Before I fell in love with beer I had no idea of the potential this seemingly simple beverage has to make people smile. Of course, I knew it was a perfect pairing with a burger or wings, and it always accompanied my left hand at the pub. But it wasn’t until I really went head over heals for craft beer that I began to understand and appreciate the wide spectrum of character that beer can have – a spectrum of flavour, color, aroma, sensations, and moments. Yes, beer can fit nearly any moment in time, any circumstance there is, or any occasion in life. What I really discovered is that beer has enough room for creativity and customization that it can make anyone smile.
I started thinking about ways that beer could be tailored to any specific moment in time, and really its not that hard to consider, and I’m not the only one thinking about it. Since craft beer was craft, breweries have been making pumpkin beers for Halloween, warming spiced beers for Christmas, and easy drinking sessionable lagers for Oktoberfest. These occasion based beers have become so popular that they are recognized styles now – but how about the likes of Brew Dog, who recently brewed a special beer called Never Mind the Anabolics to celebrate the 2012 Olympics. Brew Dog tends to take it to the extreme, but they’ve got exactly the right idea.
For one of my friend’s wedding I planned to follow suit and create two special beers to commemorate their special day; one for the Groom and one for the Bride – each specifically designed with their own individual traits and preferences in mind. (Note: I am certainly not the first to do this – hundreds of years ago a Bride would brew a special beer to sell to her family and friends in order to raise money for the wedding – the Bride-Ale) Now, because a homebrewed beer can take anywhere from 5 weeks to several moths to mature (depending on the style) its necessary to plan ahead a consider the day the beers need to be ready by, and what sort of flavours and sensations you are trying to create.
For Colin, the Groom, his tastes for rich Imperial Stouts, thick Barleywines, sweet Belgian Ales, and spirits forced me to brew a beer in April for the August wedding. Colin fermented to 12%, and in planning this I attempted to incorporate aspects from all of his favorite flavours. Lots of chocolate and roasted malts were used to embrace an Imperial Stout, a thick coating of caramel malts and a higher final gravity (sugar content) will lean it towards a Barleywine, Belgian Dark Candi sugar should bring with it dark fruit and depth like a Quadrupel, and then to finish with a spirit I aged it on Rum soaked oak chips with cocoa nibs for 2 months.
Jen (the Bride) on the other hand is a beer for the people, unlike stubbornly robust Colin. Jen was brewed as a session American Pale Ale, soft and gentle in malt character, easy at 6% and smooth with balancing bitterness, but loaded with hops for aroma and sweet character. Essentially Jen got as much dry-hopping as I would a Double IPA, but she is under 30 IBUs. The theme for Jen was Riesling, to showcase her affinity for sweet white wine and fresh flavours. The predominant hop used was Nelson Sauvin, one treasured for its sweet tropical and Riesling-like character. But to kick it off right I also brewed and primed Jen with white Grape juice.
I sincerely hope that the bride and groom and their friends and family enjoy the flavours I have tried to create in these beers. But the real treat is in the beer as a whole, not just its flavour. At their wedding they will have something truly unique and specifically crafted to celebrate their love. This is how powerful and enriching that beer can be. Beyond flavour, beyond style, and beyond the moment – right into your soul.