Posted in Port City Brewing

Port City’s First Christmas Beer

Port City Brewing (Alexandria, VA) is releasing their first Christmas beer.  Check out the brewer’s rundown:

Tidings is our first bottled seasonal so this is pretty exciting for me. From this point on we will bottle four seasonals a year.I wanted to make sure this was a good batch for sure but I wanted it to be different. I was very interested in using local ingredients in this beer and I was able to locate both local honey from Maryland and locally grown wheat from Virginia. I’ve been talking about making beer with Terroir  for a while on the interwebs and figured I better start.

Lets start with the honey. Whats particularly interesting from a flavor standpoint is that honey has within it all those floral flavors and aromas of summer . Its like a distillation of summer.Kind of like the evergreen; it reminds us that the warm long days will return. We are using wildflower honey from Germantown, Maryland, thanks to my sister’s connections My sister Catharine is an amateur beekeeper, she tends a couple of hives in her backyard in Bethesda.

 The grain wasn’t as easy to locate as the honey. As far as I can tell hardly anyone grows small grains for human consumption in the east anymore. I started calling around and eventually I contacted Rick Wasmund of Copperfox Distilling in Sperryville, Va . Wasmund is not only malting his own barley for his whiskey(around 50,000 lbs of malt a year) but he is also having it grown locally here in Va. He connected me with Billy Lawson of Northern Neck, VA who is growing Copperfox’s barley as well as wheat. He also grows the corn to make the tortilla chips for Abuelita Mexican Foods in Manassas, VA. I was able to buy a ton of his soft red winter wheat, which ended up being a third of the grain bill. The clove, cinnamon and nutmeg flavors in the beer come from this wheat as none of these spices have been added. I plan to try this grain in the Optimal soon and, if it works out, we will always have local grain in that beer.

The other starches and sugars used where Pilsner malt, oat malt and candy sugar.

Originally this beer was intended to be a Grand Cru of the Wit and the grain bill is very similar, though bigger. I also used the same turbid mash procedure in the brewhouse as with the wit The yeast strain is the same as well, essentially a clone of the West Malle yeast. It produces a well attenuated beer with moderate esters ie flavors of  like plums, bananas and bubble gum.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The spices are quite different from the Optimal and my desire was to go in a somewhat Indian direction. I am very fond of Indian Cuisine and for many years I have tinkered with a variation of Garam Masala in my Christmas Ales. Garam Masala is a spice blend that usually includes at least cloves, black pepper, mace, nutmeg, coriander, cardamom and cumin. It seemed that I was always buying my spices from a Bazaar that was having a Diwali sale as this is the Hindu festival that occurs this time of year. Over time I’ve steamlined the ingredients and this year I’m using cardamom, coriander, raw ginger and grains of paradise. I was trying to give the ale a flavor similar to Gulab Jamun, which is a confection much like a benya served in a warm spiced syrup.

The hops I used were magnum in the boil and three flavor additions of Hersbrucker for an bitterness of 25 ibus. The hop flavor is moderate adding some citusy flowery notes but, really it was intended to blend in with the rest and be in the background.

This beer is our biggest so far with a starting gravity of 17.9p and an apparent extract of 2.8p with an abv of 7.8%. We’ve packaged it unfiltered so there should be some yeast in the bottom of the bottle.

Our next seasonal will be early next year, an anniversary beer, and it will be draught only. The style will be another mashup: a Belgian Imperial Stout. Once we get it fermenting, I’ll post some info here. The next bottled seasonal will be in the spring and this will be a Scottish 80 shilling.

Happy Holidays