Creatively being creative

I got caught off guard in my brew scheduling.  While dabbling with our Tripel and Quadrupel we ran out of IPA.  This was a blessing and a curse.  On one hand it allowed people to discover our saison.  But people still wanted to know when that beer was going to be on tap.  I had to accelerate my Great American Beer Fest brewing schedule (IPA, Fruit Wheat, Double IPA, Alt), but was at the mercy of the Belgian beers in the tanks ahead of them.   After finally getting those tanks emptied I got the IPA brewed, but then ran out of our second most popular beer, the ALTitude Red Ale (our alt).  I’ve got that scheduled to brew on the 27th.   I’m learning that I don’t get to brew whatever I want whenever I want.  I need to keep certain beers on tap at all times.   If I want to brew an esoteric beer I need to schedule that in for a time when the taps are full and inventory of the core line up allows.   I’ve created a brewing schedule going out through December.   That’s allowed me find times for interesting beers (such as our future Sweet Potato Brown Ale with Fate Brewing Company), but also forced me to reevaluate how I do things and “get creative to get creative”.

1.  I know there will be a gap between where my current hop inventory runs out and my contracts kick in.  I’ve warned people that the standard IPA will come off the table for a month.  I’ll replace it with something different enough that they know I’m not changing the recipe of the existing beer.  It’ll still be hoppy.  Just need to do some pilots first.

2.  The wheat beer has been announced as being a rotating beer.  I’m doing it one more time as the “mango soursop” version for GABF, but it will be changing next time around.   Next up is a fairly traditional Hefeweizen as we transition to fall.  Then in the winter will be a dunkel with some American hop twist.

3.  It’s been kind of organically happening, but I’ve gotten so I use my homebrew carboys more now than I ever did.  When I transfer beers to barrels I usually have at least 6-12 gallons left over.  Instead of dumping that beer down the drain I put it in carboys while I think about something fun to do with them.  I did a couple iterations with the Quadrupel during its lifecycle.  One early iteration (before I had blended in all the sugar) led to a chocolatey little something we were calling a “Belgian Amber”.   We put it on in a 1/4 bbl keg with a “tasters only” rule.  It was a big hit.  The second iteration was when I was transferring the finished product to the rum barrels.  I had twelve gallons leftover and split it between two carboys.  In one I added some dark cherry concentrate I had sitting around.  In the other I added some more of the Nathan Miller cocoa nibs I have in the cooler.  After a couple of weeks I tasted them each individually and decided to blend them together in a half barrel keg.  I topped it off with some of the beer from the rum barrels.  I put it on tap on a Friday night thinking I could pull a growler off the next day for VIP tasting at a brew fest.  Nope.  It was gone.  Now I think the Quad will need to be a “rotator” wherein I do ‘rum barrel coffee quad’ and ‘rum barrel cherry chocolate quad’ alternately.  Last Sunday when I was transferring the tripel I did another split off of twelve gallons.  This time I played with dry hopping each one.   One with Citra, one with Nelson Sauvin.  I have each of  those kegged up in 1/4 bbl kegs.  We’ll eventually carb them up and put them side by side to let everyone compare.  I already know which one I prefer…

4.  We’ve been bastardizing the concept of shandys as well.  A lot of people have been looking at the Leinenkugel caps embedded in our bar and talking about their various shandy offerings.  I’d honestly never had one until we did our version.  After one of our regulars poured the ‘Lemon Witte’ and ‘Ginger Saison’ together I tasted it and said “good, but needs something”.  The next day I bought about twenty lemons and made some homemade lemonade in the backroom and then used a soda stream to carbonate it.  The lemonade killed the head on the resultant mixture, but was just what was needed to bring it together.  Not a traditional shandy in that it wasn’t 50/50 beer/soda (instead it was 45/45 witte/saison and 10 percent soda), but tasty and popular nonetheless.   Very refreshing on a hot summer day, but it does hurt a little to have to explain why we can’t do that in tasters as we’re building it on the fly.  Right now we’re doing a peach shandy with our Peach Tart, Blonde Ale and a splash of Peach Soda.

I still get to be creative while keeping the core lineup going.  I just have to be creative in doing so…

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