Collaboration Brew With Siren
When we started the blog over two and half years ago we mainly wanted to declare our newfound love for beer and learn more about this delectable beverage, but we also had a list of things we wanted to achieve. Things like interviewing the biggest names in brewing, getting drunk in breweries, going to beer festivals and getting drowned in free beer. Most of these things we feel like we’ve done quite well, but there was one last thing on our list – brewing a beer in collaboration with a decent brewery. And now we can tick that nugget of our list as well. Lo and behold, the collaboration between The Evening Brews and Siren Craft Brew Co. Say hello to our imperial brett stout “All Of It Please”, with shiraz grapes, apple and cherry wood.
This whole thing came about after we were lobbying Siren heavily to make us a two year anniversary beer. We’d been talking to Gordon McKenzie, brewer at Siren, and mentioned that we were keen on making a bretty stout. For a while nothing happened, until we got an email from Ryan Witter, their famed head brewer, with words to the effect of “Bretty stout? Right!” (not an actual quote). They had some imperial stout left over from their Rainbow project and he told us they could pour some bretty beer into it to make a small 200 litres batch of something special. Initially he wanted to forage some wild blackberries for it, but blackberry season came and passed before any of us managed to get otherwise busy asses in gear. Next we heard from Gordon that he’d racked off the stout and poured in a few bottles of Ratchet, their Prairie collaboration bretty saison.
This was all back in August 2014. We now had an imperial stout in a blue vat in a corner of the brewery, puttering along in its bretty ways. Gordon also put in some shiraz grapes that were left over from their experimental Funky Feet. The question that remained was how this was a collaboration. What the hell had we contributed to this concoction? Naff all was the answer.
The solution came in the shape of wood. I’ve got an in law, Sam The Wood Man, who’d gotten heavily into turning wood on his newly acquired lathe and his little workshop was quickly filling up with all sorts of fragrant wood curls – fresh oak, olive, cherry, you name it. The smells were amazing and it struck me that it must be possible to use other woods than oak in brewing. Siren had made a beer using cedar, so why not some other, and maybe more local, types of wood. Sam gave me a big bag each of cherry and apple wood curls and I was set to start experimenting.
The first thing was to dry it in the oven, which also would kill all biology hiding in the wood. I then took half of that and toasted it until it became slightly browned. So now I had untoasted and toasted apple and cherry wood. I packed it all in bags, skived off work for a day and took the train out to Siren to add it to the beer. At the brewery we first made teas out of the different types of wood, just a few curls in hot water, and it quickly became apparent that they were wildly different. The untoasted cherry wood was undrinkable. It was acrid and tasted slightly like poison. The toasted version on the other hand was seriously delicious with big wood flavours and a savouriness to it. The toasted apple wood tasted quite like plain toasted wood, but the untoasted curls were creamy and almost tea-like. After a bit of nodding and gurgling we decided on a mix of toasted cherry wood and untoasted apple wood.
To really test it we siphoned off about a pint of the beer and put it in my ISI cream whipper. This nifty little piece of kit is designed to whip cream by the power of nitrous oxide, but it can also be used to rapid-infuse solid ingredients into liquids, which is what we did. We infused the beer with about 1% of the wood mix and it came it tasting pretty damn incredible. Very woody, and I almost felt I could taste the cherry notes. Maybe I was just over excited, but it was an immense beer. The final beer would of course be wildly different, seeing that it would slowly infuse the wood over a couple of months, and that the beer would carry on fermenting in the process. We threw in the mix of wood curls and said a silent prayer. Here’s to hoping it’ll come out as delicious as we want it to.
Of course the other aspect of the beer that we could help with was the naming and designing a swanky label for it. We thought long and hard about the name. It’s really hard thinking of a good name for a beer. “Internal Varnish” was my favourite for a while, but it didn’t really say anything about the beer other than it might hurt you. Standing around getting drunk in the Kings Arms one night it suddenly hit us. It needed to be about the sheer amount of stuff we wanted to cram in there. It’s about greed. Hence the name “All Of It Please”. Josh, our dedicated and well experienced label designer, got working on a label based on this concept. He dialed up the decadence, and nothing says greed more than a meaty, gold ringed hand, gripping the whole bottle. He also made each ring on the hand represent one of the extra ingredients.
That’s it. Hopefully it’ll taste every bit as delicious as we intended it to be. We’re launching it at the Earl Of Essex on Thursday the 14th of May. There will only ever be one keg of it, so come on down and join us, and help us polish it off. The rest will be bottled and sold later on. We’ve been toying with the idea of getting the bottles screen printed, but that remains to be seen. Hopefully the label should look pretty damn awesome when it’s printed. Watch out for the bottles soon, and hope to see you next Thursday. Cheers.