The first homebrew festival I ever competed in was Pride of Brooklyn in April of 2013. I served an IPA called "Jesus Hops The 'A' Train". A playful variation on the title of a stage play that my friend Stephen Adly Guirgis wrote called Jesus Hopped The 'A' Train, which was produced by the company I work for and featured many of my future friends and colleagues in the cast. "Jesus" was my first all-grain recipe. I spent hours putting it together, brewing it, tasting it and making adjustments and then consistently recreating it batch by batch.
The recipe for that beer, which can be found here, represents the kind of beer I was making when I first started creating my own recipes. If I were to create this recipe today, there would be many things I would change such as the time and temperature of the mash, the hop profile and schedule. I would also change the fermentation schedule as well as the length of dry hopping time. In other words, I wouldn't craft this recipe in nearly the same way as I did when I first began. Using the knowledge gained from experience my approach has changed and my skill has grown. Which is why it's important to brew as often as you are able.
At the time of last year's Pride Of Brooklyn, I was going through an experimental phase that I think all homebrewers go through. In the months prior I had discovered the style of beer called gose (pronounced Goes-ah), a salty, tart, German wheat beer spiced with coriander. Typically a session beer, it's the perfect spring and summer crusher. Over the course of a few months I had dialed in a recipe that I felt best suited the style without having to add bacteria to my system. Right, bacteria. Historically, the tartness comes from the addition of lactobacillus delbrueckii which, when added to grain or wort produces lactic acid. So, I cheated, but I'm okay with that.
So armed with a recipe I had dialed in, I then decided to take inspiration from the Oyster Stout that Sixpoint makes for the John Dory Oyster Bar in Manhattan and add shellfish to the gose. I thought the minerality that I would get from the shells would compliment the salt and coriander as well as add a complexity to the tartness, and thus the lobster gose was born. I was even able to get tail shells from the same restaurant that supplies the oyster shells to Sixpoint. Check out the recipe for that beer here.
Now if you're at all adventurous with your homebrew you know how some experiments can divide people. Some people loved it. Some people hated it. So in terms of an experiment, I would consider that a success.
This year, Pride of Brooklyn takes place on April 25th, which happens to be my birthday. Since I'm serving on my birthday, I will be serving the kind of beer that I want to drink. And so, in a detour from my recent practice of brewing to style, I've created a monster I'm calling my "Cake Day Lager", an Imperial India Pale Pilsner. "A what now?", you may ask. Well, I made a 9% ABV lager that I've been fermenting and lagering for about 2 months now. It's my pilsner recipe grain bill amped up to get about double the ABV. I mashed like it was a classic lager, and even performed a double decoction on it to pull out some great melanoidin flavor but instead of noble hops, I added American hops. The hop schedule consists of a first wort hop addition of Magnum, followed by some hop bursting of El Dorado, and finally dry hopped with El Dorado and Mosaic. It borrows a bit from my favorite types of beers and is tasting great. I'll be serving it next Saturday at Pride of Brooklyn 2015 which is once again at Littlefield. Tickets are still on sale but they are limited. The event sells out every year so get your tickets in advance by clicking here. I hope to share my beer with you there.