As you probably know if you read much of my blog, I love to brew but don't actually drink that much. I'll have a single beer on most evenings, though there are often days that I don't drink even that. As a result, I end up sharing a lot of my beer.
Presentation is important to me; I feel like if I'm going to spend hours researching and brewing a beer, I want it to be impressive from the moment the bottle is in someone's hand. To this end, I purchase custom bottle caps from bottlemark.com, and an artist friend of mine creates custom labels for me. People seem to appreciate the effort; they are usually surprised to get what is darned close to commercial quality packaging in their hands.
Of course, that wouldn't matter if the beer wasn't good.., but I digress.
At any rate, I have been sharing bottles with my company's owner for some time, now. While not a homebrewer, he does enjoy craft beer - so much so that he apparently came very close to opening his own brewpub a little over a decade ago. He doesn't give me deep analysis of my beers, but he's always appreciative of them, and will politely let me know what he enjoys and what isn't his favorite.
Yesterday, I mentioned to him that I would probably be bottling my roggenbier this weekend, and that I would be bringing him some soon after. It was at this point that he made a suggestion that knocked me over.
This October, he explained, a company that we have recently joined into a major partnership with (our companies are in the same field of business, but our product lines differ; they are selling some of our products, and we are selling some of theirs) is sending their bigwigs (executives and higher ranking sales personnel) down from Milwaukee Chicago* to our headquarters in Birmingham for a social type weekend. Our company is going to wine and dine them, take them to an Alabama football game, that sort of thing. He mentioned that it would be really great if we could present them with some of my beer; he feels like it would be a unique, appreciated gesture to give them quality, unique craft beer like this.
I asked what he had in mind, and he said that he trusted my judgment, that I should brew whatever I thought would be good. He didn't want to impose, of course, and the company would buy the beer from me. I had to tell him that I couldn't sell him beer, but if the company wanted to buy the ingredients, I would brew it. Obviously, when the big boss asks for a favor like this, you don't hesitate... and of course, it's extremely flattering that he thinks enough of my beer to want to use it in this way. He's thinking of calling it a "unity beer", maybe incorporate both of out company logo on the labels, that sort of thing.
My wife pointed out to me that it might be good to offer them a choice; obviously, not everyone enjoys the same types of beer. I mentioned this to our owner, and he agreed. He ideally would like to give them more of a "serious craft" alterative, as well as something more universally accepted. He did point out that they will be providing other refreshment choices (liquor, wine, probably some commercial beer), but still, it would be nice for the beers to be accessible. It was then that I learned that the other company will be sending some 15-20 people, plus there will be people from our company there... so if I could do two batches, it would be great, but he doesn't want to impose.
Holy cow again.
Right now, we're about eight weeks out from this weekend. The first thing that popped into my head was an Oktoberfest, but there's not enough time to do a full lager, and I'm reluctant to give Brulosopher's fast lagering method a first shot on beer for an event like this. So yeah, these need to be ales.
I don't want to do anything super neutral like a cream ale; those are popular, I know, but I feel like if we are potentially bringing Miller or something similar, that's going to be what the macro guys drink, and I won't be providing enough variety there for the craft guys.
My friend Greg pointed out the obvious. "What is the best beer you have ever brewed?" he asked. The answer to that is my Oakenbranch IPA - a beer that has earned almost universally rave reviews since I brewed it. It's pretty obvious that this needs to be one of the selections (my wife thought I was nuts for it to have not been my instant first choice).
Even though that is not a bitter IPA, I feel like I still need something more on the malty side as the second selection. I've had people suggest that I should perhaps clone something from the Milwaukee area (Spotted Cow?), or to go with a simple cream ale despite my initial feeling... but I'm not doing either of these. I don't want to try to copy something that these guys already have in abundance; at best, it's something that can easily get at home, and at worst, it's a poor copy. Also, I'm not sure that I want to stray too far into unknown territory with a beer for this kind of purpose.
My mind is not quite made up, but right now, I think that I'm probably going to do my Thundersmoke Brown (northern English brown with a hint of smokiness) as the second beer. I might do a wheat beer with some low hopping, and I might do an amber... but the brown is the leader right now. I know the recipe well, it's always well received, it's easy to drink, it's tasty, and it's a bit unique.
The logistics of the process will be a little tricky. I only have one primary fermentor; I own two secondaries, but I only use them for long bulk aging or lagering, and even then, just to free up my primary. I'll be bottle conditioning (though my awesome friend Rob has offered to loan me a couple of kegs), so I want to give the beers three full weeks to be sure they are ready. I have one really good fermentation chamber (mini fridge with STC-1000), and one serviceable one (Mother of a Fermentation Chamber).
I'm thinking a timeline like this: brew one beer this weekend. Let it fully ferment in the better chamber. Pull it out, leave in primary, and brew again next weekend (see if I can get the big boss to spring for the purchase of another primary). That should give me plenty of time to get the beers bottled and ready.
This is very exciting, very flattering... and a touch scary.
* - it's Chicago, not Milwaukee. I originally misunderstood.
Tags for this post: company, event, brewing, boss, homebrew, craft special