Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mocha mash-up

Brewery neighbors Iron Hill and Flying Fish will pour a firkin of two blended stouts on Saturday (note the word firkin, limited quantity) in a union they've dubbed as a Jersey's Finest moment.

The collaboration finds IH's Luca Brasi Coffee Stout blended with FF's Exit 13 Chocolate Stout and parked on some whole vanilla beans and cocoa nibs for a month or so.

On his blog, IH brewer Chris LaPierre says the idea for a coffee-chocolate stout struck him during a swing over to Flying Fish in Cherry Hill to pick up some yeast in November.

While there, Chris sampled to the soon-to-be-released Exit 13, FF's most recent Exit Series brew, and immediately thought it would combine quite well with the coffee stout he shepherded through the brewing process with Scott Davi and Jim Carruthers, the winners of the homebrew contest IH sponsored last year.

The resulting mash-up brew first went public at an event Philadelphia in December, and now comes to Iron Hill's Maple Shade location for a noon tapping.

But, thanks to some fridge overstocking on our part – a leftover growler of Luca Brasi from Nov. 9 (the first day it went on tap at IH) and a bottle of Exit 13 – we can tell you what this brew will taste like, approximately anyway.

Made with cold press coffee and whole coffee beans kept in the serving tank, Luca Brasi (4-plus percent ABV) has a smooth, robust java signature, with a bouquet that's as inviting as fresh pot of joe on a Sunday morning.

Brewed with a boatload of Belgian chocolate, Exit 13 (7.5 percent ABV), in the words of FF brewer Casey Hughes, is like drinking a chocolate bar.

Taken together (in our case, blended in a pitcher*), you get a very pleasant nose of coffee, a stout flavor, a chocolate ganache and a sweet finish that answers the coffee taste that heartily peeks around the edges.

But you judge for yourself.

*Special thanks to Tim Kelly of the Tun Tavern in Atlantic City, Gretchen Schmidhausler of Basil T's in Red Bank and Mark Haynie of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News for helping out with the Luca-13 tasting last week. Speaking of the Tun and Basil's, stay tuned for their collaboration brew.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Small gets bigger in craft beer-speak

The definition of "small" just got bigger in the lexicon of craft brewing, a change that promises to keep Boston Beer Company in the family of beer-makers embraced by the Brewers Association industry trade group.

The Colorado-based BA, which represents most US craft brewers, announced last week it had retooled the craft brewer descriptor; specifically, for what defines "small," the BA tripled the brewing production ceiling of 2 million barrels annually to 6 million and accordingly changed its bylaws.

The 2 million figure dates to 1976 and relates to an excise tax differential afforded to small brewers. BA folks say the beer world is vastly different than it was 34 years ago, and the change was therefore due.

If it sounds like inside baseball, it is. But there is this to consider: Boston Beer, with its Samuel Adams brands, is forecast to be the first craft brewer (and Brewers Association member) to cross that old 2 million barrel threshold, and thus leave the gravitational pull of the craft beer moniker.

BA folks contend that if Boston Beer – and any other sizable BA member – outgrew the craft beer definition, it would have an effect on accurately sizing up the craft beer industry's market share, now at 5 percent of the US beer industry. Thus, they stretched the sweater, so to speak, so it would still fit the bigger, small brewers.

The BA hopes to top that 5 percent mark over the next two years and would prefer to embrace success, rather than bounce members because they managed to widen their following in the marketplace.