A couple of days ago we shipped our Naked Fish 22oz bottles to our Maryland distributor. And next week, they will be heading to our Virginia distributor. That is right, this little brewery from Bel Air is selling beer in Virginia, but that is not what this blog post is about.
For those of you who don’t know, Naked Fish is a chocolate raspberry stout. We make it with chocolate raspberry coffee in the mash, which is a pretty cool way to get a fruit and chocolate flavor. Naked Fish has been in our lineup for years; usually released in February for Valentine’s Day. Last year, we didn’t brew it. Wow, did we make a mistake. People really missed it. Enough so that we not only brewed it this year, but we bottled it. But that is not really even the point of this post.
Back in 1998, I had just recently let go my brewmaster and I had my roommate from college (Marc Tewey of Brimstone fame) brewing for me temporarily. We had sponsored a homebrew contest, and I was planning on meeting with the winner to discuss his beer that won. Marc knew the winner and told him to bring some other samples in of his beer for me to try. The homebrew winner brought 3 different samples. All were very, very good. But, one was a Chocolate Raspberry Porter, that was just delicious. When I asked him what type of chocolate did he use to create the flavor, he floored me with “No chocolate, no raspberry. It’s all from the coffee that I use in the brew.”
Well, if you haven’t guessed it, the winner of the contest was Jim Wagner (our brewmaster). Twenty minutes after the conversations started, I offered him the job as brewmaster. And as the say, the rest was history…..
Working here definitely has its share of uniquely memorable moments. The first time that you taste a new beer that the public will not get their hands on for months. The first time that you experience the “Colossus Frenzy” at the MD Brewers Oktoberfest. The first time that you’re a suspect in a police pornography investigation. WHOA… Who where with the what now?
Halfway through production on the Black Lightning video, we were visited by an agent of our local Sheriff’s Department. He was taking some photos of the video studio, which was decorated as the execution chamber for the video. We assumed that the agent had heard about our cool electric chair replica (built specifically for the video) and came by to check it out. Pointing to a futon (seen in the 2010 Celtic Fury video and used since for the occasional siesta) stacked in the corner, the agent asked, “So you have a bed in here, too?”
The agent added, “A few weeks ago, two of my deputies were here checking out an alarm when they saw the futon set-up like a bed, surrounded by cameras, with lingerie and a chair constructed to strap someone into it and bondage gear lying next to it. Do have an explanation for that, sir?” Rut Ro Raggy!
Luckily, we did have an explanation. The deputies saw film lights and cameras we use for our videos. The lingerie they saw was the Goddess costume from the 2010 Pax Nemesis video. The bondage gear was a belt modified to hold a sword shaft in place to make it look like an actor had been stabbed, for a Celtic Fury video. And the chair, well of course that was for Black Lightning. The sheriff was eventually convinced (along with the liquor board) that while we were guilty of tasteless humor, we were not in fact manufacturing porn, and we all had a good (nervous) laugh. He assured us that no mention of this would be made in report, and that we would not have to worry about this getting out.
Well, at least not from him….
Hello All! This Wednesday we will release a brand new beer for us. This beer ushers in a new style for us called an American Black Ale, or ABA for short (we will get to what an ABA is shortly). And our imagineers have affectionately named the beer….
What is an American Black Ale? It’s sort of like a cross between Venom (our American Pale Ale) and Bad Moon (or Robust Porter)…only not at all. ABA is black as night with a distinctly American flavor profile that aims to strike a perfect balance between roasted malt and aggressive hop character. In short, American Black Ale is far more than a hybrid of other styles, it is a unique beer drinking experience unto itself.
And that is why the original names floated for the style, India Black Ale, Black Pale Ale and Cascadian Dark Ale, didn’t stick. Without getting into an IPA history lesson, ABA has little in common with IPA outside of hop character, so India Black Ale didn’t make sense. As for Cascadian Dark Ale, while the official American Brewers Association style guidelines for American Black Ale call for American hops, they definitely don’t narrow the requirement to Cascade, meaning the crazy secessionist hippies in Oregon weren’t getting anywhere with the CDA moniker, either. And Black Pale Ale? Really? That’s just lazy.
So, why did we jump into this new style when the ink was barely dry on the style guidelines and brew Black Lightning? Simple, ABAs are freaking awesome! A blend of hops and roasted malt flavor, above average alcohol content – what’s not to love? We sampled some very good versions of the style, but thought that we might be able to do it better. We wanted the challenge of balancing the disparate flavors of roasted malt and hops without losing either in the mix. We wanted to help define a style that we believed in strongly. We wanted a new beer to drink. And, well, we already printed the t-shirts :).
Thanks for reading. Now log-off, mark your calendars and come join us on Wednesday (I will be at Bel Air); cause…