Patrick Rue of the Bruery, a highly respected Belgian-style beermaker in Orange County, once famously promised never to brew an IPA -- that is, until he tasted Night Ryder, a black IPA put together by Colorado homebrewers Brian Pramov and Bryan Keas.
Not that the Bruery is calling the beer an IPA. 'They're calling it a Cascadian dark rye ale, not an IPA," says Pramov. "And when we were brewing it, Patrick kept walking by and saying he thought that was the most hops he had ever seen in one place."
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Promises, promises. Next week, the Bruery will release the unlikely beer, now called Batch 1000 Bryeian, only in California and Colorado, to celebrate its 1,000th batch; with three kinds of hops, it could be the hoppiest beer the Bruery has ever made. The story of how it came to be is an interesting tale of luck, chance and skill.
Three years ago Pramov, who lives in Denver, joined the Rock Hoppers Brew Club in Castle Rock. A novice beer-maker, he was paired with an experienced homebrewer, Keas, for the club's annual Buddy Brew internal competition. "Bryan makes really good hoppy beers and I've had success with rye beers, so we put those together and we won the competition," Pramov says. The pair liked the beer so much, in fact, that they decided to brew it every year, and in February they entered it into the Bruery's homebrew competition seeking recipes for its 1,000th batch.
At the time, Pramov hadn't heard of Rue's thoughts on IPAs. "Had I known that, I probably never would have entered the beer," he says.
And he probably shouldn't have.
"We don't really make any hoppy beers, so we weren't accepting those," says Bruery spokesman Benjamin Weiss. "They snuck this one in on us."
In fact, Pramov and Keas entered the beer in the specialty beer category, calling it a hoppy rye ale. Nearly 200 entries were evaluated by a team of 45 judges, including Bruery brewers and several BJCP Grand Masters. And the winner: "I guess we must like hoppy beers after all, because it ended up winning best of show," Weiss says. " (Another Colorado brewer, Mark Puchalski, won honorable mention for his Apricot Ale.)
As a result, the Bruery flew Pramov and Keas to Orange County in July, put them up at a hotel, took them out to dinner, showered them in rare beer and then let them help make a couple of batches of the beer on its fifteen-barrel brewing system.
"It was kind of like we were rock stars walking around," Pramov says.
Not bad, considering that Rue himself has become a rock star of the brewing world since opening the Bruery just five years ago. Today his beers -- most of them delicately-crafted sours or unusually-spiced, barrel-aged Belgian-style ales -- are some of the most highly rated, highly sought-after beers in the country.
And some of those beers will be on hand at a tapping party for Batch 1000 Bryeian -- which includes the word "rye" along with the letters from the names Brian and Bryan -- at 5 p.m. Friday, August 16, at Star Bar. Amon the other featured beers: Mischief, Hottenroth, Autumn Maple, Bottleworks XII, White Chocolate and Oude Tart.
Only 1,300 cases of Bryeian, which weighs in at 7 percent ABV, were bottled, and Pramov is looking forward to seeing them on the shelves -- and to drinking the beer. Brewed with three kinds of hops and several dark malts, the beer has plenty of bitterness, he says, but not an overwhelming amount. Bryeian will be entered at GABF as the Bruerys's Pro-am beer, and by then it will have mellowed perfectly, he predicts.
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