aren't most humans?
and i love getting the behind the scenes stories on things
like the 12 beers of the apocalypse from elysian
ROBIN HOOD'S BARN
Dick's Last Blog
There's a lot of interesting background for some of the beers as well, and bringing them out every month has often been a logistical challenge as we locate and then mobilize some pretty esoteric ingredients, incidentally getting government approval along the way for both label and process. Never mind the brewing-though you probably haven't seen an array of roasted chili powders like the one that went into Peste outside of a Mexican spice market, or just about anything, for that matter, quite the color of Torrent. Ditto the mass of golden raisins left in the fermenter cone after Doom was transferred. Wasteland brought together all the dried elderflowers available in the United States at the time it was brewed, winging in from around six suppliers to make the super-fragrant scene at Airport Way. Compared to all those, Omen was pretty straightforward, with something like 750 pounds of raspberries added to an ordinary Belgian-style stout. Blight? Just another pumpkin beer brewed with dark brown sugar and super-fiery Vietnamese cinnamon.
But as I said, getting the ingredients hasn't always been easy. The inspiration for Mortis was Idefix, one of the first beers we brewed in Seattle with our friends from New Belgium. Making eight barrels of sour persimmon ale was only a mildly arduous endeavor, thanks mainly to our sous-chef Kevin Jackson's willingness to blanch and puree fifty pounds of Fuyu persimmons. Making 120 barrels was a different story, as the 750 pounds of persimmons had to first be procured and processed, and then introduced to the brettanomyces fermentation already underway. We got the fruit from the same guys who supply the lion's share of the pumpkins for GPBF, and tapped into a food processing contact from our friend Howard Lev of Mama Lil's Peppers. So in a bit of a hurry (persimmons don't ripen until late October, and the beer was scheduled for release on November 21), I gave a call to George Wolf of Wolfpack Foods in Gold Bar, up off Route 2 on the way to Stevens Pass.
"Let me tell you how we do business," George told me over the phone, "you come up here and we get to know each other a little bit. We talk about what it is you want us to do for you, we agree on a price, and then you go back and talk to your folks and make sure we can proceed." Yikes, I thought, I really don't have time for this. But I drove up to Gold Bar, had a fairly pleasant chin-wag with George, his daughter and his forewoman, and got the gist of what they were going to be able to do for us. A week later I drove back up with the persimmons and stuck around while a couple of buckets' worth were chopped, blanched and processed into puree. I spent the next few hours at the public library in Monroe hammering away at a chapter of Starting Your Own Brewery, the book I've been working on for Brewers Publications, while the folks back at Wolf Pack fit our job in between some pepper spread and a curry sauce. At the appointed time I went back and loaded 23 5-gallon buckets into my Element and headed back south to Seattle. There was an adventurous moment when I swung out to pass a car on the highway and had a hard time getting the job done with all that extra payload, but the less said about that the better. The next morning we scissor-lifted the buckets up to the catwalk and dumped them into the fermenter.
Finding a source for the golden syrup we needed to brew Doom was surprisingly easy. The British specialty foods webstore we'd used before to get it for Tri- and Sextacula had only grudgingly and unreliably been able to provide us with ten or twenty pounds at a time. This time we needed 660 pounds, but lo and behold I found a manufacturer of a Canadian version just up the road in Vancouver, BC. The trouble was that since sugar cane doesn't grow in Canada and the sugar to produce the golden syrup needed to be imported, they couldn't directly export to the United States. So they steered me to a sugar wholesaler in Surrey who could at least sell it to me. Arranging to bring it into the States was pretty much up to me. I spent a total of the better part of an afternoon talking to folks at McGilvrey Sugar, Customs and Border Patrol and the Food and Drug Administration. I filed documents online scheduling my border crossing and inspection and dickered with CBP about the tax status of my prospective cargo. I had a breakthrough when I called straight to the border crossing in Blaine, Washington and we established that I almost certainly wouldn't be turned back, as long as I was willing to pay as much as $80.00 in duty. That's all this was about?, I thought.
So once again I hopped into the Element and headed north. Getting the syrup went without a hitch, this time 24 buckets' worth, and when I got to the border I was instructed to stand in the wrong line for nearly an hour. I rousted somebody at the FDA counter and managed to convince them there were no bio-terrorism issues with a bunch of sugar, and impressed them just a bit that I had accurately anticipated-and filed for-the time of my crossing. Then it was over to Customs, a consultation in a phonebook-sized manual of product classification, and a payment of 25$ for a simple vehicle crossing, and I was back on the road and on American soil.
It's often a challenge getting specialty ingredients, no matter what your size. But it's a far cry from throwing a handful of something odd into a 5-gallon homebrew batch to mobilizing and introducing several hundred pounds of it into a 60-barrel brewhouse, or a fermenter a couple of stories tall. As I put it in a talk I gave at the National Homebrewers Conference back in June, an ingredient can become weird simply by being unwieldy in large quantities. Still, if the results justify the effort, it's worth continuing to knock ourselves out figuring out new ways to make beer. I think these twelve beers have done that. Too bad about the end of the world and all.
Founder and Head Brewer