In the years leading up to the beginning of Prohibition in 1919, the nation’s brewers were pretty well entrenched. More than 1,200 of them were turning out millions of barrels of beer, mostly German- and Czech-style lagers. Although the majority were still relatively small, there had been a huge amount of consolidation in the industry, and the biggest of the beer barons — some of whose names still adorn cans and bottles today — were looking for ways to clear more profit and set their products apart.
The answer was ever-lighter, crisper beers made with cheaper ingredients — like rice and corn — that were used in addition to traditional malted barley.
“I’ve done some research on it, and they actually used quite a lot of adjuncts back then,” says Brian Hutchinson, co-owner of Cannonball Creek Brewing in Golden.
Part of the reason, according to his research, was because American-grown malt was richer and more bitter than its European counterparts, imparting an unwanted haziness and a sharp flavor into lagers. Adding rice and corn helped to clarify the liquid and added a touch of sweetness that covered up the edge.
Earlier this month, Hutchinson and Cannonball’s Jonathan Lee put together a pre-Prohibition-style pilsner that honors the beers brewed in the early part of the twentieth century. Made “in collaboration” with Colorado’s beer writers and influencers, it will be ready in mid-March and will also be served at the fifth annual Collaboration Fest.
Although Cannonball Creek is known primarily for its much more modern hoppy beers, the brewery scored a big win in 2018 with Netflix and Pils, a German-style pilsner that won gold at the Great American Beer Festival in 2018 and was later one of the only pilsners served at the prestigious Shelton Brothers Festival, which took place in Denver late last year. Since then, Hutchinson and Lee have made several more lagers.
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“We’ve been going hard on them,” Hutchinson says, “because they are fun to drink.”
For this one — tentatively named Twenty-Thirst Amendment Pilsner — Cannonball used American 2-Row Barley and a good amount of flaked corn for a touch of sweetness. It was hopped with Hallertau and Saaz, two Old World varieties, and then dry-hopped with those same two varieties to give it a little bit of a Cannonball twist.
As for the media, this was the fourth year that reporters, bloggers, photographers and social-media influences have participated in a collaboration for the festival, primarily using the time to learn about beer, drink beer and take selfies. Previous media collaborators included Wibby Brewing, Great Divide and Lost Highway.
Collaboration Fest, which will include 100 projects from approximately 200 breweries, takes place from 2 to 6 p.m. on March 16 at the Hyatt Regency Denver. The festival is put on by the Colorado Brewers Guild and Two Parts; tickets, which are going fast, are available at collaborationfest.com.