While visiting Tulsa, we spent some time at three local breweries, Marshall Brewing Company, Dead Armadillo Craft Brewing, and American Solera. We also had the opportunity to meet with Glenn Hall of the soon to open Renaissance Brewery near 12th Street and Lewis Avenue in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Glenn, much like the proprietor of Marshall Brewing Company, graduated as a brew master from the Siebel Institute. While drinking a Marshall Brewing Company Pilsner, we identified that Glenn was doing some contract brewing on the Dead Armadillo Craft Brewing Company’s equipment. We got to talking about what Glenn considers a hallmark for a beer, and it came down to water. Glenn expressed his desire to not treat the water outside of merely running it through active carbon filtration. This was intriguing only because the Marshall Brewing Company Pilsner indeed had some flavor profile that was unique, and outside of what we would expect to taste from a true Bavarian or Bohemian example.
Water profiles are something that we at Augustino Brewing Company, a Wichita headquartered brewing company; believe need to be built for the specific beer we are making. While we may not use a profile specific to a given region, we will start with reverse osmosis base water, and build the profile to best suit the style, grains, and character we want to deliver to our valued patrons. The building is completed with various salts, including calcium sulfate dehydrate (gypsum), sodium chloride (table salt), magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and calcium hydroxide (slaked lime). We also leverage phosphoric acid when we simply need to reduce the potential of hydrogen (pH) of the mash, which makes it more acidic. One interesting effect of using phosphoric acid is that the perceived international bittering units (IBUs) are perceived to be greater than what is contributed by the hops themselves – something we learned during a visit to the good folks at Free State Brewing Company in Lawrence, Kansas some time back.
The potential of hydrogen is something that always needs to be considered when preparing the wort, you truly need to have the values set high enough to ensure the yeast does not prematurely halt its conversion of the sugars, and low enough to ensure the hot break materials properly coagulate in hopes it, as well as the left-over hops remain in the bottom of the boil-kettle instead of being transferred through the heat exchanger and into the fermentation vessel.
Of interest, we were able to try some good beers, including the Renaissance Brewery beers, which were being offered on-tap at Dead Armadillo Craft Brewing’s tap room. The Renaissance Brewing Company golden ale was very nice. We also tried some of the Dead Armadillo Craft Brewing’s stout – a good beer, but would be considered to have just a bit too much roast barley compared to the stout profile to be offered by Augustino Brewing Company, a Wichita headquartered brewing company.
Next on our list was American Solera. American Solera turns out to be owned and operated by the same group that had started Prairie Artisan Ales in 2012. American Solera is turning out some really incredible beers. They are leveraging foeders (pronounced “fooders”), puncheons and wine barrels for beers that are produced in the six to 18 month timeframe. Of the beers we sampled, they were all delicious. We enjoyed a very special treat while there – Dark Lord by 3 Floyds Brewing Company of Indiana.
Dark Lord is a beer that seems to get a lot of hype, and it deserves it! This Russian Imperial Stout sports 15-percent alcohol by volume has malt flavors that are typically present only in the pre-fermented wort, could be served to us year round, and good with every meal, or as a meal replacement. The beer is brewed with coffee, Mexican vanilla and Indian sugar. This is truly a phenomenal beer that may require some time-in-line come April for an opportunity to buy some; the Dark Lord Day festival is 30 April at the Munster, Indiana brewery, with tickets running $200. For the ticket, you are granted entry to the festival, four bottles of Dark Lord, one bottle of Dark Lord variant (made the same as Dark Lord, but with some additional ingredients), a tote-bag and $40 of food-and-or-drink tickets.
For those interested, the Russian Imperial Stout was originally a beer produced by brewers in England for the royal court of Imperial Russia (think Czar’s here folks). There is a claim that Empress Catherine II was the reason it gained a lot of notoriety. There are also rumors that Rasputin preferred Russian Imperial Stout over other beers. There is a brewery in London, Wells & Young’s, Limited, that claims they are brewing the same beer today that was exported to Russia more than 200 years ago – the image of Empress Catherine II is on the label of “Courage” today.
It seems that the goal of any brewery is to produce something phenomenal, be that the great selection and tasting beers at American Solera, or the phenomenal beer from 3 Floyds Brewing Company, the bar seems to be being set higher and higher each year. There are so many breweries out there making great product, but sadly, there seem to be just as many, if not more, making product that seems uninspired, or worse, produced just to make a profit for the brewery. There are some brands that feel so flat, it seems their ownership could be selling tires, or vacuums just as soon as they would sell beer. This may sound harsh, but with the number of breweries opening in this Great Country, we have to wonder how many are opening with hopes merely of profit instead of for the Craft and satiation of the consumers desire to coat their palate with balanced flavors and pleasing smells of malt, hops and yeast character. Augustino Brewing Company, a Wichita headquartered brewing company, wants to get our beers to you. We hope this happens soon, with great repeatability, likely making both parties thoroughly happy.