04 February 2010
A cool recent development around the brewery is that John (the guy with his name on the bottle) has offered to allow us hop monkeys (aka the Troegs brewing team) the chance to create upcoming beers in our Scratch Beer line. For brewers, this is the fun part. The only catch is that John reserved final veto power over any recipe, which is good and bad. Because of that, the world will never see my Imperial Rauch Pumpkin Bock, alas… But we will otherwise be unleashing our creative talents on an unsuspecting public, or at least everyone who finds their way into the tasting room.
For my Scratch brew, #27, I wanted to do something with chocolate. None of us have brewed with chocolate before, so a little research suggested cacao nibs could be a fun way to integrate chocolate in the beer. Randomly, Jason in the tasting room happens to know the right guy at the premium chocolate company, Scharffen Berger, who was able to procure us a large quantity of nibs. Nothing wrong with a little luck now and again. For the recipe, we went with a chocolate malt-heavy stout/porter, gave it some lactose for additional body, added just a touch of citrusy hop, and then passed the beer through a bunch of cacao nibs in the hopback. As a side note, cacao nibs smell terrific, just the freshest and most aromatic chocolate smell you’ll ever find. Everyone in the brewery is a big fan.
As we’ve learned in our intensive chocolate research (OK, mostly eating a lot of expensive chocolate), the bitterness of chocolate is always accompanied by the sweetness of vanilla, so we’re adding a LOT of Ugandan Gold vanilla beans to the aging beer. I’ve spent many hours slicing and scraping vanilla beans for the 40 barrels of stout that we’ve brewed. We’re also aging the beer on even more chocolate nibs in the hopes of getting an over-the-top chocolate aroma and taste in the beer. It’s been a fun experiment so far and hopefully the beer brings some chocolate insanity.
When’s it gonna be ready? Well, we’ve got this one scheduled for a Thursday, February 11 afternoon release in the tasting room. A chocolate beer, right before Valentine’s Day? That’s right, we went there. Would you be interested if I told you we’ll have some firkins dry-nibbed with even more cacao nibs being readied for the release? For those stopping by, there have been rumors of free alcohol-soaking soft pretzels for the event. More details to come, be there or be square.
P.S. Not sure what will happen to the barrel-aged Scratch #26 beer. If we end up liking it, it will come out at some point TBD. If not, I guess it’ll just be our sacrifice to the beer gods…