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I met Pau - the brewer at Cervesera Alcoiana - while gypsy brewing at a craft brewery not far from where he brews. Pau is partners with Toni, operating Cervesera Alcoiana and brewing the house brand Cervesa Spigha as well as a few contract beers. What impressed me about Pau was his passion for making good beer, and his voracious appetite for reading anything he can find about brewing.

So when I knew I was returning to Spain, I contacted Pau and asked if he would like to collaborate. Pau and Toni said "Let's do it." so we started talking about what specialty beer would express something about the brewery, and the region wherein it lies. The town of Alcoy in Spain is know for producing a coffee liquor called Licor de Café. We decided a Robust Porter with a Spanish coffee blend was the beer to make.

I pulled together a recipe and brewed a pilot batch. The challenge was getting both a medium roast bean from Spain that they call "Café Natural", and a special process roasted bean called "Café Torrefaco". Torrefacto is coffee beans roasted with an addition of sugar that deeply caramelizes and coats the beans in shiny blackness. The process adds a character similar to the torched sugar on the top of crème brûlée. And I wanted a touch of that character in this beer. And the pilot batch was frankly fantastic.

So with a couple tweaks to make it even better, and scale up to the volume brewed at Spigha, I sent the recipe off with enough time for them to pull the ingredients together before brew day.

There's a few people to thank for getting this beer done right in addition to Pau and Toni. First, my friend Manu Pérez Sánchez from Valencia Spain who drove us out to Alcoy (about 90 minutes from Valencia). Jackz Maertens of Illuminati Brewery (a German trained brewer) for coming along and for his assistance at the brewery. And also Mitch Steele head brewer from Stone Brewing Co. for his tips on using coffee in a big dark beer.

Ok, enough chit-chat. On to the photos.

¡Salud!
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Setting up the beer office at Spigha.
Setting up the beer office at Spigha.
Pau puts together the grain bill for the Coffee Porter at Spigha.
Pau puts together the grain bill for the Coffee Porter at Spigha.
Pau demonstrates dough in.
Pau demonstrates dough in.
Manu at the mash tun with me at Spigha.
Manu at the mash tun with me at Spigha.
Temperature check.
Temperature check.
Jackz and me pretending to be productive.
Jackz and me pretending to be productive.
The black grains are cold steeped for the coffee Porter at Spigha.
The black grains are cold steeped for the coffee Porter at Spigha.
Black grains waiting for vorlauf for the coffee Porter at Spigha.
Black grains waiting for vorlauf for the coffee Porter at Spigha.
Cold steeping black grains, like the surface of the moon.
Cold steeping black grains, like the surface of the moon.
Black grains added at the end of the mash.
Black grains added at the end of the mash.
Brown sugar for the kettle, proper for an old school Porter.
Brown sugar for the kettle, proper for an old school Porter.
The coffee, a blend of torrefacto and beans roasted by a local producer of Café Licor de Alcoy.
The coffee, a blend of torrefacto and beans roasted by a local producer of Café Licor de Alcoy.
Coffee beans in the grain mill.
Coffee beans in the grain mill.
Coarse ground coffee rafts in the kettle before whirlpool.
Coarse ground coffee rafts in the kettle before whirlpool.
It is Cerveza Artisanal, even the whirlpool is made by hand.
It is Cerveza Artisanal, even the whirlpool is made by hand.
Fancy food safe shovel is the oar for the whirlpool.
Fancy food safe shovel is the oar for the whirlpool.
Pau pumps the Coffee Porter to the fermenter at Spigha.
Pau pumps the Coffee Porter to the fermenter at Spigha.
A small sample before fermentation.
A small sample before fermentation.
Jackz inspects the wort and the co-brewer simultaneously.
Jackz inspects the wort and the co-brewer simultaneously, demonstrating German efficiency.
Even though trained in the land of Reinheitsgebot, Jackz approves of this unconventional wort.
Even though trained in the land of Reinheitsgebot, Jackz approves of this unconventional wort.
I leave 1200 liters of delicious Robust Coffee Porter for Pau to care for.
I leave 1200 liters of delicious Robust Coffee Porter for Pau to care for.

 

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I suggested we brew again, and Alberto loves the idea.

Mateo & Bernabé and Friends
Mateo & Bernabé and Friends

Here's the thing about Mateo & Bernabé. First, Alberto is a good brewer - and by my standards he's making some of the best beers in Spain. Before he became a pro-brewer, he was a pro-chef. So he knows taste, balance, and nuance. We need more people with his skills making beer. Second, they have a very functional and efficient brew system. They get awesome efficiency (sugar production from grains), and there's no surprises. I calculate a recipe and the only concern that crosses my my mind is it might be too strong.

But too strong is anything but a concern when Alberto says in an email, "Let's do something radical like an American Double IPA." No, seriously - an American Double IPA in Spain just isn't (or, hadn't been) done. So I reply, "Are you sure? An American DIPA will be 9% alcohol or more, and 100 IBU, with huge late additions of hops. What % ABV and IBU do you want?" Alberto answers "10% ABV and 100IBU." I LOLed - seriously, I laughed out loud when I read his response. First, because Alberto's got some big brass brewers balls to bring a beer so huge to the Spanish Market. And second, because I get to help bring the first truly American West Coast DIPA to Spain. All the Double IPAs I have tried there are more like English Barley Wines than American DIPAs.

Then Alberto says, "Let's make two beers." First we discuss a Belgian Quad aged in Pedro Ximénez Sherry Barrels - which would be Godly - but he can't get the Belgian Candi Syrup we need to do it right in time for brew day. So I ask him to send me his inventory. I review it and suggest a White IPA with locally grown hops for mild bittering, and American IPA styled flavor and aroma hops. Alberto gives it the thumbs up. So the second beer will be a WIPA.

Now we're talking! Two hop flavor and aroma forward, bleeding edge beer styles that have not yet been done right (by my experience) in Spain. Time to show budding craft beer consumers - they call them "frikis" - in Spain what hops are all about. Not bitterness - I'm talking flavors and aromas. Hop bursting - big late hop additions, and huge dry hop additions. American Northwest hops supported by designer hops like Simcoe and some fruity delicious New Zealand hops.

Both the Double IPA and the White IPA will be an awakening for the Spanish craft beer market. And they would be great beers in the US market. Unfortunate for us, we may not see them imported to the US. At least not the first batch. So in consolation, I offer some photos of the brew day.

We were joined by Dom of Drinking Spanish - who was also a chef before being seduced by craft beer - and is studying for a Beer Sommelier certification.

Cheers!
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Pacific Gem, it's an awesome hop
Pacific Gem, it's an awesome hop.
Mashing in for a 10% DIPA
Mashing in for a 10% DIPA.
Beancurdturtle happy to be at the kettle
Beancurdturtle happy to be at the kettle.
Calculating stuff for the Mateo & Bernabé high council.
Calculating stuff for the Mateo & Bernabé high council. Dom, Alberto, me, and Jose.
My mother in law rakes spent grain from the mash tun.
My mother in law rakes spent grain from the mash tun.
An American Double IPA heads for the fermenter at Mateo & Bernabé.
An American Double IPA heads for the fermenter at Mateo & Bernabé.
Dom and I prep lemon thyme for the White IPA at Mateo & Bernabé.
Dom and I prep lemon thyme for the White IPA at Mateo & Bernabé.
Fresh lemon thyme and Valecia orange peel for the White IPA at Mateo & Bernabé.
Fresh lemon thyme and Valencia orange peel for the White IPA at Mateo & Bernabé.
Happy brewers at Mateo & Bernabé. Me, Dom, and Alberto.
Happy brewers at Mateo & Bernabé. Me, Dom, and Alberto.
On kettle watch for a WIPA at Mateo & Bernabé.
On kettle watch for a WIPA at Mateo & Bernabé.
A White IPA heads for the fermenter at Mateo & Bernabé.
A White IPA heads for the fermenter at Mateo & Bernabé.
Hops and proteins left behind in the kettle.
Hops and proteins left behind in the kettle.
The porter I brewed at Mateo & Bernabé in November 2013 rests in red wine barrels.
The porter I brewed at Mateo & Bernabé in November 2013 rests in red wine barrels.
Alberto gave me a sample of the Porter from the barrels. It's Godly. I told him to bottle it.
Alberto gave me a sample of the Porter from the barrels. It's Godly. I told him to bottle it.

 

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So my friends - especially my friends in Spain - may ask, "Pardon me, but what the hell is a White IPA?" And that's a fair question. Especially since you will have, in Spain, a White IPA that Alberto and I brewed at Mateo & Bernabé in La Rioja Spain in a few weeks.

The use of the style name "White IPA" is fairly new. And only in the past few years do we see examples from DeschutesAnchorage Brewing, El Segundo Brewing, and a few others. The first I ever brewed was last year in a collaboration with my friend Dan at Out of the Park Pizza - a Double India Witte we called "Dwight".

Dwight - a Belgo-American Double India Witte
Dwight - a Belgo-American Double India Witte. Or, a White IPA.

The roots of a White IPA come from the base beer, which is the Belgian Witbier. So the backbone underlying the presentation of hops should be:

  • A light colored beer, slightly cloudy from the wheat, with aggressive carbonation and a full head
  • A crisp and light malt profile expressing the pepper and clean sweetness of wheat
  • The presence of peppery, mildly Belgian funky, and fruity yeast esters

Which means the hop selection is a bit tricky. Too dank, herbal/savory , or resinous an you'll step all over the refreshing characteristics in the Witbier base. Trickier still, you have to layer the hops with clean bittering as a backnote to support the hop freshness forward target - from late hop bursting, and dry hopping - appropriate to the style.

You want a crisp and refreshing beer, with a big head and aggressive carbonation, slightly bitter and peppery, with a nice punch of fresh citrus, herbs, and peppery spice to finish it off. And this White IPA Alberto and I brewed should have all this, and more.

Why more? I'm sitting in a hotel room in Zaragoza Spain tuning up the recipe for this WIPA, thinking "crispy, funky, bright, citrusy, peppery, herbal/fresh". An email comes in with a photo from Alberto. He says, How about Lemon Thyme and fresh Valencia Orange Zest for the White IPA? I quickly answered, "We are thinking the same - that's perfect."

Lemon thyme or tomillo limón is in the WIPA from Mateo & Bernabé
Lemon thyme or tomillo limón is in the WIPA from Mateo & Bernabé

This WIPA will be:

  • About 7% ABV
  • About 41 IBU
  • Under 5 SRM (9 EBC) - light color and slightly cloudy
  • Blossoming with hop aromas and flavors

This is another beer, like the DIPA we brewed, that will be an awakening for the Spanish Craft Beer market. And I salute Alberto of Mateo & Bernabé for the bravery and forward thinking he is showing, to bring the leading edge interpretation of the Double IPA and White IPA to Spain.

Again, this beer is a special release and may not make it to the USA as an import. I envy you my Spanish friends. You will get to drink it.

Un Abrazo,
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And what is "it" you may ask. Well, it's the Double IPA that Alberto and I brewed last month at Mateo & Bernabé in La Rioja Spain.

Hops in the garden at Beancurdturtle Brewing
Hops in the garden at Beancurdturtle Brewing.

I was going to do a post about the brewday, with photos and so forth, but the DIPA we brewed is in the first of two dry hop cycles. And it will be ready to drink in about four weeks, and my friends in Spain (and the Spanish market) need to be prepared - or perhaps even warned. Why? Because I have had many IPAs in Spain, and several beers called Double IPAs in Spain, and none comes close to what this beer will be.

Here's how the scale goes:

  • English IPA = richly malty, 7% ABV average, bitter in taste and mouthfeel.
  • American IPA = clean and slightly sweet malt profile, 7% ABV average, fresh hop flavors and aromas, bitter (sometimes intense) in taste and mouthfeel.
  • American Double IPA = clean to richly malty, clean alcohol presence, 9% ABV average, hop flavors and aromas should be more prominent than the bitterness, though sometimes hops are intensely bitter.

And then, the California DIPA:

  • Clean and crisp malt characters, just enough to carry the hop characters.
  • Clean alcohol presence, 10% ABV average.
  • Hop aromas should leap out of the bottle and glass.
  • Hop flavors should express complex fruit, floral, citrus, spice, and resin characters.
  • Hop bitterness should be clean and focused (not abrasive) and to an appropriate level to support the hop aromas and flavors, but never overwhelm them.

A California DIPA is the extreme evolution of how to express the soul of hops in a beer built to support and compliment hops. Not the bitterness of hops - but the fresh aromatics and complexity of flavors that are in the essence of crushing hop flowers in your hands and inhaling the incredible depth of characters in the magical flower. The malts, clean alcohol, and hop bitterness should come together in a restrained supporting role - to deliver the fantastic mélange of flavors and aromas that come from fresh hops in a well crafted California DIPA.

My friends, beer bloggers, and beer "frikis", in Spain - and anyone who likes to challenge and grow their palate - should hunt this beer down and try it. As soon as it is released and as fresh as you can get it. It will be like no beer you have tried before. It will shake the foundation of what you think a beer can be, and how hops can express themselves in a beer.

You must try it - and it may shock you at first. But in a few days you will be wishing you had bought more.  And in two weeks, you will be crying for another one.  Trust me.

It will be:

  • About 10% ABV
  • About 100 IBU
  • With a full kilo of hops for each 100 liters of beer

This DIPA, and the White IPA we also brewed, may not be imported to the US. You in Spain are the ones who will get to drink this beer. And I will be sitting sadly at home in the USA, wishing I was you.

Un abrazo!

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Brasserie Fantôme
Brasserie Fantôme

Sometime in March-ish of this year I somehow got in a Facebook conversation with Dany Prignon, who is the man behind Fantôme. I mentioned that a collaboration with him would be the highlight of my brewing experience. His response, “Daniel. Too much! I am just a brewer.”

As the year went by plans emerged for me to collaborate with two breweries in Spain. So a trip was planned with stops in other countries – including Belgium – along the way. Dany, to my surprise, asked if I was going to visit him at Fantôme. I said I would love to, as long as it wasn't a burden to him as I speak no French. And I made it clear; I am just a brewer – not a famous brewer, maybe a good brewer – but just a brewer.

Dany answered, call him when we get to the train station Gare de Melreux-Hotton near Soy Belgium. He would come pick me, my wife, and my mother in law up at the station. How could I refuse?

So after a two hour train trip from Brussels to Hotton, Dany picked us up as promised. We received a casual, entertaining, and thorough introduction to the small and functional brewhouse and surrounds. My mother in law helped on the bottling line for a short while. Tried many good beers. Spent the day talking about one thing and another. Had a hearty Belgian lunch at Restaurant Le Jacquemart Hotton with Dany and friends (I still have to do a Yelp review).

And of course I asked him many beer related questions; what grains and hops he liked, how he managed his yeast, and so forth. And you might think these are the secrets to making Fantôme Saison – but that’s not the case.

Here are the important things that I learned:

  • A good brewer can make extraordinary beer in a simple and functional brewhouse.
  • A good base beer can be the backbone to express amazing things – seemingly different beers – if you know how to layer complexities with creative herbs, spices, and other special ingredients.
  • Even if you’re “just a brewer”, passion and creativity – and maybe the help of a friendly ghost – can bring magic to your beer

It was a fantastic day, a wonderful learning experience, and a great pleasure to meet Dany and make a friend of such an authentic, humorous, and charming person.

Thanks Dany! My wife, mother in law, and I are all happy to have made a friend of you.

À votre santé!
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Now, the photos…

Gare de Melreux-Hotton
We come bearing gifts to Gare de Melreux-Hotton.
Brasserie Fantôme
Brasserie Fantôme
À votre santé
À votre santé
Just fun stuff
Just fun stuff
Just fun stuff
Just fun stuff
Just fun stuff
Just fun stuff
Dany Fermenters and Me
Dany Fermenters and Me
My mother in law bottling
My mother in law bottling
An energetic lecturer
An energetic lecturer
A hearty lunch at Restaurant Le Jacquemart
A hearty lunch at Restaurant Le Jacquemart
Fantôme Saison at Brasserie Fantôme
Fantôme Saison at Brasserie Fantôme
Fantôme Saison at Brasserie Fantôme
Fantôme Saison at Brasserie Fantôme
Dany told me why this one is funky, and very likely one of a kind
Dany told me why this one is funky, and very likely one of a kind

 

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