An Ancient Ale Brew Day – in words!

| april 12, 2013

I remember thinking shortly after meeting Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head last week that if you could drop him into North Korea I bet he’d have the whole sorry mess sorted out and be sharing jokes and a craft beer with Kim Jong-un within the hour.

He’s that utterly disarming.

Part of Sam’s appeal is the ridiculously infectious passion he radiates for craft beer. He embodies the spirit of the modern beer movement and his story from  maverick brewer creating avant-garde styles in a 10-gallon modified homebrew kit to heading the largest craft brewery in the US mid-Atlantic region is the sort of rags to riches tale Hollywood producers drool over.

But rather than me tell you the story of Dogfish Head perhaps it’s best if Sam tells it himself. Spoiler alert though: anyone with an aversion to brightly coloured knitwear should not click on this link.

Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head. Craft beer guru and nice bloke.

Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head. Craft beer guru and all-round nice bloke.

What fascinated me most about Sam after spending a day in his company is his innate ability to make you feel totally at ease. Even though he runs a company powered by almost 200 people and produced over 20 million litres of beer a year in 2012 he comes across as the kind of guy you’d jump in the back of a VW microbus with and go surfing. If you didn’t live in Sweden that was.

But as nice as Sam is when he came to Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri to brew the latest Dogfish Head Ancient Ale with his off-centred colleague Dr Pat McGovern last week there was a palpable sense of excitement and nervousness among the NYAB team as we entered the brewery.

Understandable of course. It’s not every day you get to brew with a craft beer legend, and it’s not every day you get to brew a beer that contains, among other things, cranberries, lingonberries, honey and a large bucket of birch syrup.

In a few weeks time the beer will be bottled and eventually go on sale. It will look something like this.

In a few weeks time the beer will be bottled and eventually go on sale. It will look something like this.

The beer itself, which clocks in somewhere around 10% ABV, was developed with the help of chemical, botanical and pollen evidence taken from a 3,500-year-old Danish drinking vessel. The vessel, made of birch bark, was found in the tomb of a leather-clad woman who Dr. Pat says was probably an upper-class dancer or artist.

The beer will be launched in the US under the name Kvasir. In Sweden the beer will be sold by NYAB as Arketyp in cute 250ml bottles. 

From the outset it was clear this wasn’t going to be just another ‘Pro-Mash recipe beer’. Although Dogfish Head and Dr Pat had done some trials back in the US and had a good idea of where they wanted the beer to go, the route there was still very open to discussion.

So over breakfast the brew team sniffed, tasted and debated every single ingredient, making subtle shifts in the recipe to reflect what they were holding in their hands.

When the first gravity reading of the wort showed that they hadn’t hit the expected sugar content Sam and NYAB’s Head Brewer Lasse Ericsson immediately started brain-storming.  Should they reduce the size of the batch or add more honey to hit the ABV target? If more honey was going in should they adjust the amount of herbs to ensure the beer doesn’t taste one-dimensionally sweet? 

It was impressive to witness. Intuitive brewing at its best.

After nine hours of stories, jokes and the long periods of waiting around that’s a big part of brewing beer at last it was time to try the wort and get a sense of what this modern ancient beer might eventually become.

After all, it had taken 3,500 years to get here. I think you’ll feel it’s been worth the wait.

Read more:

Dogfish Head Beer Dinner at Oliver Twist

An Ancient Ale Brew Day – in pictures!

 

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Category: Articles in English, Senaste Nytt

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