Thursday, June 20, 2013

Brown ale goes coconuts and coffee at Iron Hill

From left: Homebrewers Shawn 
Kaderabek, Mark Furfaro, Martin Webb 
and IH brewer Chris LaPierre
Bragging rights are always part of the prize whenever you're named a contest winner.

For winning homebrewers who claim a top prize of making beer on a professional brewhouse, those bragging rights get some extra lift when the beer you eventually make gets tapped for public consumption.

Such was the case Wednesday night at Iron Hill brewpub, with the tapping of Buccaneer's Bounty, an American brown ale dressed up with coconut and coffee that Gloucester County homebrewers Shawn Kaderabek, Mark Furfaro and Martin Webb brewed to take first place in this year's annual Iron Brewer contest.

The guys are members of the Barley Legal Homebrewers, the South Jersey homebrew club that meets at Iron Hill and has been part of the Iron Brewer competition since the Maple Shade brewpub opened its doors four years ago. Shawn, Mark and Martin brewed their prize winner on Iron Hill's system late last month. (See photos of their brew day here.)

Buccaneer's Bounty (6.0% ABV, 33 IBUs) was inspired by Koko Brown, Kona Brewing's toasted coconut-infused nut brown ale, and elaborated on with the addition of Sumatra coffee against a lineup of Perle, Styrian and Cascade hops. For a brown ale, the hops are a little more assertive in Buccaneer's Bounty.

"Two of our threesome here prefer a lot of hops, hoppy beers. So we went a little heavier on the hops in this beer than you might normally mix in there for the style," Martin says.

Iron Hill brewer Chris LaPierre is a veteran at taking recipes for 5- or 10-gallon batches and reworking them for commercial sizes of 15 barrels. Still, scaling up poses some conversion concerns, and when you add a food ingredient, like coconut – one that's less frequently used than say, honey or blueberries – things can gain a tougher curve to work against. 

A toast to Buccaneer's Bounty
"One thing that really surprised me about this beer is, if I were going to be making a beer with coffee and coconut in it, I never would have thought to put that amount of hops, particularly not American hops, in it," Chris says. "Any of the fruit or spice beers I make – the winter warmer, the pumpkin – I don't put (much) hops in it at all. So when I saw the (amount) of hops in this, I didn't know what to think of it."

Yet, Chris' working to Shawn, Mark and Martin's design produced a tilt toward a hoppier brown ale that gives Buccaneer's Bounty the quality of remaining pleasantly grounded in familiar, comfortable beer flavors. 

"Tasting the beer, I'm amazed by how well the hops play into it," Chris says. "It has a place in there; it makes sense. It kind of reminds you that it's a beer, despite all of the kitchen flavors, food flavors."

About the name
Shawn says Buccaneer's Bounty was a winning beer in search of a name. The moniker came after the contest judging and was arrived at through some resampling of the batch their contest entry was drawn from. Shawn and his co-brewers noticed hints of rum in the beer and a little bit of alcohol presence (there's no rum in the beer, or rum-barrel aging). That got them thinking about pirates, and after some word-associating, they came up with Buccaneer's Bounty. 

About Iron Brewer
The annual homebrew competition starts with Chris brewing Iron Hill's malt-monster beer, The Situation. The second runnings of wort are given to interested homebrewers to create a beer for competition. Top prize is the opportunity to brew at Iron Hill under Chris' guiding hand. Last year, Scott Reading and John Companick won with Om Nom Nom, an oatmeal cookie beer that also featured raisins, cinnamon and spice and vanilla bean. Scott and John, these days, are probably more notable for Spellbound Brewing, their in-development craft bre

Also out of Iron Hill: 
The company last year cracked the top 10 of the Brewers Association annual rankings for brewpubs, based on beer production. This year, with the January 2012 addition of Iron Hill's Chestnut Hill restaurant in Philadelphia, the company improved in the standings, reaching No. 7. 

Mark Edelson
The Rock Bottom brewpub chain continues to occupy the top slot. (Maple Shade continues to be the busiest of Iron Hill's nine locations for beer sales, while the Media, Pa., location leads in overall sales. Iron Hill plans to open a 10th restaurant in Voorhees this August. The long-range picture is for the company to double in size over the next seven years, expanding along the edges of its Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania market.)

Mark Edelson, one of Iron Hill's co-owners, acknowledged this year's list (published in New Brewer magazine back in mid-spring) and extended a healthy portion of credit to the Iron Hill food menu and the company's kitchens. 

"We'd be No. 1 if it were based on the kitchen," Mark says. "When the Brewers Association does the rankings, it's based on beer sales. If you look at those rankings, and they say the number of pubs each group has … you divide it out … there are some people in there who are selling either a lot of beer offsite, or they just sell a lot of beer. 

"We're probably lower than that on the amount of beer sold per pub, but that's because we're restaurant driven. We sell so much food, and food helps to drive the beer."

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