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Crafting a Beer: Inception – Fünke a Mint Blueberry Kölsch (2013)

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As members of B.E.E.R (Brewer’s East End Revival), we will be pouring a cask beer that we brewed with none other than Bobby Rodriguez, a seasoned and award winning home brewer. Bobby runs the club only competitions for B.E.E.R. each month, has brewed a myriad of styles and is a good friend. He graciously allowed us to brew with him on his excellent home brew set up. Much like our Saint Remo Gruit Ale we brewed (with Frank) for the Spring Craft Beer Festival, a great deal of thought went into the recipe. This is a pivotal step where you decide what type of beer you will be creating and it really is where the whole process begins.

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We originally just knew that we wanted to create a beer which we could cask that would be a bit unexpected. Normally, cask beers are on the stronger, heavier side with stouts, porters, IPAs and even barley wines lending themselves to being poured from a cask well. However, as much as we love these options, the fest is in April and we figured patrons may appreciate a lighter, thirst quenching and slightly unique option. We ultimately decided on a kölsch, which is a refreshing style that we would be able to tweak and flavor to make our own. The originators of this style in Cologne Germany would probably frown upon this but we are throwing tradition out the window (mostly) to come up with something tasty, refreshing and super drinkable.

Now, onto part two of the recipe brainstorming process: what ingredients would we add to our kölsch? We had many ideas but were not sure which, if any, would work with the base beer we had now planned to brew. Thai basil, peppercorns, mint, licorice, mixed berries, flower of Jamaica (or hibiscus) and blueberries were all ideas floating around that we thought may enhance our beer. We originally were leaning towards a Thai basil/mint hybrid with some flower of Jamaica added in as well. So mad scientist Bobby got to work brewing up teas made from our potential kölsch additions and we met at a local bar to give these additions a try with a commercially made brew.

He arrived with his bag of tricks (fairly literally), and it was time to taste beer, our teas and combinations of both. Since we had not yet brewed our kölsch, we ordered a Warsteiner Premium Verum (pilsner) to use as the base upon which we would layer our flavor additions. With Warsteiner not actually being a kölsch we would not end up with a 100% accurate idea of our final product but this pilsner was light and had the flavor profile we were looking for. We knew it would work for our testing purposes and using this brew helped us to narrow down what flavors we would use. Plus, their slogan is “Queen Among Beers”, so you really can’t go wrong there. With the beer ordered and ready to go, we started the tasting.

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The Warsteiner itself was lemony and lightly hopped, with a touch of malt. We all agreed it was a light, refreshing beer and would be a suitable base for our testing. First, we added just the Thai basil, which gave the brew a subtle, woodsy flavor. Next, we went with only mint which was bright and palate cleansing. We thought the earthiness of the basil would pair well with the freshness of the mint, so we added a little of each to the beer. Surprisingly, the mint and basil each held their own in the beer without one flavor becoming overpowering. So far, this was our favorite combination as it was almost like enjoying three different beers in one sip.

Next, it was time to step it up a notch and get a bit more daring with our additions. We added the flower of Jamaica, which imparted a fuscia color in the beer, but it did not do much in terms if flavor so we kept adding more and more until we finally could taste it. Oddly enough, the tea by itself had a very sour, tart flavor but once it was added to the beer it really became muted. It was also very drying on the palate, so we decided to add some of our other ingredients ontop of the flower to see if this enhanced the flavor at all. Flower of Jamaica and mint was dry and sharp, with a but if a medicinal taste, so we kept trying. The Thai basil and flower combination produced the flavor of a light, herbal tea but again there was a medicinal hint. All three ingredients mixed together were the most pleasant combination, though they gave off a bit of an artificial flavor that no one was in love with.

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So far we had found a couple ingredients we liked, but nothing that really wowed us. However, Bobby still had a secret ingredient left in his bag: a tincture of blueberry and one of mixed berry flavorings. The mixed berry flavor on its own was not bad, and had a bit of a candy-like flavor, but when we mixed it into the beer it gave off a very medicinal quality so we did not even try the herb additions. The blueberry tincture had a very sweet, artificial taste and we agreed if we liked the idea of a blueberry addition we would use real berries to negate that. We tried it with the basil and it had a nice flavor but the blueberry and beer took a backseat to the herbaceous qualities. Next was the mint and as soon as we tried it we knew this was the winner.

The fresh mint nicely balanced the slightly tart blueberries and it left a refreshing aftertaste that compelled you to take a sip. We all agreed the combination would be even better with real blueberries and so it was settled: we would be brewing a mint blueberry kölsch for the Blue Point Cask Festival. For a mid-April festival that normally boasts many heavy beers, we thought it would be nice to have something on the lighter, refreshing side for people to enjoy. Now it was onto the hard(er) part: brewing. Check back soon for the article on our process brewing Fünke, a Mint Blueberry Kölsch!

Written by A+K

April 6th, 2013 at 10:50 pm

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