One of Jason Buehler's favorite beer styles was black IPA, so when he worked behind the kettles at Oskar Blues several years ago, he and head brewer Juice Drapeau cooked one up called Home Skillet.
The name was a shout-out to rapper Flava Flav, who had used the term often in his "Flavor of Love" reality show from a few years earlier. "We said it around the brewery way more than necessary...and Jason started hanging a clock [Flava's trademark] and a skillet on the fermenter whenever we brewed Home Skillet," Drapeau remembers. "He worked his ass off, but never stopped making people laugh."
Buehler, who later became the head brewer at Denver Beer Co., died on November 6 after falling while climbing in the Maroon Bells. He left behind his wife, Leanne, and three young children.
He also left behind a legacy of great friendships and great beer — especially black IPAs. As a result, Denver Beer Co. and Oskar Blues worked together to brew separate black IPAs that will be released this week. Both will include dried rosita de cacao flowers, an unusual ingredient that was special to Buehler's heart.
Home Skillet, which will be available in Oskar Blues's taprooms in Longmont and Boulder on February 27, "was crafted using Jason’s favorite brewing methods for the style," the brewery says. It includes four kinds of malt, along with Amarillo and Mosaic hops for "sweet aromas and flavors of graham cracker, chocolate, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup and toffee mixing perfectly with floral, citrus and tropical hop flavors."
Denver Beer Co., meanwhile, will release Sunrise Sensei, which is a version of King Ink, the GABF-medal-winning black IPA that Buehler created after moving over to DBC in 2015 to take the top job there. It's "a complex blend of citrusy hops, roasted caramel and sweet cocoa notes," DBC says, and will be available in liquor stores throughout the state, as well as in DBC's two taprooms, on February 27.
With donations of goods or services from Proximity Malt, Breakthru Beverage, Columbine Label Company, Yakima Chief Hops, Cervecería Itañeñe and artist Megan Wingleth, 100 percent of proceeds from both beers will donated to a GoFundMe account that was created to help support Buehler's family.
One of Buehler's passions was brewing beers with traditional Mexican ingredients — and that passion sparked the creation of Cerveceria Colorado, an offshoot of DBC that focuses on Mexican flavors and culture.
Buehler learned about rosita de cacao on one of his many trips to Mexico to work and collaborate with breweries there, says DBC's Diana Crawford. Often used in cooking, the flower imparts notes of chocolate, maple and orange, and Buehler used it to make a beer called Rosita Imperial Porter. He also brewed a collaboration with Cervecería Itañeñe in Mexico City, Mexico, that used the flowers.
"He was always into the experimental side of brewing — making beer between and around any rigid style restrictions," Drapeau adds, so the "secret ingredient" makes a lot of sense. "We hope he would be proud."
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