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Crafting a Beer: Aftermath – Saint Remo Gruit Ale (2013)

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When we arrived at Nassau Coliseum for the Spring Craft Beer Festival around 10:30 am it was already filled with people setting up for the day ahead. We were stationed at the LIBME table along with other brewers and members of the club who were volunteering. At the table, there were 12 beers on tap brewed by club members including 2 Irish reds, a gluten free brew, a white IPA, a Jaegermeister stout and, of course, our Saint Remo Gruit. Before the doors opened to the public, we had the chance to offer our beer to other home brewers and commercial brewers who were exhibitors at the show, and the reaction was mostly favorable. Since a hopless beer is a bit against the grain, especially in a market saturated with extreme IPA’s, it did attract attention from the brewing community. It was a surreal experience having professional brewers sample something that we had created giving us meaningful feedback and showing genuine interest in what we brewed.
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At 12:30, once patrons were allowed in, the LIBME table immediately attracted traffic. Our tap was right next to the Jaegermeister stout (which was a crowd favorite), so we had prime real estate in the jockey box. To our surprise, there were many request to sample the “herbal gruit”, which honestly did not sound like the most appealing beer on tap. Disclaimer: there were a few people who read the description quickly and thought it said “herbal fruit”, which has a bit of a nicer ring to it if you have no context for what a “gruit” may be. Nevertheless, it was generally well received by the crowd and seemed to appeal to a wide variety of beer drinkers and even some light beer lovers, since it did not have a bitter hop presence that does not agree with everyone.

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Overall, we were happy with the way the beer turned out as well. It poured a medium amber color with deep reddish hues, which was a bit darker than we originally anticipated, with a light, white head that left some lacing. The head settled down considerably from when we carbonated it earlier in the week, but it was still present and fairly lively. The spruce, sage, rosemary and lemon & lime zest that we used were all distinguishable in the flavor, though spruce and rosemary were the most prevalent. One brewer kept sniffing the brew as he was intrigued by the spruce notes filling the tasting glass. Though the ABV was around 6%, it was light in body and the taste was not overwhelming, so it was actually a perfect beer to enjoy while we were serving patrons of the festival. A nice, refreshing end to our recipe planning and execution.
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What Alicia Thought: Before even coming in contact with the brewing equipment, I was surprised by the amount of planning and precision that goes into just crafting a beer recipe. When I pictured home brewing, I always thought of a few guys standing around, drinking beers and haphazardly throwing hops into a giant pot as they socialized. However, I quickly realized this was not the case. Brewing is truly a labor of love and although there were several times throughout the day when I thought “it would be a lot easier to just run to the store for a beer”, there is a definite sense of accomplishment when you taste the finished product and see it pouring from a tap. I would definitely suggest that anyone who has ever complained about spending a little extra on craft beer brew their own batch at least once. Somewhere between standing out in the cold and scrambling to make sure ten gallons of volatile liquid cooperates with you, you start to think $20 for a bomber bottle is quite a steal.

What Kevin Thought: I would say the thing I most took away from conceiving, brewing then serving Saint Remo Gruit Ale is we still have a lot to learn about brewing. I agree with Alicia that when we first were going to brew (again this was not our first experience but rather our first time creating a recipe from start to finish) I thought it would be a more laid back experience and it can be. However if you want your beer to taste how you envision it, avoiding the myriad defects that can creep in and ruin a batch, you need to plan out your brew and execute that plan through the brew day to the kegging process. Creating this Saint Remo Gruit Ale taught us a great deal about the brewing but we still have more to learn. It was really rewarding to take this beer from idea to reality. Think about it, we made an ale and people were not only excited to try it (because it was a bit of an oddity) they enjoyed the way it tasted too. In that way it was kind of like creating a piece or art or a really good meal and receiving really nice feedback. There is a whole new appreciation you get for all of the styles of beer and ale that exist when you realize how much work goes into crafting one ten gallon batch and having it taste the way you wanted it to. While this was a lot of work we can’t wait until we brew our next batch which will be brewed with Long Island’s own Bobby Rodriguez for Blue Point Brewery’s Cask Festival on April 13th.

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Written by A+K

March 13th, 2013 at 9:35 pm

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