Not very many people can lay claim to having attended the very first Great American Beer Festival in 1982. After all, there were only 800 people there, drinking a measly 47 different beers.
Charlie Papazian is one of them, of course. The founder of the festival, he was also the creator of the American Homebrewers Association and the Brewers Association. Jeff Brown was also there. Although he is now the co-owner and president of Boulder Beer Company, back then he was with Jose Muldoon’s restaurant in Boulder, one of the very first festival sponsors.
It makes sense, then, that Papazian and Boulder Beer have teamed up to brew a commemorative beer this year to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the festival, which takes place October 6 through 8.
“It has a long history,” Papazian says about the partnership. “They consulted with me back in 1982 at the first festival and again in 2006 for the 25th anniversary.” Although the Brewers Association, which hosts the festival, doesn’t typically work with individual breweries so as to stay impartial, the group makes an exception for this project, Papazian says. “It got grandfathered in.”
The 25th-anniversary beer ended up being so popular that it eventually became Cold Hop, a “British-style ale” that is part of Boulder Beer’s regular seasonal rotation. This time around, when Boulder Beer sales operations director Dan Weitz called Papazian to ask for his help, Papazian had just finished home-brewing an India Pale Lager — one with a twist.
The beer was brewed with maris otter and brown malts, among others, along with four kinds of hops: citra, equinox, nelson sauvin and nugget. It’s an unusual combination of ingredients for a lager (which is differentiated from an ale by the yeast that is used and sometimes by a more delicate, cleaner character to the beer), one that Papazian put together to suit his personal tastes.
“I’d had a few versions of an IPL in the marketplace, and I liked the idea of a lager that could be every bit as hoppy as an IPA, but with softer undertones and a slightly different personality,” he explains. “IPLs are generally very pale, and the ones I’ve tasted are more about the hops.
“This version had a few complex twists to it with regard to the malt… we used some that typically wouldn’t be used in an IPA,” he continues. “When consumers and brewers do IPLs, they discuss the hops mostly, and the yeast, but in my experience, malt can bring out additional characteristics of the hops and enhance it in a way that people aren’t always used to experiencing.”
Papazian literally wrote the book on homebrewing — The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, first published in 1984 — but now spends a lot of time traveling and advocating on behalf of the BA and craft breweries. And although he has achieved celebrity status in the brewing industry— every winner of every GABF medal gets to pose with him on stage every year — he still finds time to brew about a dozen times each year, recipes that he creates for specific reasons.
“I tweak recipes this way and that to suit my tastes...it reflects a little of my personality and how I brew,” he adds. “This recipe reflects on the whole idea of diversity; people can choose to homebrew what they choose based on what they are in the mood to experience.”
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Boulder Brewmaster David Zuckerman says it took a few tries to scale Papazian’s recipe up the brewery’s commercial brewing system. “The first one was pretty roasty, but a little out of balance. But for this one,” he says pointing to a glass of the final version, “we got it right.” The maris otter and brown malt add an unusual backbone for the fruitiness of the showy Equinox hops.
The result has big citrus and tropical notes of mango, melon and lemongrass, with a touch of roasty sweetness from the malt, the brewery says. It finishes with a crisp yeast profile.
The beer will be for sale in liquor stores in the area and in bars and restaurants. It will also be poured at the Great American Beer Festival, both at Boulder Beer’s table and in the new “Back Yard” brewpub area sponsored by the Brewers Association.