CW: How did you find out about our home brew tap?
AL: I am a part of the Hope Brew Club—we meet usually a couple times per year for a friendly brew competition and to raise money for some local charities. Usually we have an opportunity for attendees to vote for their favorite beer in a few different categories. For our brew fest this past spring, one of our organizers had gotten in touch with the folks at Clockwerks and said that if we brewers each left a bottle of our brew, then it would be critiqued by the folks at Clockwerks and they’d pick their favorite to invite for a pro-am brew day. I was fortunate enough to have my brew selected, and the rest is history!
CW: How does it feel to brew your beer for patrons of Clockwerks?
AL: As a home brewer and appreciator of craft beer, there is always the dream of being able to brew some tasty suds for a pub of patrons—where everybody knows your name, you might say. I have always loved the local, community-based approach of craft beer, and so I am really looking forward to being able to serve one of my recipes to quench the thirst of the locals and other craft beer aficionados. It’s one thing to brew on a small scale for some friends and family, but quite another to bump it up to this level! There are a lot more technologies and techniques to hone in on the recipe and have some focused quality control to ensure that your beer is tasting the best it can. I am really looking forward to seeing how it turns out on a professional system.
CW: How did you start home brewing?
AL: I got into craft beer several years ago. Eventually, one of my oldest friends and I went in on a starter home brew setup. He had tried it a few times with his uncle who had had some experience brewing, and invited me to brew a batch with them to sort of get my sea legs and learn the process. We tried to take a very old-school, almost historic, approach—think boiling the wort over an open, wood bonfire! It was quite the experience! While our techniques have changed and our processes have been refined over the years, that first batch we brewed has always instilled a love of the heritage of beer and brewing. It’s amazing how people have brewed beer in some form or another for thousands of years using whatever means they had available.
CW: We're thrilled to have Black Pearl on tap. Tell us more about your inspiration.
AL: I’ve always had a love for a “pint of the black stuff.” Guinness was one of my gateway beers—I even had the opportunity to have some at the brewery at St. James Gate in Dublin on a study aboard trip. That is something I will never forget. While I soon went through a more exploratory phase of beer, trying anything from wood-aged sours and IPAs to Belgian tripels and coffee / vanilla / chocolate / bourbon-barrel-aged / raspberry / double / imperial/Russian / milk stouts, I feel that I’ve come full circle in a lot of ways and wanted to make a more balanced, straightforward stout harkening back to my first love. I got turned on to the Guinness Foreign Extra stout, which has the dry, roasty character I love without being super dense, syrupy, or heavy. I wanted to make my own version of that with a unique spin.
CW: Where did the recipe come from?
AL: For the astute among us, the not-so-subtle Caribbean pirate reference may lend one to believe that there is some sort of tropical fruit or rum inspiration behind this beer. While I can’t tell you “where the rum’s gone,” I can say “there ain’t any in this beer.” Modeled off of the historic Foreign Export Stout style, this type of beer originated in the British/Irish isles back in the 19th century as a way to export and preserve beer over long lengths of time and distance (in much the same way as the famous IPA origin story). It’s higher in alcohol and hop bitterness, which means the robust, roasty malt character can shine out more fully, but the key here is the dryness, which helps to maintain this ale’s quaffability in warmer climates (where it became, and remains, quite popular). My version adds a subtle touch of peat smoked malt to give it some complementary character and as an homage to another one of my favorite beverages—single malt scotch whisky.
CW: Tell us about your brewing process.
AL: The key with this beer was melding the style’s heritage with a spirit of American creativity. Peat smoked malt is a somewhat acquired taste, especially in other contexts like scotch. I wanted to make sure that the stout came first with this recipe and that the peat smoke would be a subtle complement and not overbearing. This was one of my first forays into all-grain brewing, so being able to precisely measure out the different grains and control the level of peat smoked malt was very important for this brew.
CW: Any beer inspirations?
AL: As I have grown as a craft beer lover, I have gained a great appreciation for the brewers and breweries out there focused on quality control and consistency. Also those that can harness great depth and subtlety of flavor out of minimal ingredients. I love my coffee vanilla porters and fruited kettle sours as much as the next guy, but it takes a lot of talent to get amazing flavor from strictly water, grain, hops, and yeast.
CW: What's your favorite beer?
AL: It depends on the day! I try my best to ascribe to a “variety is the spice of life” attitude when it comes to beer, and I relish trying new and interesting brews. But more and more recently I have been craving nice dry stouts, British bitters, and crisp pilsners. I’ve really learned to love and appreciate the amazing character that grain can play in a well-executed beer.
CW: What do you think of home brewing as a hobby?
AL: I feel it best to file home brewing under the category of “the more I learn about it, the more I realize there is that I don’t know.” It definitely keeps it challenging and interesting as you move forward, always seeking to improve on what you have done before and push the boundaries of flavor. But at the end of the day, you still get a nice cold beer that you can enjoy with your friends as you start dreaming up the next recipe! The last bottle of the previous batch is always the best creative lubricant for the the next.