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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Regarding Stresstout – An Imperial Stout by Black Bridge Brewery

Black Bridge Brewery has a powerful selection of stouts to drink.

  • Locomotive
  • Stout Chocula
  • Frankenstout
  • Mole Stout
  • Angry Elf

Three of those are blends and Angry Elf is seasonal and all are potent and satisfying beers, each one.  I am also quite partial to stouts and porters, but surely that has no bearing herein.

Another stout can be added to the list.  In addition to clever word play in it’s name it boasts eleven percent alcohol and barrel aged gravitas.  It’s been four years since the last time Kingman residents have been able to relieve their stress via Stresstout.  This bourbon barrel-aged version will be on tap, I believe, February 3.

Here are a few things to look for in an Imperial Stout, :

  • Roasty-burnt malt with deep dark or dried fruit flavors
  • A warming, bittersweet finish
  • Components need to meld together to create a complex, harmonious beer, not a hot mess.

That Smell …
I perceived chocolate and coffee in the nose first, moderately strong dark charred malt, then the embers of, maybe some dark fruit.  Then the bourbon arrives … .  It’s a complex bouquet, no hops perceived.  Strong and inviting.

In Appearance …
Beautiful, really.  Here’s a picture:

IMG_4786

It defies the desert sun, countering the deep sunset with brown, garnet and ivory.   It sported a thin, tan head with low retention, but that could have just been the glass.

But the Taste …
While the bourbon does not dominate it makes itself known.  As with the aroma there is a moderate presence of burnt malt.  Stresstout is like Locomotive Stout married to a svelte whiskey; or Katastrophic Humiliation with a lot of dark malt.  It’s definitely got a barleywine-like alcohol punch.A little vanilla and oak come through as well.  It’s definitely got a barleywine-like alcohol punch.  As noted, I perceived no hops in the nose and really did not notice any hops flavor or bitterness.  It has a warm, alcoholic finish.    It’s has a solid, not heavy, body.  In that regard it resembles Black Bridge’s other Imperial Stout, Angry Elf.  Both of these are ridiculously and dangerously easy to drink.

Conclusions
Another superb addition to a strong tap list at Black Bridge.  This is a complex beer, sometimes it’s even possible to forget you have a beer and think you’ve got a big glass of whiskey.  It’ll make you feel refined.  In fact, if this were a book … well, I’d just have to call it poetry – and not cheap doggerel.  Maybe you are familiar with Rumi.  His poems are gorgeous, composed of words like everyone else uses but placed together in a way that is sublime and practical, esoteric and approachable.  Therefore, it’s a good metaphor for Stresstout.   It’s a really well done stout.  For beer fans, this is a complex delight with no end to dissection; for beer novices this can expand the palate.

For more details on an Imperial Stout, see section 20c of the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines.  Here’s a few highlights:

20C. Imperial Stout

Aroma: Rich and complex, with variable amounts of roasted grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hops, and alcohol. The roasted malt character can take on coffee, dark chocolate, or slightly burnt tones and can be light to moderately strong.  … Fruity esters may be low to moderately strong, and may take on a complex, dark fruit (e.g., plums, prunes, raisins) character. Hop aroma can be very low to quite aggressive, … An alcohol character may be present, but shouldn’t be sharp, hot, or solventy. Aged versions may have a slight vinous or port-like quality, but shouldn’t be sour.

Appearance: Color may range from very dark reddish-brown to jet black. Opaque. Deep tan to dark brown head.

Flavor: Rich, deep, complex and frequently quite intense, with variable amounts of roasted malt/grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hop bitterness and flavor, and alcohol. Medium to aggressively high bitterness. Medium-low to high hop flavor (any variety). Moderate to aggressively high roasted malt/grain flavors can suggest bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate, cocoa, and/or strong coffee. … Malt backbone can be balanced and supportive to rich and barleywine-like, … The palate and finish can vary from relatively dry to moderately sweet, usually with some lingering roastiness, hop bitterness and warming character.

Mouthfeel: Full to very full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture … . Gentle smooth warmth from alcohol should be present and noticeable, but not a primary characteristic; in well-conditioned versions, the alcohol can be deceptive.

History: A style with a long, although not necessarily continuous, heritage. Traces roots to strong English porters brewed for export in the 1700s, and said to have been popular with the Russian Imperial Court. After the Napoleonic wars interrupted trade, these beers were increasingly sold in England. The style eventually all but died out, until being popularly embraced in the modern craft beer era, both in England as a revival and in the United States as a reinterpretation or re-imagination by extending the style with American characteristics.