Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Release!

Catchy, huh? Excitement! A new beer is released. I see this all the time on blogs, twitters, tweets, bleats, honks and brewery websites. But what does it mean? What is a release? Last year, a few months after we opened, I notified the Oregon Brewers Guild that I was "releasing" my Christmas ale around Thanksgiving time. And there it was, on the official site for all to see. In the Spring I did the same with my whisky chip extra special bitter. As my new batch of Christmas ale ages back in the cellar, I have been wondering about this new release issue and whether it really applies to this shed brewery and pub up in the mountains and trees.

For one thing, we don't really conform to the standard rules of an American brewpub. Our ale is only available at the pub, there is no bottling, no keg distribution, and no onion rings with ranch. We are located so far from the clusters of humanity that nobody is really going to drive three hours just to have a pint of Tanninbomb. The brewer himself is often the one pulling your pints and cleaning your tables after you've wandered off. And we certainly don't have any money. Someday we'd like to get some T-shirts printed.

Today I'm going to, depending on my opinions of what dribbles out of the first firkin that's been on stillage for the last couple of days, "release" a simple session bitter similar to an American Pale. I think. When I finish this blog entry over coffee I'm off to give it a whirl. I have to hastily work up a pump clip, but that's easy. If satisfied, it will be released. Or not. I don't know. In my mind I'm just putting it on the pumps. It's not like I've "designed" the beer, by any stretch of the imagination. I just knocked off a simple recipe on brew day and now it's available for sale - something to fill the session bitter niche.

A couple weeks ago I "released" a special bitter called Good With Bacon. Or not. It was just not there one day, and the next it was. I was initially unhappy with the outcome, but as the finings continued to struggle with their calling it improved nicely, and is now eminently quaffable. The idea was to make something like Old Speckled Hen, except I didn't have Challenger hops, nor any brewing sugar, and I've been unable to locate a pitchable brick of California Ale Yeast, so I made a few substitutions. It was suggested that I put the word "Amber" in the description, as we get calls for an amber all the time, and this ale just happens to have that color. Isn't that what an amber is?

The current batch, number 11, of Union Dew came out with an ABV of 6.2%, up 0.4% from the last batch. I think this is due to the inaccuracy of the cheepo thermometer I use to measure mash temperature. Is this a new release? Or is it just the same stuff but different, subjected to the whims and vagaries of a primitive, non-push-button, shed brewery?

Or, better yet, how about: "Brewers Union Local 180 Releases Firkin Number 7 of Schrodinger's Beer". It is noticeably better than number 6, as the magical complex chemical reactions continue to work and the dry hops dance about with the joy of creation.

Naww. I'm thinking I'm just not going to announce releases, except here on the blog. This pub is a casual place, and whatever is pouring on any single afternoon might not be exactly the same as what's on in the evening. If I decide to roll on a cask of something new, then you will have to keep vigilant and check on us frequently. So, if you're in the area, stop by and have a pint. We are happy to do tasters.


Unknown said...

Tonight we ran out of Woolpacker. Well not exactly ran out, but the cask that was on was finished and it was the turn of Light Cascade. This event delighted some. Others drank red wine instead. You just can't please some people.

The stuff in the whisky cask is still there......

They say I'm Bitter and Cynical, I prefer well Hopped said...

Don't sell yourself short Ted! We've had plenty of people drive three hours or more for a pint. Remember all those people that have come from Portland, or Seattle, or further because they have heard about us?

"Releases" in the beer world are what re-issues are to the guitar/music world. Bring back, or provide a new spin on, an (old) idea. They are touchstones. It's not a bad thing, just a marker along the journey. They also provide a chance to create some buzz amongst the fan-base. Isn't that what pays the bills?

As for colored beers, you know I'm not wild about them, but they do provide a means of expressing the tones of our beer palette to the masses. It may not be as powerful or expressive as say a language like C++, but XML will do if it has to.

Jeff Alworth said...

I plan to drive down from Portland sometime in the near future. Okay, "plan" is stretching it, but Oakridge is first on my list of destinations. In your obscurity, some gravitational pull.