Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hallucinator is back!

People have often asked me, "When can I get your beer on tap somewhere?"

Well, they will get their wish. Today I made a commercially-available beer in a commercial brewery for the fourth time. The beer is my own creation and may never be made again - or it may be made over and over. We'll see.

This is the story of how I got to brew that beer today.

Ten years ago, I designed an English Old Ale, called "Old Ironsides." Golden in color, it was lightly hopped, very malty, and smooth. An easy-drinking beer, it was subtly dangerous: at 7% alcohol by volume, it had nearly twice the alcohol of the pale fizzy lagers most Americans drink.

My second batch of this brew was called "Old Floorboards." It was made and tweaked with my friend Michael Rasmussen and aged fifteen months before being selected as one of the first "Collaborator" beers from Widmer Brothers Brewing. "Collaborator" is a joint project between Widmer and the Oregon Brew Crew in which homebrewers design beers of less-commonly-known styles. Selected winners get brewed by Widmer and served in area pubs. A healthy share of proceeds funds the Bob McCracken Scholarship Fund at Oregon State University's Fermentation Sciences program (named for the late OBC President who championed the idea). The brewers get accolades and very nice letterman's jackets. We can then brag to our former high school jock friends that we've "lettered in beer." They are nearly always supremely jealous.

Mike and I helped brew the first batch of this beer, now called "Hallucinator," at Widmer's Rose Quarter pilot brewery with brewmaster Ike Manchester on my 40th birthday - October 28, 1999. It debuted in November of 2000 at the New Old Lompoc pub in northwest Portland. It was a smash hit. The keg was tapped at 7 PM and it was empty by 8:30. Lompoc rushed out and bought a second keg and we drained half of it before the night was through.

The beer was sold in pubs all over town, including the Horse Brass, the M Bar, It's a Beautiful Pizza, the Triple Nickle and of course Widmer's own pub, The Gasthaus. I had a pint of Hallucinator at each pub that served my beer. A second batch was served at the 2001 Oregon Brewer's Festival and the 2001 Winter Ale Festival, where it won the "People's Choice Award." I was thrilled to serve my beer at that festival as a volunteer.

Since then, many other great Collaborator beers have come along, and Hallucinator became a distant, fond memory. Until...

My pal, Winter Ale Festival boss Preston Weesner, convinced Widmer to brew Hallucinator again, specifically for the 2007 festival (November 30-December 2, at Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square). That's what we brewed today. This 10-barrel batch of beer required:

750 pounds of pale malt
93 pounds of specialty malts
about 8 pounds of hops
about one-half barrel of yeast slurry
gobs and gobs of water, heat, sweat, and patience

I spent most of the day chatting with Ike and waiting for the opportunity to do something like shovel grain, flip a valve, attach giant hoses with screw-on clamps, or weigh hops. At the end of the day I got to examine the finished wort under a microscope and count yeast cells. Just like in my home brewery, the whole process took about seven hours.

This batch of Hallucinator won't be aged a year like the previous (and my home-made) batches. In fact, I expect it to sell out completely by year's end. Preston said he'd buy every drop of it for the Winter fest if he could - but he can't. Several individuals, including Michael and I, will pony up for quarter-barrels for home consumption, as I'm sure will Preston.

Those will get aged.

Maybe... it's pretty good drinking beer young, too.

Ideally, there'll be some at next year's Pagan Party, but no promises. Unless there's another batch after this one...