26th October 2016.
It was an extra special day for our Weird Beard calendars. For those who have been following us for a while, you may know it marked our 4 years of “Weird Beard Brew Co” coming into fruition. For those who follow us more closely and are close to us, it also marked headbrewer and co-founder, Bryan’s birthday. And the cherry on the top, we brewed with the guys at Against The Grain (ATG), at their brewpub over in Louisville, Kentucky!
Let’s set the scene a little more around this collaboration brewday...We had a couple of the team over in Louisville for the annual Shelton Brothers’ Festival. This awesome fest moves around the States, is held each year and all the National and International breweries, which the Shelton Brothers’ distribute, are invited. So we knew we’d been in town where Against The Grain have been making their innovative beers and it so happened, a couple of Indy Man Beer Con’s ago, we’d struck up a friendship with the founding members at ATG. Well, if jumping around to “Jump Around” in the deep-end of a drained pool at one of the UK’s best Beer Festivals is by any means a definition of friendship. I digress...The equation of us being in Louisville and catching up with ATG meant a beer needed to be made together. With Bryan and my flights booked, the brewday was booked in and we were all set to make beer!
The brewpub is one of 2 of ATG breweries; it is their first location and situated in Slugger Field at the corner of Jackson and Main Streets, Downtown Louisville. The actual brewery part is located above the smokehouse bar and 2 storeys up a ladder. This made for a pretty awesome view of the restaurant filling up as the brewday progressed. See picture below. The collaborative brew team consisted of ATG’s brewery operations manager and one of the founders, Adam, their headbrewer, Amelia, and lead brewer, Brian plus our headbrewer, Bryan. I was more behind the scenes/behind the screens social-media-ing the action. We were greeted bright and early by all including another founder, Jerry, with the quintessentially American breakfast of coffee and donuts. With a maple syrup iced one with candied bacon in hand, this is how Bryan’s birthday brewday commenced. Looking back, the fact Bryan had a pig-based donut and the beer being called “Pig Smasher” is quite fitting indeed!
Now for the important bit, the beer itself; we had decided to go for an American Red. We don’t get to see those often and always enjoy them when we do. To get that truly red hue, the grainbill featured, amongst other malts: Special X, CaraRye, Red malt and a touch of roasted barley. For the hops, it being an American Red we went for....yes, you’ve guessed it, all-American hops: Bravo, Simcoe and Chinook in the Kettle. For the dry-hopping we added more Bravo and threw some Summit into the mix. For an alternative take on the style and to play up on the caramel semi-sweetness that lies beneath the hoppiness of American Reds, we added ample honey into the boil. The resulting beer ticked all the boxes for a classic American Red, chock full of lovely, citrus & piney hops but with the honey adding an interesting dimension of sweetness to the flavour profile. At 6.8%, it goes down easy; not too sweet, not too resinous and as the label states: no animals were harmed in the making of this beer! There may come a day bacon goes into a beer of ours (certainly not my idea) but as things stand we’re putting out vegetarian and quite often also vegan friendly brews.
As for the name of the beer, that is something of a story. We at Weird Beard are quite selective about how we name our beers and because of that we do have some fantastic names for our beers. ATG are particularly playful and witty in naming their beers so we really had to come up with something that fitted the bill. And this small dilemma manifested itself for a little while as we had no obvious inspiration for a name after the brewday. I remind you that we were over in the USA primarily for the Shelton Brothers’ Festival. This kicked off 2 days after our brewday with ATG with the first day of the beer-filled antics being on the Friday. The venue for it was at the Copper & Kings Brandy Distillery in Butchertown district of Louisville. It was a delightful day, lots of sunshine, lots of people and lots of beer. There was a not-so-nice aspect to the day and that was the Eau De Butchertown. Being a vegan myself, you’d think I may be escalating the situation but ask anyone who was there, that smell was potent! It came in waves and it got quite bad that someone had to enquire “What actually is THAT smell?” To which the response was: “Oh they’re smashing pigs today”.
Reminiscing back to the brewday, and our time in Louisville, the idea of naming our ATG collab "Pig Smasher" as suggested by Brian, with “an ode to the ol' Butchertown stink” (quoting Amelia from ATG) seemed like a very Weird Beard and Against the Grain thing to do.