GABF brewers' diaries
Capitol City Brewing - Sept. 16
Back to the beer style choices for GABF.
After Kolsch we decided to go with our other award winning beer, Wee Heavy. This
brew we have been doing for about seven years on three different brewing
systems within Cap City. It has been the most successful of all, winning a GABF
Bronze in 2001 and a Silver in 2002 and also has done well at the Real Ale
Festival with a 2002 Gold in category and Silver Best of Group Awards, British Ales,
and Gold in category in 2003. It went from being our Christmas Ale to almost
being brewed year round. We chose to give it a break this summer and put the
brewers stash under wraps. This beer did not do well at judged events until
we started to age it. The longer the better I find, but I must admit we cannot
seem to hold a keg or cask longer than two years. Each year we try to lay
down a keg for GABF or a cask for RAF at least six months beforehand so the
brewing and thinking process for these events happens months before. The Wee
Heavy is brewed with all English malts with huge sums of Pale, some crystal and a
touch of Roasted Barley. The hops vary but all are English and the yeast used
is our "house" strain from the National Collection of Yeast Cultures in
Norwich, UK. The yeast does need a little help with some yeast nutrients and never
gets pitched again. This is our BIG malt showcase beer to demonstrate that
we are not just hophead brewers.
The next beer we entered is our Prohibition Porter, yes I know, another one
of our "house" beers. We have been sending this beer for years and it never
seems to do well in judged events but as a category it is very attractive.
There are many wonderful Porters brewed in this country which is really amazing to
me since it is a beer style that nearly became extinct in the country that
founded it. The American Craft Beer movement really saved it as a beer style.
So the historical factor with a Porter and all that goes with it makes it a
challenge to us. We made the decision since last years GABF to tweak and adjust
the recipe to make it something that is ... well ... maybe more attractive to
the judges and to the public hopefully as well. We adjusted the malt and hop
grist and made the beer a little bit bigger. It was funny to me when I asked
our regulars how they liked the new recipe, one, Larry said "Really? I did not
notice." The brewers thought the change was for the better and fortunately
our brewpub regulars did not take notice.
The next beer sent to the GABF is the Trippel. The reasons for sending this
beer is simple. We think it is a good example of the style and we would like
to have an award in an elusive category for Capitol City Brewing Company.
Something in a Belgian style! This beer, like the reasons for sending it, is
simple in design. A pallet of German pils malt, many kilos of light candi sucre
and a great yeast strain from White Labs. No filtering, easy. I love these
kinds of beers.
The next beer sent we wanted to send as a poke in the eye to the West Coast
brewers who say they know all there is to know about brewing hoppy beers (wink,
wink, say no more Govn'r ... hear me Lupulin Slammers!).
Yep, we also decided to send one of the same beer styles another of our
brewers is doing but what the #@&*. I have to admit though, and I am being truly
honest, I got a lot of pointers from the West Coast brewers on this one when
starting out, including Vinnie Cilurzo and many others. They were all helpful in
helping to shape something that only existed in rumor here on the East Coast,
at least at that time. It was about a year or more ago that I started
researching this elusive style. I was told by one West Coast brewer that it was a
fraud since no one brewed a "Double" IPA (this style's other name). This brewer
went on to give me the example of a typical IPA at say 16 plato and 70 IBUs
then imagine a 32 plato, 140 IBU Double IPA if the "double" really applies. I
saw this brewer's point and decided then and there to refer to it as Imperial
IPA, heck it sounded more regal anyhow. We started with a huge amount of
English pale malt and then a huge amount of German Vienna malt (just to make it
American!), then the kettle hops were all American varietals. The dry hop was
dictated by Hopunion, whatever a quarter bale was became the amount used in a
15 barrel batch. Yields were low and the product precious. We would only tap
a keg a week so our regulars would not drink it up so fast. We never
advertised the Imperial IPA in the brewpubs, but still people in the know heard about
it and would call ahead to be sure it was on tap. Stealth beer we call it and
the effect was the same. What a huge amount of work for a beer but it was
We were pressed to get a fresh batch of Imperial IPA brewed in August for
GABF. The dry hopping was done incorrectly and the whole leaf nylon bags ripped
from the clamps holding them to the temp probe. If any dry hop character got
in the batch it was minimal. I was not happy. I decided to use the first
batch brewed of this nectar, which was in brewers stash since January. My concern
was for what I felt the style might dictate for the judges which was "Fresh
dry hop character." But, I had no choice, the latest batch was not up to it and
the aged batch was all we had.
Off to the GABF the Beers went.
For Capitol City Brewing Company in Arlington, Virginia where I brew with
Mike Morris and Sam Fernandez, we sent:
Capitol Kolsch Ale, Wee Heavy Ale, Prohibition Porter, Belgian style Trippel
and Imperial IPA.