Friday, January 20, 2012

Pepper Steak Porter

A foreword: I just read this over, and it may be long and uninteresting. You’ve been warned. 

A journey. A short journey. What’s the threshold of time/distance that constitutes a journey? I don’t know. 
A journey nevertheless. 
Rian and I have oft discussed getting our brains together over a lovely ale and brainstormed working out some really interesting ideas at styles of beer that we’d like to brew. 
The only downfall to this picture of Utopian living is that neither of us are any good at brewing.
It’s a damn shame. 
For example, the Cheeseymite Saison is trapped in our creative psyche, likely never to see the light of day. You might say that’s a good thing. Of course, one Ryan Tyack from Southern Bay Brewing might mount the executive head brewers throne on the bridge of his Death Star home brewery and electroshock some life into this Frankenstein of a beer yet.
Also, he might not. 
Anyway, one such brainstorming session Rian floated his idea of a Guava IPA. Rian, that is. Not Ryan. Ugh, this is so confusing.
This was the extent of the planning for this beer, as we were under no illusions that if we tried to brew it up it would end in failure and tears possibly. Likely, actually. 
So this was swept under the rug for a while. 
Many moons later (it was probably only two moons, three tops. I’m not down with the celestial cycles) we decided we’d make the trip to the Otways and take part in the Prickly Moses Brewers Experience, a package deal allowing you to go up to the Prickly Moses brewery for a day and brew a batch of their beer with the brewers and a couple of other punters. They run a couple of these a year so we had some time to look forward to it. 
You get a day of brewing, a gorgeous lunch, endless beer, and excellent fun along the way. 
Was that a good plug for Prickly Moses? I’d imagine they’ll want to send me some free stuff after that. 
Half a moon after we’d decided to participate in this experience, it was approaching another of our favourite parts of the beer calendar: The October installment of the Victorian Microbrewery Showcase. What fun!
I won’t go into detail about the showcase, but we made our way to the Prickly Moses stall and met Hendo for the first time in person. We’d conversed on Twitter as I jealously asked him to stop documenting his wonderful beer romp through the United States to all us poor folk at home. 
As we chatted, Hendo said “You guys should come up to the brewery some time and have a look around.” to which Rian replied “Well, we’re actually coming up to do the Brewers Experience in January.” 
“Oh is that so?” said Hendo, with a wry grin appearing. “Well how about this? We normally brew what we have on our schedule, but for that session why don’t you guys come up with a beer that you want to brew?”
At this stage I think I can speak for the both of us when I say we were being all cool and relaxed on the outside but yippee-ing and celebrating on the inside, and we both shared the telepathic message: Guava IPA. 
We hadn’t thought of marrying it up to a hilarious hair style, but we’re not professional brewers, you see?
So excited by the thought of getting our Guava IPA into tanks Rian suggested “ Tweet the idea to Hendo NOW.” 
“No.” said I. “Let’s keep this card close to our chest and throw some red herrings out into the Twitterverse.”
“Opiate Infused Wheat Beer”
“Pepper Steak Porter”
Resident beer geek James Davidson took this bait and demanded somebody created it for him. I apologized and explained I was just getting my creative juices flowing. Idea!
“Creative Juice Infused Flanders Red Ale!!”. 
Mildly entertained with ourselves we sent a private message to Hendo suggesting we make the Guava IPA. 
We didn’t get a response. 
Hendo pictured, looking like a crazy person.
We waited for a response. After a week we had heard nothing of this Guava IPA. Had we offended Hendo at the very suggestion of a Guava IPA? 
We were to get our response soon enough, but it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. A simple tweet from Hendo about a week later set some things in motion. 

“Can’t stop thinking about Pepper Steak Porter. Maybe our entry for GABS?”
Once Rian and I pick ourselves up off the floor, the excitement of one our stupid jokes becoming reality sets in.
It was decided that we’d brew a pilot batch, and if it didn’t suck or kill anybody Hendo would tweak and hone the recipe for GABS. 
As much as we were looking forward to the Brewers Experience anyway, now we’re going to be brewing Pepper Steak Porter. 
Now the speculation begun about how the hell we were going to make a beer taste like pepper steak. 
A week before the brew day we get notified by Hendo that he has been smoking the malt with mesquite and hickory and he has smelled like meat ever since. This excited us. Hendo had it all figured out.
On the drive up we stopped in at Forrest Brewery for lunch and a couple of quiet ones. Good food and beer from Forrest, but we won’t go into detail here. 
Brew day arrived and we awoke at the crack of dawn ringtone that I had set as my alarm on my phone that was set just prior to the crack of dawn, got into a cab and were on our way to the Prickly Moses Brewery. 
We gathered with a couple of other Brewers Experience attendees and realized that a brewery has to start functioning the same way any workplace does.
With coffee.  
By the bottom of the cup, we were all feeling a little more normal and ready to get cracking on the brewing. 
I quite enjoyed watching the other punters faces when Hendo instructed that we’d be brewing an experimental Pepper Steak beer today. The large brew we made was the Otway Ale. 
The Brewers Experience really offers what it says on the label, it takes you through every aspect of creating a commercial grade beer from start to finish, and Hendo is really in his element when conducting it. He’s got a pure passion for educating people on and encouraging the experience of craft beer. 
Brewing the Otway Ale on the large gear was fun, as well as pretty educational for this novice home brewer but the real fun came when we turned our attention to the pilot brewery to get the Pepper Steak Porter rolling. The grain smelled great. It smelled like meat. I didn’t want to stop smelling it. 
Once the boil started it became more aromatic and meatfully delicious.
At this point in time I’ll go off on a tangent. During the boil Hendo cracked open some bottles of the experimental “Saboteur”, big brother of the excellent Raconteur IPA, and wow! When Hendo gets a brewery at Southern Bay that can support that you can be sure he will turn out a mighty Double IPA if the Saboteur is anything to go by. 
The boil was 60 minutes, what better time to go and have some lunch?
What else would it possibly have been? We all sat down and tucked in to a mouth watering pepper steak that was cooked perfectly. 
After some steak, some Raconteur and some good chin wagging it was back into the brewhouse to get the beer into the fermenter and let the yeast do it’s thing. 
Pepper Steak Porter was in a fermenter and now it was just down to time and yeast. After some cleaning up (and a Raconteur or two...) our brew day was over. 
Now, the tale of the Pepper Steak Porter didn’t quite go as we thought it may have done, because for those playing at home, this was the time that Hendo accepted the job as Head Brewer of Southern Bay Brewing Company. This meant that the Pepper Steak Porter would need to be withdrawn from GABS, which is disappointing but there wasn’t really a feasible way of doing it with Hendo taking over the helm at Southern Bay. 
The upside to this was that when it was ready and I received my three growlers, we’d created a really great beer. Big, smoky, meaty characters dominate this porter that finishes with the pepper flavour from dry hopped peppercorns. 
The porter itself stood up as pure class and I would not be surprised of this is used as a basis for a Southern Bay Robust Porter when the time comes. 
A joke come to fruition. That’s just how we roll. 
If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this garbage and are excited by the idea of the Brewers Experience then I strongly recommend it and you can call Prickly Moses to make a booking on 03 5233 8400.

For added pleasure, I have posted some more photos.