It’s been too long.
When last we wrote to you with any regularity there was only one River Crew baby. Now there are four.
Two members lived and brewed in Texas. One has since returned to Pennsylvania with our brewing equipment, while the other has moved north of Seattle (and purchased his own equipment.)
Even the style of beer we prefer has shifted. While our group text once focused on finding big, dark, barrel-aged stouts, most of us now prefer bold, citrusy Northeast DIPAs. We use the word dank a lot.
Brew days have been few and far between. Before loading his gear into a Penske truck and leaving Texas, our brewmaster Andy stirred up some pumpkin ale and let it spend time in a bourbon barrel. That beer was served at his brother’s wedding.
Then late last summer, three of us got together on a sweltering day and got to work on a hop-forward rye IPA. Brew day went perfectly, for the most part. Our kettle had trouble with the boil — we’ve since upgraded — but the smells coming from Andy’s new garage — a lot of Nelson Sauvin hop juiciness — filled the neighborhood. The beer was gorgeous and the smells were righteously dank. We had high hopes for what we called Clear Ryes, Full Hops, Can’t Lose.
And here is where this post turns into a rumination on failure.
The beer never lost its smell (thanks, dry-hopping!), but the pine and juice dissipated from the taste profile. We were left with a very nice, coppery, slightly spicy ale that, honestly, was something of a let down coming off a bright, exotic nose. We still drank it, of course, but for the most part we wondered what could have been.
Andy was devastated. He’s a craftsman in the truest sense of the word, and he’s sure that he did something along the way to make it all go awry. But of course that is nonsense. These things happen when you’re dealing with delicate hop flavors and using a homemade system that calls for lots of jostling and introduces the chance for oxygen to get to the product on numerous occasions.
In brewing, and in life, you often deal with knowing that you’ll never really know where something went wrong, or why.
All you can do is try again.
We’re going to do that on Saturday. It’s not the right time to go after Clear Ryes again — we envisioned it as the perfect early fall beer — and we’re excited to produce our own interpretation of a hazy NE IPA.
We’ll tell you more about it later this week.