If you're a homebrewer like me and lucky enough to live near an accessible micro brewery, you’re bound to spend way too much time hanging out and asking questions (oh, and drinking beer).
Bootleggers Brewery located in Fullerton, California is a perfect fit for me.The owners, Aaron & Patricia Barkenhagen just happen to run a great brewery and are awesome people. I got to know them over my many visits and when they weren't hectically running the brewery they were always very helpful in answering my homebrew questions.
As a homebrewer, I love to get feedback both good and bad. Just about every batch of homebrew over the last year was sampled by Aaron (and staff). One brew that stood out in particular was my SMaSH Nelson (Single Malt and Single Hop), which used the Nelson Sauvin hop. With a little prodding, Aaron gave me the OK to brew a 10-gallon pilot batch at the brewery when they were not busy.
So one Saturday morning around 7:30am, the brew day began with coffee in hand. This would be the first time I brewed a 10-gallon batch & the first time to brew on an actual 3 tier gravity system, opposed to my always changing, make-shift and sometimes rickety gravity system. The “Pilot Batch” system is really just the homebrew system that Aaron perfected his recipes on before opening the brewery. Although I knew all the procedures it was still a little nerve racking to brew in a new place, on equipment I had never used and around people who brew commercially. Nonetheless, the batch got brewed successfully and although I returned a few times during the next few weeks to check the fermentation, dry hop and keg it was more than a little odd to leave my brew and not babysit it as I’m known to do at home.
Getting back the to the beer, it was a straight ahead recipe Vienna Malt, Nelson Sauvin Hop and a combination of White Labs WPL 001 and Safale US-05 yeasts. The Vienna Malt produces a light golden color with a slight sweetness. The Nelson Sauvin hop has a 12.4% alpha acid, but is really well balanced and in my opinion totally complements the Vienna Malt. Although the style is an IPA it drinks much closer to a pale ale.
If you have never brewed a SMaSH, you really need to add it to your repertoire of recipes. It’s a great way to get acquainted with flavors of the malt and hops.
As the “release” date approached, being nervous was more than an understatement, but it was nice to be surrounded by so many friends. Then to watch Patricia write my name and brew on the board was pretty awesome. I know for sure that this was a way bigger deal to me than just about anyone else, but it was really cool to have people I have never met walk up to me at the brewery and tell me how much they like my beer and wanted to know more about it.
The thought of working at or even owning a brewery has always been kind of a dream job for me. Although that may never happen, getting a beer that is my recipe, brewed at real brewery and served is really a dream come true.