Brewing collaborations have become quite popular. All you need to do is search “brewery collaborations” and you get an almost endless list of beers that have been brewed in collaboration: between two or more breweries, breweries and musicians, breweries and chefs — the list goes on and on.
It is not uncommon for a brewery to host a homebrew contest and then collaborate with the winning brewer on its commercial system.
I was not surprised to recently learn Jesse Sensenig, owner/brewer at Goshen Brewing Company (GBCo), is breaking in his new, three-barrel fermenter on a collaboration with the Goshen Homebrew Club. Jesse has been very supportive of the homebrew community and at a recent meeting he attended, the idea of a collaborative brew came up.
All agreed it would be a great idea. The style, American barleywine, was pretty quickly agreed upon, but many ingredients were discussed before creating a final recipe. It will be a rye barleywine with a target alcohol by volume (ABV) of near 13 percent, which is a pretty big beer.
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Goshen Homebrew Club members Jonny Gerig Meyer, James Stuckey Weber and Ben Graber milled 500 pounds of grain, about 15 percent of which was rye malt. Most Goshen Brewing Company seven-barrel recipes (twice as large as this recipe) include around 400 pounds of grain. Jesse said this will be the biggest beer (largest ratio of grain) he has brewed at GBCo, with the biggest beer so far coming in around 10 percent ABV.
Rod Hanby, Jon Huber and Paul Stauffer joined the others on Wednesday for brew day. These guys are all avid homebrewers, and the opportunity to brew on a commercial system is awesome. Most homebrew systems brew from five to 15 gallons, but this three barrel (one barrel is around 31 gallons) batch will yield somewhere around 93 gallons. Maple syrup was the local ingredient the club decided to use in the recipe and this along with the last hop addition was put into the brew kettle while I was there. This beer will most likely ferment for about three weeks before being transferred to metal kegs for further conditioning.
“Basically, brewing on the larger system was surprisingly like homebrewing, just with larger quantities of everything,” Jonny told me.
He did add milling and mashing in 500 pounds of grain (with a canoe paddle) was a bit more work than he expected. And, just like homebrewing, most of the time is spent cleaning, sanitizing or sitting around waiting or enjoying a beer.
Jesse told me, “It has been a great experience collaborating and developing the recipe and then brewing the barleywine with them. I look forward to more collaborations!”
Some talk during brewing indicated some of this will be put away in a rye whiskey barrel for longer aging, which is really exciting to me. Club members also told me they are excited to have the opportunity to sample the regular barleywine side-by-side with the rye whiskey aged version.
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I have been enjoying many barrel-aged beers in the recent cooler days. In fact, I am enjoying a Griffin Claw Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout (12 percent ABV) as I write this in my new outdoor office. Griffin Claw Brewing is located in Birmingham, Mich. (near Detroit) and I’m not sure how widely its beer is distributed, but definitely not outside of Michigan. This was a gift from another beer geek and I am very grateful to him. It poured thick black with huge notes of roasted malt, chocolate and bourbon — just the way I like them.
While at the brewery, I got a first taste of the last fresh IPA of the season. Final Bine (6.7 percent ABV, IBUs 65) was brewed using whole Chinook and Cascade hops from the last harvest of the year at Hop Head Farms. It won’t last long and when it’s gone, you will have to wait another full year.