A Belgian Inspired Imperial Porter

A new beer will soon be debuting at Black Bridge. Here’s a quick encapsulation. 

Remember in Star Wars (okay, Episode IV: A New Hope) when Luke and Han and Chewie and the droids that everyone was looking for were in a control room on the Death Star and R2-D2 locates Leia and Luke wants to rescue her and he’s got to convince Han to help?


 Luke tells Han … “She’s rich.”   That’s the new Belgian inspired Imperial Porter, Shuggah Momma, that’s on its way.    It is, essentially, the daring rescue of Princess Leia from the bowels of the Death Star.  In a bottle.  Without the trash compactor part.

What An Incredible Smell You’ve Discovered

The Belgian candi syrup powers the nose of this beer. It was immediately redolent of soda. Seriously, I thought they just gave me a Dr Pepper. 

Your Eyes Can Deceive You

Brownish orange really, the color seemed eccentric.  In other words, it’s not as dark as my perceptions make a porter. The Belgian motif, I would say, is at play here, too. The color is half trippel/quad, half brown porter. 

Your Focus Determines Your Reality

 It is lighter than I expected and not as roasted or rich as I imagined but it was intriguing. It’s full of two row and crystal malts.  It’s sweet, but not tropical or fruity.   Low carbonation, finishes dry, not much hops presence when I sampled it. 

I Sense Something

It’s a complex beer.  Where is it going?  What does it want to be?  Thematically and stylistically it is something it might not be but is. Confused? Delighted? Exactly. Well, anyway, make your own choice about it when it arrives.  These are just my initial perceptions and could be totally off. And after having aged for many weeks, the beer could transform into something other. Art lies in the realm of ambiguity and that’s what we have here. And at  10.9% abv Tom continues his strong beer — ah, I mean Tim. Tim continues his strong beer legacy.   

Sometime in June it’s supposed to be ready. Maybe sooner, maybe later.  Watch for it. 

Tasting Notes: Katastrophic Humiliation

These notes will be in media res, unedited, rough drafts.  They happened at the tapping party, with friends, in the crowd. 

For those who don’t know, Kingman’s local brewery, Black Bridge, entered several beers earlier this year in the Arizona Strong Beer Festival. The gold medal went to Katastrophic Humiliation, a barley-wine style ale made by Black Bridge.  To celebrate and commemorate the win, the brewery had a tapping party for the newest iteration of Katastrophic tonight, May 12, 2017. This is not the recipe that won gold but a new version. 

Brewer Tim Schritter has always been inspired by the beers at Stone Brewing. This is evident in his hop-forward, high alcohol interpretations of every beer style.  For Katastrophic, he followed the Stone ideal of recipe tweaking and added some different hops to the 2017 version of Katastrophic. 

Here are my notes and impressions. They are not final verdict on the beer, simply my thoughts and those of my drinking compatriots. Support your local, y’all, go find out for yourselves if it’s gold medal worthy. 


That Smell…

It smells tropical. Interesting. I didn’t catch that during the sneak drink earlier this week. There were no hops evident at all then. So, this soft tropical, maybe papaya smell, that’s gotta be the Mosaic hops, which is the new ingredient this year.  I am right.  Seriously, it smells fantastic. I love Mosaic. Brilliant hops. 

In Appearance…

Reddish copper body. Good head retention.  Red and purple appear. Hmm. Okay, well, my wife and a friend were wearing purple, so maybe I am biased. But the color was solid.  Just what a barley wine should be.  

But The Taste …

Tastes of plum.  Maybe Jamaican coconuts … hahaha, anyway.  No not really. No coconut.  That reference was for something else.  The tropical taste was there, the … melons, let’s say, are very apparent. There are a few readers who will dig that reference.   (Wink-wink,  nudge-nudge, say no more …).

Its got a medium body, but feels heavier.  High alcohol, I’m guessing.  It is incredibly sweet and a little tart.  Just like a good wife….

Almost like a Reisling?  Hmm.  Well, it is a barley wine, so that’s cool. 

A B3 patron was cognizant enough to have a sample of the 2016 gold medal winning beer on hand. There are not enough thanks we can give this craft beer enthusiast.  Here is the comparison:

The 2016 gold medal beer is vastly superior. Fine. Not vastly. Just mostly.  It has a splendiferous malty and bready body, clean and precise at the edges like a dense Dostoyevsky novel. Gorgeous and intimidating.  Age gives it a brilliant attenuation and a cleaner, crisper taste. There are no hops apparent in the nose or the body.  The Mosaic hops softens the character of the 2017 batch.  That is not in any way derogatory. After a year of aging, this new batch could easily outshine the 2016 version.

The Conclusion of the Matter …

Wow, what to say about this beer. According to BJCP guidelines for English Barley Wines, the aroma should be “very rich and strongly malty, often with a caramel- like aroma in darker versions or a light toffee character in paler versions. May have moderate to strong fruitiness, often with a dark or dried fruit character, particularly in dark versions.”  This isn’t really a dark barley wine; however, those elements are present. Vinous and complex alcohol flavors definitely present themselves.  American barley wines should have hop flavor and bitterness. This one has just the flavor. It does possess a well integrated alcohol presence. It also has the alcohol warmth and chewy complexity of a British Strong Ale and the raisin/apple smell and taste of a Belgian dubbel. 

Schritter has again produced a beer that is just what it should be, yet something it shouldn’t be. If this beer were a book, it would be a Lovecraftian work, a libation of expectation and madness and something you know has completely altered your palate.

I’ve got to give him homebrew cred, too. He realized in the midst of brewing that he did not have the hops he wanted. But there was no going back; the beer had to be made, had to have hops.  He improvised.  The Mosaic hops were on hand and in the quantity he needed.  How many times does that happen to us as homebrewers?  You’ve just got to work with what you have. And how often does that brewing crisis lead to a beautiful beer?  Most of the time!  And that’s the case here.  The universe wants good beer, y’all!  Deny it not. 

If it were a book it would be, if not Lovecraft, Cloud Atlas

If it were a movie it would be Inception

I’m still not a fan of the beer’s name. It’s cadence just doesn’t work for me.  And I still hold to what I said four years ago. This beer has no “attitude” in the arrogant, supercilious sense.  It is dignified and sure of itself.  That is so much cooler. It is what it wants to be, which is not what you think it should be.  Very well done. 

Cheers, B3! 

More Humiliation

Prior to knowing anything about Tim and the B3 crew, when my insular mentality was sure I was some kind of beer authority, I wrote this:

Black Bridge’s Katastrophic Humiliation has an awkward name, to be sure, a Stone Brewing riff sans rhythm and attitude but it was easily the best of the beers. It was an admirable 10.9 percent concoction with a sultry orange and amber body. It had a barley-wine-ish slash strong ale look and feel. This beer had verve and wants to be a star. The alcohol doesn’t hit right away, the hops are subdued, currents of strong liquor and caramel are well balanced. Let this beer have a spotlight.

That was four years ago. Hmm. Was The Rog right?  A gold medal for this beer at the strong ale festival says, yes. Slightly.

This beer does deserve stardom.

So, tapping party this Friday for B3’s Gold Medal beer. It’ll be time to update tasting notes.

Brewing Fun

These sentiments recently appeared in an article at CraftBeer.com:

Why do so many people love beer? It’s because beer presents a fun experience to nearly everyone, no matter their background or level of knowledge. Yes, there are people who love beer without really knowing anything about how it’s made. For some, however, the experience becomes more satisfying as more effort is put into learning about beer.

 

If you are truly interested in beer and brewing, whether it’s home brewing or craft beers, your local is the best place to be.  For Kingman, that’s Black Bridge.  Here’s a few things they’ve been doing recently that I thought were fun and have expanded the beer knowledge of their crew and community.

  • Angry Elf.  A Russian Imperial Stout brewed originally by a local home brewer and employee at Black Bridge.  His recipe won gold at a home brew competition and is an outstanding beer on it’s own and is occasionally offered at the brewery.  They brewed it again this year, added cherry puree and some chocolate and called it Sexual Chocolate.  It’s a wonderful stout, highly recommended, especially if you like dessert.  It may already be gone, though, but maybe it’ll come back.
  • Pete LaFass.  A heavily smoked scotch ale.  Honestly, that thing is for hardcore beer fans.  It tastes and smells like a hospital inferno, latex, nitrile and band aids burning in diapers or something. These are all usually bad. But, somehow, it works in this beer.  You may only be able to cope with a small sample, but it’s worth a try. It’s from a local home brewer.
  • No Pricks Allowed.  A Belgian blonde that is a gorgeous pink/purple color, from the prickly pear addition, so it’s using locally found ingredients from a cactus.  A true desert beer.
  • Hop Tart.  Another beer from a home brewer who won a contest at Black Bridge; it’s been a while since I’ve had this beer, so I can’t say a lot about it.  I only remember that I didn’t hate it, so, that’s got to be good.  I believe I read that it’s coming back on tap soon.

 

Anyway, these beers may or may not be on tap at B3 by the time you read this and they are by no means the only beers there.  Doubtlessly, I’ve left off beers that were inspired/brewed by other locals and B3 crew, the above beers are just the ones I know about right now.   The brewery is a place to get good brewing advice, inspiration for your own beers, and to get goaded into a new hobby.  And, really, the point is that the brewery is sponsoring local brewing culture and I think that’s cool.  And I have a self-important blog.  So I’m going to write about it.  Because I can.  And you can even get beer there, fun and all.

2016-11-18 Beer Recommendations

On tap at Black Bridge Brewery that you need this weekend:

  • Wagonwheel – an American brown ale, beautifully colored – with enticing red highlights – and tasting of late fall. It makes you want to just sit, relax, contemplate. Medium body, a little caramel and some nutty flavors (as in the edible part of a tree, etc., not the street roaming eccentrics). Superb.
  • Locomotive – it’s a stout, cuz black beers matter!  Deeply dark, heavily roasted, a masterpiece.   The Darth Vader of stouts. Seriously, epic music should begin when this is tapped.

Guest taps are available:  Mr Pineapple from SanTan (this one is meh, in my opinion, though generally their beers are stellar) and Big Blue Van from College Street in Lake Havasu. This beer seems to be one that has polarized peeps into two camps, the Lovers and the Haters.  I love it. A great wheat beer, refreshing, with blue berries. They pull it off magnificently. Three bucks for guest taps, y’all. Come have a drink.

Couple these beers with an uncritical atmosphere and a PERFECT soundtrack for a Friday – Def Leppard radio, the ultimate 80s rock music! – and you will  be able to completely decompress from your week of labor!

And be good to your bartenders for the night, Jen and Lee!  (Thanks for the tunes, Jen!)

 

 

 

The Existential Brewery – Brewing Philosophy and Brewing Business: Part Three of an Interview With Black Bridge Brewery’s Owner

This is the final segment of the actual interview with Tim.  The conversation continued after the official questions stopped and some of that conversation may be posted here as an appendix to this interview for it contained some interesting insights and stories.  But for now, peruse this and ask yourself how you can support your local brewery.

As always, thanks for reading and sharing.

If you need to catch up:

Interview, part 1

Interview, part 2

***

Let’s talk about your brewing philosophy. What is it you want to accomplish with your beers?

Uh, money.

No, every business is money driven. What do I want to accomplish? I want people who come in and travel and they go to breweries – and we do get a lot – it’s nice to hear, like, when they buy a flight and they tell me that every single beer is great. That’s what I want to accomplish, you know, that people that are seasoned beer drinkers, that understand craft beer and that have a developed palate and they can separate out different flavors and tastes and they can pick up flaws, when they tell me that all six that they had are great, you know, that’s what it’s about for me.

My regulars are great, I like my regulars. Like you have your one or two that you always drink. The travelers coming through, they try everything, they’ll get two flights. When I can hear from them that everything was great, that’s pretty awesome.  There’s always a [contemptible person] who gives me a half a star on Untappd on one of my highest rated beers and I just know he’s being a [jerk] or he doesn’t know [Stone] from [Corona].

Other than money, what is it you hope to accomplish with your brewery?

I wanted to bring something to Kingman with the brewery. I wanted to improve the daily life of the community. I wanted to bring something unique. I love this town, it’s my home town, so that’s what it came down to. And I needed a job.

So, when you’re making – lets say you want to make a new beer, what goes into formulating your recipes?

Years of understanding percentages. When I talk about beers to home brewers and they tell me, ‘eight pounds of this and two pounds’ – I’m like, no, no – percentages. What percentage of your base malt or what percentage of this. So when you understand what percentages are and how they apply to all the different beers it makes it really easy to design new beers.

Like, for a typical dry stout it’s a 70-20-10, which, all added together it equals 100 percent. Seventy percent two row, twenty percent flaked barley and ten percent roast [barley]. That’s a perfect stout recipe. Thirty IBUs of one bittering hops at sixty minutes, you’ve got a phenomenal beer that’s a ten out of ten. And that’s just one example. Pale ale same way, IPA, you know, depending if you’re doing English, East Coast, Denver style or West Coast. Understanding percentages of different styles of beers, and then tweak those up or down on each one a little bit and then make it your own and make it unique. Designing a recipe is [ridiculously] simple once you have an understanding of percentages.

So where did you get all this experience and understanding? What are you drawing on?

I brewed a lot of bad beers as a home brewer. You have to fail to succeed. That and I had a mentor, Jason Fuller. He had been brewing for fifteen years before I met him. So, he’s brewed a lot of bad beers in his day and so he took his knowledge on how to make a good beer and he helped me to understand. He didn’t just give me recipes and say, “oh just do this and you’ll be fine.” He taught me percentages, how to understand this style means that percentage of, you know, medium crystal, but no higher than eight percent, no less than six.  In that range. Or whatever beer it was, percentages, and how to formulate recipes. It’s simple after that.

You going to go into any kind of brewing program?

I don’t do well in school.

So, you wanted to bring this to Kingman because Kingman needed something like this. And I agree with you. Something where people can relax –

Something homegrown.

Yeah, exactly, somewhere they can hang out. So what do you need from the community to make this place successful?

I need them to come in the door … and enjoy, you know, the artwork, the free wi-if to do their homework, the sports games that we have. There’s a lot of music that we try to bring down. Things like that. And it seems like, at times, they don’t, they just don’t care. And it’s disheartening. There’s days we have more tourist that come through than locals. And no bar can survive on that. Locals pay the bills and that’s the way the models have always worked. There’s no getting around that.

What do you think it’ll take to get that done?

A good friend of mine owns a jewelry store and when the economy went down his business suffered because he’d been accustomed to selling just the best of the best. He quickly realized to maintain business and pay his own bills and his employees and be relevant in the marketplace he would have to have a portion of his business selling less than ideal stuff – silver, sterling silver, lower quality gold, turquoise, things like that. So he ended up doing one case selling lower quality stuff and it started selling and his revenues went up. So now he has four cases in his whole jewelry store, that sells what he calls [crap].

We were having dinner at Mattina’s about a year ago and he said, “What I realized, Tim, is: if [crap] sells, sell [crap].” I’m not saying that I want to sell [crap] but as that translates into my business- like what you’re drinking, Go to Helles. It’s a yellow fizzy beer, it’s really good. We put it on tap and we’ve been flying through this, more than Evil Red, more than our other beers. So maybe I need to switch some of my focus onto … [crap]. Which is a yellow fizzy. And I think, you know our local demographic – we’re not Portland, we’re not San Diego, we’re not Fort Collins. They’re not open to drinking large amounts of craft beer, but if I had more Go to Helles on tap maybe they would come in more and more just to drink that.

So let me ask you about that. So you talk yellow fizzy beer and just – anyone who likes craft beer just doesn’t like it, they have almost this instant hatred for it. Is it really a bad beer, or is it the corporate ethics behind the beer?

Which beer?

Budweiser, Coors, any of these big industrial-

There’s nothing wrong with that. They don’t taste bad. They don’t taste good. They just don’t taste. But the corporate – you know, I hate when people say “oh, corporations.” I’m an S-corp, the same classification. So corporations aren’t a bad thing.

No. There’s a different mindset when you get into large industrial corporations. And that was my thought – I spent so long just dismissing the beers out of hand because, well, they’ve got adjuncts in them –

They do.

I know, so I just dismissed them because of that. If you just drink the beer by itself it’s not necessarily … bad.

When I go to sporty’s I drink Coors Banquet, and I love it.

It seems to be the ethics behind Big Beer that turn people off to that.

Yeah, Big Beer and InBev specifically, the way they’re doing their buyouts, they’re very strategic the way they drive down the costs. The cost for a retailer of a half barrel of IPA – like Goose Island IPA you can get from the local Budweiser rep for $85 and you can get a half barrel of my IPA for $205. Well, of course you’re going to buy the Goose Island IPA because dollar for dollar it’s a lot less money and you’re going to sell it for the same $5 a pint. Why would I spend $205 when I can spend $85? That’s how they’re hurting guys like me. But, luckily I’ve developed a personal relationship with my accounts to where they’re okay spending that and giving me a tab because they believe in the product and it does sell faster than any of their [beers].

Yeah, and I guess that’s where I was going. You were talking about making more Go to Helles because it’s a “crappy” beer. It it’s not really a bad beer, just like theirs aren’t bad, it’s just the intention behind the beer, I think.

It’s the American mindset of what beer is. I can down it. I can consume it. “Oh I drank a thirty pack today. I can drink a lot of beer, I’m tough.” It’s that kind of beer even though it is almost six percent.

Yeah, I guess I’m just trying to say it’s not necessarily a “crappy beer.” If it sells and you’re making it with the right intention –

It’s not a crappy beer. Go to Helles is very good. I really like it.

So if that’s where you need to go to keep everything successful …

If it’s selling. The second it’s not selling, it’s gone. That’s not true for all the beers. Like Locomotive, I’m brewing on Thursday and that will have been two months since I brewed it.

Yeah you really should not ever get rid of Locomotive. I might not ever come down here again.

It’s a fantastic beer. Stouts just – with every brewery they’re the slowest selling beer. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a phenomenal beer. Stouts just sell slowly. That’s all it is. I’ll never take it off tap. It’s a great beer.

So what’s the future for B3? What do you wanna do? Anything we haven t talked about yet?

That is yet to be seen. There’s one of two ways it’s going to go in the next few months. One’s good and one’s not so good.

 

Beer Love, Beer Hate, Beer Growth: Part Two of an Interview With Black Bridge Brewery’s Owner

Here is part two of my interview with Tim Schritter, owner and brewer at Black Bridge Brewery here in Kingman.   The previous segment was the B3 Origin Story and we learned a little about Tim, too, and his goals.  This segment will focus on the beers, the favorites and the distribution.  Cheers.

***

What’s your favorite beer, outside of here?

Samuel Smiths Taddy Porter. It’s my number one favorite beer of all time. The late Michael Jackson – not the child molester –

The Beer Hunter.

-the beer connoisseur proclaimed it one of the five top beers in the world ever. I was drinking it before he said that. But I always thought, man this is great, I love this beer. It’s always been a go-to; I always have it at home. It stores well, it ages well, it tastes great and it embodies a lot of what I wanted to make when I made a porter. I’ve never come close. I’ve made some good porters. I don’t generally have them on tap. I feel like I, really, I need to go back to home brewing to really hone in and fine tune some of these recipes that I have that are just like, ‘something’s off a little bit’ because I want to achieve the greatness that Taddy Porter is. It’s gonna be difficult. I need to get their water profile. It’s very technical. It’s science. I feel like I need to do that. It’s on my bucket list, up there with bowling a 300. And I’ve bowled a 299 a few times. And I’ve brewed a few good porters a few times but I’ve not made it to the 300 mark yet.

What’s the best beer here, favorite one at B3?

My favorite one at B3? As far as a seasonal, or …?

Just in general.
(Insert pause.)

Probably Katastrophic Humiliation that I have a glass of right here. That’s a hard one. I desire this the most.

What are the characteristics of B3 beers that you like the most? Aside from the fact that you make them. What makes them special, why do you desire this one? What flavor profiles do you like in the malt, yeast, etc.?

As different as all my beers are, I think they all have a common theme – all the beers that I do are kinda different from the status quo or what the guidelinees say they should be, or what other breweries do. You go to every brewery and they’ve got a golden, a pale, an IPA, a stout and an amber. We have an amber, it’s Evil Red, but it’s not a malty amber, its’ a hop forward SOB. We have a stout, but it’s not just your typical stout. We use a ridiculously high amount of English roasted barley. That’s why it’s so black and it’s so bitter; it’s not from the hops, its from the roasted barley. And then our west coast citrus IPA, Rive Ale, that’s pretty much the closest beer, other than 80 Shilling, that I make to style. I guess what sets our beer apart or what’s unique about them, if this even answers your question – my beers are kind of an extension of myself.  They’re a little bit different, a little bit off. But they’re good. Hop forward, but they’re all dry. I don’t like malty sweetness, under attenuated.

So what’s the best seller here?

Evil Red.

Which one are you most proud of here?

(Insert another pause.)

That s like asking me, in front of my four kids, which one I like the most while they’re sitting there staring at me. But in secret I tell them all that they’re my favorite. Uh, which beer am I most proud of? (More pausing). So, this is gonna sound weird, but it’s the yellow fizzy Go To Helles. It’s the first yellow fizzy beer that I’ve ever made that I really enjoy and I’m proud to have people drink and taste. And I’m really super happy with it. It’s got a great profile. It’s got a malt forward-ness but there’s a little bit of hops in the background. But it’s not sweet; it’s a nice dry finish. I really, really love it. Obviously, the barley wine I love, too. And Evil Red I love. And Rive Ale. I mean, they’re all really good beers so it’s hard to … I have my top five favorites that are tied for first.

I can tell you easier which one I don’t like as much.

All right, tell me that.

Wicked Poison.

Seriously?

I (vehemently) hate it.

Really?

I can’t stand it.

That’s funny.

I sample it weekly, just like all of my beers, just to maintain quality and make sure everything’s fine, like I did today. There’s not a flaw in the beer. It’s perfect and it’s exactly what it should be and it sells. We have people that just love it and that’s all they drink. It pays its own set of bills. I will have maybe one glass a year where I actually order a glass. If I’m having a really bad day and I just wanna get … I’ll have a shot of wicked poison. But now I have Katastrophic, so I’ll just go to this because I actually enjoy this. It’s not just about the booze it’s about the flavor, too.

Interesting. Wicked Poison is one of the reasons I stay down here. It’s not, necessarily, that I like it – well, I do – but it’s one of the beers my wife likes. It was her first so she would always come down here to get that.

Yeah, we’ve converted a lot of wine drinkers because of that [beer]. We’ve converted people that say, “oh, I don’t like beer.” Well here, try this. “Oh my god I like that, what’s that?” Well, that’s beer. “Holy …  I do like beer. You’re right.”  What you don’t like is what you think beer is. And people say “I don’t like beer” and I say, “Really? You’ve experienced all 36 different categories and all the sub-catergories within those categories; you’ve tried every single beer? You can tell me that you don’t like beer?” They’re confused, they don’t understand what I just said. What I’m saying is, shut your mouth, open your mind, try something new. And then if you don’t like it, fine. But I’m pretty sure I can find something here that’ll please just about everybody.

Ok, distribution. How far are you going with your distribution? How far are you right now?

Flagstaff. Well, Scottsdale.

Plans for the future?
After this weekend*, we’ll have about 30 half barrels freed up, because we’ve been buying new kegs and getting them filled and stored for the festival this weekend.  Once the festival is over, we’re going to have a surplus of new kegs and so we’re gonna double our accounts to over forty. That’s the idea.

Just inside Arizona? Are you trying to move outside Arizona yet?

We don’t have any states connected to us that I can self-distribute to. I have to sell to a distributor which I’m not going to do. I don’t have enough volume to make that even financially possible.

How many other outlets do you have in Kingman?
Thirteen Kingman accounts. Three in Flag, between two and three in Williams. One of them is constantly on tap, the other two are kinda whenever we get up there they’ll get another keg and throw it on until it’s gone and the next time we get up there they’ll take a keg. Then Scottsdale; we had an account in Tempe, World of Beers, but they went out of business. Nationwide. There’s still a couple of stores still open. The one in Gilbert is still open. And then Havasu, we’re occasionally on tap at College Street. We’re occasionally on tap at Outlaw. And we’re constantly on tap with at least three taps at the Place to Be restaurant but we’ve been up to five of their eight taps at times. they love our product and it moves fast.

***

End of segment two.  There’s only one more to come and we’ll talk brewing philosophy and expectations.  Maybe more.

_______

*The weekend referred to was October 7 & 8 when the Brats & Beer Oktoberfest was held.  You can read a little about it here.