Tuesday 21 January 2020
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POINT OF BREW: Message in a Bottle

Beer is a sociable beverage, but it can also be a language. When tasting a new beer, I often feel a sort of surrogate camaraderie with the brewer. They communicate their tastes and sensibilities in liquid form. Each sip is part of an ongoing dialogue and each bottle, a new conversation. Special and limited releases are the secrets we share. As a homebrewer, I often let my beer do the talking. Over the years, friends have requested personalized brews and on occasion I take it upon myself to brew a beer with a friend’s personality injected into it.

I met Mark Jorve & Rhona MacMillan (owners of Zarpara Vineyard on the Willcox Bench) long before they planted their vineyard or released their first wine. They explained their love of Old World wines and their plan to express that love in their own house style. When their first wines were being made, I was invited for tastings at various stages all the way to bottling. Having followed several of their wines from concept to completion, I thought it would be fun to invite them on a (much less time-intensive) homebrewing adventure, from concept to completion.

Knowing that Mark & Rhona enjoy a good brew, I asked them what beers they prefer. The list veered mostly toward India Pale Ales. Since we planned to brew during a colder time of year, I thought it would be fun to make a lagered IPA. I generally prefer all-grain, but to keep the brew day easy and fun, I decided to make a partial mash recipe for this beer. I loaded up the brewing equipment and headed for the vineyard on a cool December day.

On brew day we talked about the art & science of brewing while drinking some “Breakfast Slice,” my homebrewed pumpkin pie and coffee beer. What this beer says about me should be obvious – I like pumpkin pie and coffee. James Callahan of Aridus Wine Company stopped by and we all discussed the differences between brewing and winemaking. At the end of our brewing session we sipped some of the sweet wort and speculated about how the beer would express itself in the weeks to come.

I left with a carboy and returned a month later with the “message in a bottle.” What would it say about us? Would this beer be a lyrical ode to our winter brew day? We all agree that the beer has only good things to say. I’m including the recipe in this article for you homebrewers out there so you can make your own version and keep the conversation going.

Tasting notes provided by Mark and Rhona
Nose:  Iced tea, fresh herbs, rose hips, glimmer of apple and peach orchard, fresh hops, edge of molasses. Palate: Perfect confirmation of the nose, soft IPA hoppiness, soft lingering bitterness, silky. “Thanks — it is wonderful.”

Point of Brew Spring 2013

Recipe: Bitter Bock Inverted IPA
Ingredients for 5 gallons:

5 lbs. Muntons Plain Light Spray Dried Malt Extract
3 lbs. Maris Otter Pale Malt
2 oz. Belgian Biscuit Malt
2 oz. Special B
½ oz. American Chocolate Malt
6 oz. Mexican Piloncillo Cane Sugar
1 oz. Zeus Hops (whole leaf) 60 Minute Boil
½ oz. Cascade Hops (whole leaf) 30 Minute Boil
½ oz. Northern Brewer Hops (whole leaf) 10 Minute Boil
½ oz. Willamette Hops (whole leaf) 1 Minute Boil
Fermentis Saflager S-23 Dry Lager Yeast

Brewing skill level required – Intermediate

Notes about the recipe: We used the well water from the vineyard to brew this beer. The grain was mashed at 148° for 45 minutes. We used a pasta strainer to sparge the grain so it was not an efficient mini-mash. The carboy was kept at 55° in my wine cellar for two weeks before being racked to secondary. It remained in secondary at 60° for 8 days before kegging/bottling. Yield: 5 gallons at 5.6% ABV.

As a local ingredient to anchor the brew, I settled on Mexican piloncillo sugar (an unrefined and flavorful cane sugar). I added Special B and Chocolate Malt to match a caramel note with the molasses note from the piloncillo. Northern Brewer was added as a flavoring hop so that its resinous quality would tie the piloncillo and darker malts together, making for a complex and tasty brew.

Article & Photos by Thomas Ale Johnson
Originally Published in Arizona Vines and Wines Spring 2013 Issue

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