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People often ask where us brewers get ideas for new beers. Sometimes we wake up from a dream where we’ve had this fantastic beer in a bizarro version of our favorite drinking spot and immediately reach for a notepad to jot the idea down. Sometimes food can inspire, as was the case for Dark Truth Stout—Brewmaster Steven Pauwels returned from a lunch where he’d eaten a piece of bread that was made from five different grains. And finally, a good drinking session with fellow brewers often serves as the inspiration. This is how Grainstorm Black Rye I.P.A. was born.
We had kicked the around the idea of making this style for a few months and finally a spot opened up on our production calendar for us to create a new beer. The idea to include rye in the ingredients was suggested by one of our brewers. None us had ever brewed a Black I.P.A. before so we weren’t quite sure where to start. This is where things got fun. We sent our sensory team out to grab some beers for us to taste: Black I.P.A.s, Porters, Stouts that were more hop forward, and finally some beers brewed with rye. Our team lucked into a fairly nice fall day and gathered together on the patio just outside our tasting room to do some, well, tasting. At this point, you might inquire as to the difference between tasting and drinking. Most brewery folks would agree that the drinking starts when the thinking stops. I’ll admit it, this sounds a bit like mumbo jumbo for us to justify drinking at work, but it really is true. We tasted a wide variety of beers, jotting notes and discussing the varieties of flavors and aromas we found in each. It’s important to point out that we never taste another brewery’s beer with the intention of cloning that beer, but rather to discover what it is we like or dislike about each beer. Then we try to write a recipe that makes every member of the brewing team happy. Sometimes this is very easy. Sometimes it’s very hard. This time, it was fairly easy.
The best way to build a Black Rye I.P.A., in our opinion, was to formulate what we thought was a very good Rye I.P.A. and then add grain to make it dark in color. We wanted to influence beer’s color, but not create a beer that had strong roasted or chocolate character. Midnight Wheat from Briess ended up being just the ticket to give the beer a dark color without the typical flavors associated with darker malts. It was a goal of ours for this beer to produce a completely different hop profile than any beer Boulevard had previously brewed, so Amarillo and Simcoe were chosen as the impact hops for this beer. It’s true, Tank 7 does feature Amarillo, but the Simcoe added a pungent, punchy character that changed the aroma and flavor quite a bit. The dry hopping was supplemented with Citra to deliver a bigger, fruity, citrus character.
The first test batch of what was being called “Test Black Rye I.P.A.” was brewed, fermented, dry hopped and filtered soon after the recipe formulation meeting. By most standards, we’re a super humble group, but the first time this beer was tasted, we knew we’d killed it. Grainstorm ended up being unlike any beer previously brewed at Boulevard and the recipe turned out to be spot on. Besides upping some of the amounts of the late hops and dry hopping, the beer that’s going into bottles and kegs to be released to the public is very close to the original test batch we brewed. Grainstorm truly was born from the brainstorming session of a bunch of brewers.
—by Jeremy Danner
Grainstorm Black Rye I.P.A.-which is a seasonal in our Smokestack Series-will begin hitting taps and shelves in early February throughout our distribution region.