechecked, retested, and repacked against the contrasting backdrop of patiently silent secondaries; layers of fleece and Capilene are staged on carbonating kegs.

The selections are, by some long-standing and unspoken agreement, always ales, usually something from the pale ale family: ESBs, bitters, IPAs of the American and/or Imperial varieties. A big robust porter or strong stout is not unheard of (one of these years I'm going to plan it out and have a burly Baltic porter ready ... maybe Spring '11).

Spring-run beers reflect a certain amount of cabin fever (or shack nasties, depending on where you hang your waders in the off-season), pent-up energy coupled with honed homebrewing chops from lots of cold-weather batches ... a more experimental, agitated mood. Like late-season snow sloughing off a balsam fir down the back of your jacket as you walk beneath it, rye and wheat and demerara sugar and all kinds of other things find a way into unexpected places. Like returning to a favorite pool after a long winter to find it totally changed by downed trees and runoff, yeast strains you haven't tried in a while get reintroduced and a familiar recipe suddenly surprises you.

Fall-run beers reliably make lascivious use of just-harvested homegrown hops: an all-Centennial wet-hopped IPA in '07, a standard bitter with Wyeast 1275 finished and dry-hopped with Centennial (try it!) in '06, an all-Centennial American pale in '05 ... you get the idea.

The first four-day stand of Fall 2010 starts in a few days, and this year's beer is kegged as of last night, absorbing CO2 as I type. Suffused with hops from first wort to secondary fermenter (Centennial [natch], Simcoe, and lots of their best friends) to echo the pine-tinged air, its color saturated rust-red like the iron-rich South Shore mud, propped up with a caramel-tinged full body and unsessionable ABV to take the sting out of both the cold air and the inevitable thrown hook, busted tippet, or wader leak in 36 degree water.

Its brewday was documented in this episode of Brewing TV. I'll repost the recipe here:
Cloverland Resinator India Red Ale
10.5 gallons, all-grain
Target OG: 1.064

  • 20 lbs Maris Otter
  • 1.25 lbs Weyermann Caramunich II
  • 1.25 lbs Weyermann Carared
  • 0.375 lbs Briess Victory
  • 0.25 lbs Carafa III
  • 152 F for 60"
  • 168 F for 10"
  • 1 oz Centennial @ first wort hop
  • 4 oz Centennial @ 20"
  • 0.5 oz Ahtanum @ 10"
  • 0.5 oz Centennial @ 10"
  • 0.5 oz Citra @ 10"
  • 0.5 oz Strisselspalt @ 10"
  • 2 oz Simcoe @ 0"
  • 1 oz Amarillo @ 0"
  • Wyeast 1056
  • 1 oz Ahtanum
  • 1 oz Simcoe
  • 1 oz Amarillo

Weddings, holidays, family reunions, sure; what other occasions do you brew for? What does your own beer commemorate for you?


    1. We had a 'homebrewed' wedding - doing nearly everything ourselves and with the potlucky love of family and friends. All of our beverages were home made - from the fresh squeezed lemonade to the 50 gallons of homebrew. While this might seem like added work, I must say - It was! BUT it was infinitely worth it. Having the food and drink made by those we love and who love and support us added a layer of authenticity and beauty that was appreciated with every bite taken, every sip savored. Here were the beers that we had available at our nuptials:

      Petal Pusher Wit - Brewed by friend and co-worker, Chip
      Maibock - Brewed by friend and co-worker, Tom
      Old Ale - Brewed by friend and co-worker, Derek
      Belgian Ale - Brewed by friend and co-worker, Derek
      Pale Ale - Brewed by friend and co-worker, erek
      Uncle John's Porter - Brewed by friend and co-worker, Drew F.
      Hip-Hop Wheat - Brewed by Bride and Groom
      Mark Wheat - Brewed by Bride and Groom
      Cream Ale - Brewed by the Groom
      EPA - Brewed by the Bride and Groom
      Peace Coffee Stout - Brewed by the Groom
      Red and White Sangrias - Wine brewed by the Bride, sangria magic by the Bride and good friend Emmy

    2. I regularly brew and donate beer for fundraisers of various sorts. The only real problem is that no one thinks to request a keg of beer 6 weeks in advance. It's usually a week or two before the event, and I've got to put on some too-young beer. Oh well.

    3. My family hosts an ice cream party "There will be screaming" every summer for my daughter and all the kids in the neighborhood. For that I make a keg of root beer for the kids and a keg of lawnmower beer for the adults. This past summer was year three, we now take up multiple backyards and people we don't know have started to show up!