It's hard to believe that we opened nearly 5 years ago! The time has flown by - it's been an amazing journey!
We will have two special, one-off beers released on Saturday to celebrate. Dark, Strong and Proper is a Belgian Dark Strong Ale aged in red wine barrels and will be available in 22oz bottles, maximum 2 per person. Anniversary-Style Juice will be in 16 oz four-pack cans.
As Reuben's Brews hits our 5 year mark and going forward, we want to create anniversary beers that help reflect our past, that tie to how we got to where we are - beers that have meaning and context to who we are. Here's the background on these two special beers.
Dark, Strong and Proper
We owe a lot of credit for getting to where we are today to a number of people that helped us on our craft beer journey. We wouldn't be here without the help of a number of amazing people. An important group of people to me are the members of the home-brew club I brewed with for years, the Homebrewers Guild of Seattle Proper (HGSP). While a very small club - with about 8 members maximum - it is a powerhouse group of brewers. Back in the last year I was "officially" a homebrewer, in 2012, HGSP was one of the top 10 homebrew clubs in the country since a number of us had done well in national competitions - pretty amazing for our small size! I learned a lot from the club personally, and working with those great brewers helped me improve immensely in a short period of time. So when the HGSP and I were talking about a collaboration, it seemed the perfect opportunity to wrap it into an anniversary release.
We decided our collaboration was to be a Belgian Dark Strong, or Quadrupel as it is also called, after our club did a blind tasting of a number of Belgian Dark Strong beers. A number of us called out some of the very best in the list as almost Imperial Altbier-esque. My favorite ones were wonderfully complex beers, with relatively limited Belgian yeast character, but a lot of dark fruit and malt complexity. Not alone in this preference, we decided as a group this would be a fine beer to collaborate on and brew!
The keys to a BDS recipe are twofold - yeast strain, and candi-sugar. The style calls for Pilsner base malt, and dark candi-sugar that adds the strong elements of dark fruit that are central to the style - such as plum, raison, and prune. We decided on a blend of dark candi-sugar to add some extra complexity into the beer. For yeast, we selected a strain that could handle the high ABV of the beer while providing a balanced ester and phenol profile. We propagated up the yeast by using it to brew a smaller beer at first, our Belgian Table Beer that you may have had earlier this year in the taproom.
After fermentation we managed to source some freshly emptied red wine barrels from a Washington winery. We felt the red wine notes would meld wonderfully with the dark fruit of the BDS. We aged the beer in these barrels for a number of months until we felt the balance of the barrel, red wine, and base beer characters were all melded and in harmony. Two of the four barrels that we filled with the beer passed our blending tests, and we back blended with a little of the base beer to get them where we wanted. (The two remaining barrels will be aged on some fruit for a future release, but that's for another day.)
We are proud of the beer we created. and in homage to the HGSP homebrew club that collaborated on the beer, we call it "Dark, Strong and Proper", It is a Belgian Dark Strong / Quadrupel aged in red wine barrels. It comes in at 10.5% ABV and 25 IBUs. Rich and complex dark fruit notes of plum, raison, and grape meld with the red wine character from barrel aging. Caramel notes come through mid palette with a full creamy mouthfeel, wrapped up by a dry finish.
The advent of 'hazy' or 'Northeast-style' IPAs in 2017 has certainly been a significant development on the Northwest beer scene. We started our rotating hop hazy IPA series back in October 2016, and have been releasing new versions on a monthly basis. It seemed fitting that we should also brew a special batch for our 5th anniversary.
One of the hops I experienced for the first time in 2017 was X331, a hop that now is known as Strata. (Hops usually have a code number before they're deemed successful enough to be named!) I had it first in a single hop beer at Fort George and thought it was remarkable. Almost like tropical fruit punch, it brings well-rounded tropical fruits with a full, juicy character. I liked it so much after I first tried it that I got some to play with!
I really wanted to use X331 for the first time in our Anniversary IPA, especially as we first came across it in the last year. When we use new hops, we trial them by doing very small mock up dry hop tests. A number of the team then try the dry hopped beer, and we blend it with a number of other dry hopped samples to get a view on what we want to dry hop the full batch with. Often, rubbing a hop is very different to how it reacts in the beer itself - which is why we find it essential to do this small experimental testing. For Anniversary-Style Juice we felt that X331 needed a little more "punch" - more aromatics - than it could provide by itself. So our final blend for this beer is mostly X331, with a healthy dose of Mosaic in support. The malt bill is relatively consistent throughout our Crush / Juice series, with a similar malt bill to our recent Latona Crush and International-Style Juice.
We're going to can some cases of Anniversary-Style Juice in 16oz cans available only in the taproom. We're hoping to get some of the beer in draught around the Pacific Northwest, so if you can't make it into the taproom at least you can try it too.
Of course we're going to pull out all of the stops at our 5th Anniversary Party, including live music, delicious food and some friendly competition with our neighbors in the Brewers Triathlon. But we got into this whole crazy brewing world for the beer, and we thought it worth sharing with you how and why these special anniversary beers came to be.
Thank you to everyone for your support over the past 5 years! We hope to see you Saturday.
Co-Founder and Brewmaster