Home Brew Interview: Joe Fellers – Part 2

Here are some additional words from local home brewer, Joe Fellers, from Black Bridge Brewery and the Cartoon Casual podcast.

We left off with his experience with yeast culturing.  You can find the first part of the interview here.  Now, read on for Part 2.

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– So, we’ve talked about beer and cider. What other kinds of alcohol interest you?

I do love whiskey’s. I like – I’m really particular when it comes to whiskey’s. I can’t stand most American whiskey’s except for bourbon. Don’t like sour mash in any way, shape or form. I don’t really like white lightning, moonshine. I do love a good, dark rum. And by good I mean Captain Morgan Private Stock and then up. I’m not even that discerning when it comes to dark rum. Bourbons, rums. Lately, in the past year or so I’ve gotten into Scotch and only because I have a friend who has more money than me and is very …

– Your One Percenter pal?

Yeah, my one percenter pal, who is also very generous with his Scotch and knows his Scotch really well.

– Have you had the rums out at Desert Diamond?

I have. I go out there probably once a month and try their stuff. I really, really like Desert Diamond’s stuff. And again, it’s all local. Even their sugarcane comes from southern Arizona so that’s as local as it’s going to get.

I do love wine. Wine is something that is a new thing for me, probably in the past six or seven years. And only last summer did I finally get into white wine. I looked real manly just swirling my white wine around. It doesn’t matter though, I really don’t care because when it’s hot out there, when it’s 110 degrees and you walk into barely swamp-cooled places and it’s still 90 degrees inside, I want a chilled pinot grigio. It just tastes good. And I will not be emasculated for that!

– Hey, some of the best men in history have enjoyed good wines. Okay, so what’s the best beer trend right now?

Best beer trend? Do you want overall trend, or trendy?

– Overall trend

Best overall trend is toward craft beer because we’re still chipping away at the big boys of beer, their market share. The report for 2017 is another three percent we chipped away. Which is almost twenty percent in the past ten years, excuse me, the past twelve years. Still a long way to go.

Then I would say, trendy, the thing that I love is keeping things as local as possible. When it comes to ingredients, when it comes to staff, when it comes to self-distributing. Because as soon as you pay somebody to distribute your beer you add another barrier between the brewer and the consumer. I like self-distribution. There are several states that have now passed laws in the past twelve months or so that allow for self-distribution of microbreweries, whereas before they had to sell their beers to a distributor and the distributor sells it to a seller and then sellers provide it to the person.

– Is the Homebrewer’s Association working on furthering that? I know they are getting into a lot of legal issues.

I know that the Brewer’s Association is really big on pushing that. I wouldn’t say they are lobbyists but they are definitely pushing things in that direction, providing lawyers when needed to kind of help. People hear about things, legal problems when it comes to the craft beer industry or even the craft distilling industry because they have the same difficulty, a lot of the legal difficulties aren’t barriers put in place on purpose, the laws were just written prior to the industry kind of taking over like it has. The best example of that is in Arizona – up until a couple of summers ago you could only have growlers that were glass. They couldn’t be metal. That changed two summers ago. Now, you had breweries who didn’t care about it, they were like ‘we’re going to use metal because it’s more sustainable, it weighs less’ and etc. But technically it was illegal. It had to be a glass container, 32 ounces, 64 ounces, no more than 128 ounces. And that’s what the law stated. But that’s because the law was written when glass was the only thing available, in a large capacity. So a lot of those things have to be changed. And it’s happening.

Dogfish Head – you know how they got their start. Sam Caligione got the money and, come to find out, breweries were illegal in the state. He went to the state congress and changed it. Pretty phenomenal. So a lot of things on the books are getting changed and I like to see that. And it’s opening people’s eyes. But on the whole, I’d say my favorite trend is the local, essentially farm-to-table, but for beer. Getting things as local as possible. If we had the climate here I would love to see a Kingman hops variety used in twenty percent of the beer.

– I have a friend here who has some hops vines. I need to talk to him some more about it because I’d really like to use that in my home brew. So, I think local hops would be something that’s possible.

Absolutely. It is possible – if you plant it properly.  And you have to water the bejesus out of it. And you’re not going to have the production that you would normally have in an area that was cloudier and cooler, we don’t get that. The Pacific Northwest, central Czech Republic and southern Germany, like those areas, they get their first cold snap, which is what triggers your hops oils to produce and then it warms up again – we don’t get that. Sometimes we do, but sometimes it’s 95 degrees in October. But consistently the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand, those latitudes they hit that cold snap in late August, early September. But you can get it around here. I’ve had beer made with hops from around here. You just have to use a lot more. Jeremy Fass, he grew some in his back yard. It didn’t produce a lot and it took two years, or three seasons to get a few ounces off of one vine.

Tell me the opposite of that, what’s the stupidest beer trend?

Oh man. Let’s see if I can marginalize and alienate people.

– Don’t worry, you can say anything and in the current culture you’re going to offend someone.

Yeah, this is an offended culture.

Anything that’s so extreme that it is a detriment to whatever it is. So if you have an IPA and you put too much hops in there and all it does is eat the enamel off your teeth, there’s no subtle nuances, there’s no finesse to it, I don’t like that. Same thing goes with sours. Oh, I had a smoked pale ale from a brewery I won’t name and it was kind of like drinking liquid smoke. For hours, hours afterward I would burp and I thought a puff of smoke was going to come out.  I only had one of them.  I bought a six pack (I wish I had that $11 back), but I powered through the one. Half of it was while I was eating food so it was easier to take and once I was done eating my food I drank the rest of it and it was so bad. So if you’re going to have a smoked beer, it should be in addition to the beer itself, it should complement. It’s all about balance. Anything that’s completely out of whack for what the beer should be is just too extreme. Going way to extreme is just annoying.

There’s a couple ways to look at that. There’s a beer that’s on tap, most of the time, at a brewery in Vegas, that’s around twelve to thirteen percent [abv]. It’s not very good. And not to toot our horn, but Wicked Poison is at fourteen percent. It’s good. It pays the rent. It’s a very popular beer. It’s like a blank, clean slate. You can add all sorts of things to it but it’s also good by itself. So if the end result of the extremism is a detriment to the product and it’s just extreme to be extreme, that’s annoying to me.

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So we’ll end part 2 here.  The final segment of Joe’s interview will be here soon.

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In Review of A Beer: Legend of Tom by Black Bridge Brewery

***Update: So, yeah, I’m just an amateur at this drink tasting/reviewing thing. It was BRANDY barrels, not RUM. My bad. I repent in dust & ashes and all. Trust not the reviews on this blog. Well okay, this is still a really good beer.***

As this Saturday, August 12, marks the fourth year of operations for Kingman’s first brewery, Black Bridge, and since the soiree on the aforementioned Saturday commemorating said operations will feature the revealing of a new beer to add to the already extensive tap list, the time seems appropriate to experience this new beer.

First, some context.

The beer’s moniker is Legend of Tom and it is a Barrel Aged Coffee Imperial Porter.  Now, barrel aged beers are not unfamiliar to craft beer enthusiasts.  They’ve been quaffing stouts and porters and even IPAs aged in wine, whiskey, rum and whatever barrels for an interval of many years.  But, that’s not what this new release is; at least, not barrel aged in the traditional sense.

Brewer’s in Portland and San Diego ascertained that coffee beans – green coffee beans, that is, beans that have not yet undergone the roasting process – absorb their surroundings handily and profoundly.  The brewers thus placed the green beans in an empty barrel that had previously contained the spirit of the brewer’s choice.  For Kingman that meant the green coffee beans, procured by Beale Street Brews, were aged in rum barrels provided by Diamond Distillery.  Once the beans have been barrel aged to the brewers delight they are cold-brewed.  The resulting coffee is then added to the wort at some point during the boil.  Or perhaps after.  Esoteric lore such as that can only be divulged by Tom, the brewing sphinx*.

The process results in a coffee tinged with the libation within which barrel it was housed melded with a malty delight called beer.  It sounds fantabulous, does it not?

*The next question is, who is Tom?  He is a curious character, one of myth and obscurity.  Only those on the inside know his true identity and he is spoken of in whispers.  And that’s all that can be said at this time.  Regardless, he has overseen the production of this new beer and … well, its character shall be dissected in the words to follow.

Begin At the Beginning (Aroma)
It emanates so much coffee!  It smells like breakfast on the third day of seven days off.  Like a campfire with a little perfume.  Thus, dark grains, strong coffee and a hint of hops.  Smashing.

And Go On (Appearance)
What a luscious head, the tincture of Irish cream on a waffle.  Dense but approachable and stable, indubitably enhanced by the nucleation points in the glass.  It rivals Angry Elf in color, an unfeigned brownish-black with sensuous spotlights of garnet.

Till You Come to the End (Taste)
There’s fruit at first taste, like a bursting plum.  With some tangy rum. Yes, there’s that distillery.  But that dwindles and the tang of dark fruit remains.  It rings on the tongue like the drawing of Anduril from its sheath, with all the  accompanying fanfare.  There is bitterness, derived from the sharp black coffee burntness.  But it lingers not.  The coffee presence is far superior to any other coffee beer, very fresh, smoky, mapley & caramelly.  Seeking the hops may result in a smidge of earthy resin.  Medium body, not really chewy but substantial.  Lingers, sweet and content.  The bitterness creeps up in the finish.  Not belligerently, but properly, like an English hop?

Then Stop (Conclusions)
Wow.

The coffee, malt, rum, mixed sagely.  The cold brew coffee reduces the beer abrasiveness but enhances its depth.  As with so many of the offerings at Black Bridge, this one is high in alcohol content but that, too, is deceptive; for Legend of Tom wants to be a session beer but is far too sophisticated for such things.  In other words, it is ridiculously easy to drink.

Is it the best beer ever from Black Bridge?  If it were a novel it would perhaps be something from Dostoyevsky, maybe Crime & Punishment – dark but compelling, a long journey; Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.  If it were a song … Whiskey in the Jar or One by Metallica; God Save the Queen by Sex Pistols.

(Author’s Note:  I like it better than 80 Shilling). 

That answers not the question.  Is it the best?  It’s for beer lovers,  possessing all the t has all you could want from a beer.  Dark malt backbone.  A little hops presence.  Coffee.  High alcohol.  Below are the guidelines for American porter’s, standard and imperial.  You can see how Legend of Tom fits in to all these and then expands on the styles.

(Author’s Note, again:  I like it better than Shugga Momma).

But is it the best from B3?  Interestingly, this does not have the same “house” flavor that the Black Bridge beers carry.  That is no condemnation, either of the beer or the house flavor.  Such a thing is expected from using a particular yeast strain and local water and the same equipment.  It is what makes your local your local.  Tom paid meticulous attention to itself.

(Last Author’s Note:  I like it better than Evil Red).

Cheers and well done!

Beer Judge Certification Program
20A. American Porter

  • A substantial, malty dark beer with a complex and flavorful dark malt character.
  • Medium-light to medium-strong dark malt aroma, often with a lightly burnt character. Optionally may also show some additional malt character in support (grainy, bready, toffee-like, caramelly, chocolate, coffee, rich, and/or sweet). Hop aroma low to high, often with a resiny, earthy, or floral character.
  • Medium brown to very dark brown, often with ruby- or garnet-like highlights. Can approach black in color.
  • Full, tan-colored head with moderately good head retention.
  • Moderately strong malt flavor usually features a lightly burnt malt character (and sometimes chocolate and/or coffee flavors) with a bit of grainy, dark malt dryness in the finish. Overall flavor may finish from dry to medium-sweet.
  • May have a sharp character from dark roasted grains, but should not be overly acrid, burnt or harsh. The dark malt and hops should not clash.
  • Medium to medium-full body. Stronger versions may have a slight alcohol warmth. May have a slight astringency from dark malts, although this character should not be strong.
  • May contain several malts, prominently dark malts, which often include black malt (chocolate malt is also often used). American hops typically used for bittering, but US or UK finishing hops can be used

Brewer’s Association Guidelines
American-Style Imperial Porter

  • Color: Black
  • Clarity: Opaque
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: No roast barley or strong burnt/black malt character should be perceived. Medium malt, caramel and cocoa sweetness should be present.
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Low to medium- high
  • Perceived Bitterness: Medium-low to medium
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity-estery flavors and aromas should be evident but not overpowering and should complement hop character and malt- derived sweetness. Diacetyl should be absent.
  • Body: Full
  • Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 5.5%-9.5% (7.0%-12.0%)