Saturday, 24 September 2016

US beer odyssey part 2 - Reno

Matt behind the bar at Imbib, foeder, and great beer
With sadness I left Utah early on a Monday morning, the 16th of August, sad because I was leaving Salt Lake City, which had been so wonderful to us for the previous few months, but also because I was saying goodbye to my wife and son with whom I had enjoyed all the great experiences Utah had to offer, I was striking out by myself into the great unknown. Over the next two weeks I would drive 2,640 miles, visiting eight cities, and many great beer establishments.

Superb saison
Google maps said it was just over a seven hour drive on I-80 from Salt Lake City to Reno, and nine and a half hours later I arrived at my lodgings, Harrah's Casino Resort Hotel. $36 a night, plus resort fees and taxes, bringing the total to about $54, a bargain by any standards. I had been advised to avoid Reno and hit for Lake Tahoe instead, but combined with the steep prices at Lake Tahoe and my sense for a bargain, Reno was the clear winner. I had googled before I left about brewpub in Reno, and therein I discovered a gem: Imbib. Just a 10 minute walk from my hotel, this is one of Reno's newest (and smallest) brewpubs.

Slightly off the beaten track -- but then Reno's not exactly a beaten track like Vegas is -- I had one of the best beers I've had in the US: Imbib with an Alibi. A saison that has been made from a blend of two brews, one by Imbib themselves, and aged in a white wine barrel, and the other made by Alibi Ale Works (in Tahoe), aged in a red wine barrel. Fermentation involved two yeasts, before the beers were parked for a relatively short time in barrels. The result is spectacular, classically saison, but with some acidic sharpness that was picked up in the barrels. One of only a few beers I've give five to on Untappd.

Beer menu at Imbib
One of the benefits of visiting a small place is you get the personal touch. Matt (Johnson), one of the owners of Imbib was on duty that night, in an unbusy bar, and we got to have a good chat about Imbib and what they're doing. Their current brewkit is very small, between 300 and 400 litres (he speaks barrels, I speak litres, and we weren't sure of the exact conversion). Additionally, they have a number of barrels, and an American made foeder. The foeder is egg shaped and was a first for the manufacturer, which hasn't gone flawlessly. Unlike other foeders I've seen there are no centre braces and as a result it's starting to sag and split in the middle. It's not leaking, or really a big deal, but the manufacturer has guaranteed it and will replace it.

Imbib has five owners, all brewers, and a few others help out in the taproom etc. They all have day jobs too. A bigger brewkit is on order, which will allow them to achieve wider distribution. All the beers are quality (see the menu, right), something I hope doesn't get lost in the upscale.  All are available on draft only, for now, but the new kit will see it in bottles. I expect to hear a lot more from Imbib in the future, definitely a must-see if you're in the Reno area.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Liked Castaway? Good news! Read on

Castaway, the beer that was prototyped in my kitchen and subsequently brewed by myself and Mark Nixon with Delcan down in Yellowbelly, went down so well that we (well, Mark) decided we make it a trilogy of beers in a similar vain.

Can you guess the fruit?
Number 2 in the trilogy, Castaway's successor (currently nameless) is sitting in a tank in Hope Brewery souring away and will be released in around 6 weeks from now. The fruit in this one was somewhat inspired by a beverage I had sitting on my balcony one sunny July morning in Salt Lake City as we chatted over WhatsApp. I won't give it away yet, but have a look at the photo. This combination hasn't been used in an Irish beer before, so we're super excited and a little nervous! We've dialled back the sourness ever so slightly on this one as we feel that it will go with the fruit a bit better. If you're a fan of sour beers, in general, you won't be disappointed -- it's still going to be well puckering!

We brewed 2,000 litres on September 7th in Hope's super shiny new brewery beside Howth Junction DART station, to be released mainly in bottles but also a limited number of kegs, as a Hope product primarily, but it will be co-branded with Yellowbelly and myself.

One of the things I picked up in the US was a 360-degree camera. Embedding 360-degree photos in a blog is not straightforward, but below is a shot of Hope's lovely Caspary brewhouse, with myself, Declan and Mark on the deck. You can pan and zoom with your mouse.

Even more good news is that today (September 9th) Declan is brewing another batch of Castaway, so the two should be available for your drinking pleasure around the same time! :)