Barley Wines That Stand Out
- Feb 23 '16
In this episode, Michael Ferguson visited a brewery that is truly unique in a couple of ways - where they brew and what they use. C’mon along, all will be explained.
The headquarters of Mystic Brewery is in the Boston area - Chelsea, Massachusetts. There, Michael found owner Bryan Greenhagen, PhD. Yes, Bryan is a scientist who’s done post-doctoral work at MIT, and is now blazing new trails in craft beer by developing his own strains of yeast from local fruit. He told Michael, “It’s basically a journey backwards in brewing technology, the fact that people used yeast from their local environment. The question is what do we have here? What do we have in the United States that we can brew beer with? You find it on the fruit everywhere.” With the help of a microscope attached to a monitor, Brian showed Michael how it’s done - isolating individual strains and using them in hundreds of small beer samples to discover which are unique and add interesting dynamics to the brews. And he and Michael examined one particular strain Bryan has developed -
Vinland Two, a farmhouse ale-style yeast he made from blueberries, which would be used for making beer later in the episode.
As for the actual brewing, that’s another unique element in this story. Mystic doesn’t own its own mash tun, boil kettle, or whirlpool. They do their brewing 70 miles away at Pioneer Brewing Company in Sturbridge. And that’s where Michael met up with Bryan’s brewer, Adam Threlkeld as he pulled up in a truck carrying an empty fermenter tank to carry today’s batch of beer when he’s done.
While Pioneer’s owner, Todd Sullivan milled the grain upstairs and sent it to the mash tun, Adam was paddling and adding rice hulls. Today’s beer, with a saison-like grain bill, included a fair amount of wheat, which has no hulls. So the rice hulls were added to keep the mash from turning into mud. Hopping consisted of mosaic and a classic Saaz.
Later, back at Mystic after another 70 mile drive, Adam rolled in the now-filled fermenter tank, and he, Michael, and Bryan began the fermentation process, adding the same Vinland Two yeast that Michael and Bryan had been working with earlier. As the yeast began to circulate through the system, air was added so the yeast would have enough oxygen to do their jobs – turn sugar into alcohol and create unique flavors.
This was the first time Mystic had brewed with this particular yeast, so there was no finished beer to sample. Instead, Bryan brought out an earlier brew made with yeast cultured from plums - as Michael dubbed it, an American abbey style - with a nice malty flavor and a dry finish.
After finishing up at the brewery, Michael headed over to Vee Vee restaurant in the Jamaica Plain area of Boston, where chef Keith Vanetti frequently cooks with beer - today, beer braised pork cheeks. With Keith giving directions, Michael did most of the actual work, seasoning the meat, searing, and then braising it in Descendant, a Suffolk dark ale from Mystic that added a bit of sweetness and a hint of maple.
At dinner, the dish was paired with Mystic’s Day of Doom, an abbey style quad, rich with malt flavor and dark fruit aromas, which enhanced the maltiness of the Descendant in the dish. And the yeast contributed wine-like complementing flavors to the meat.
Dry-rubbed pork ribs with pickled hot pepper marmalade and saison infused BBQ mustard sauce were paired with Mystic’s Auerbach’s Rauchbier, a smoked ale. It added an interesting spiciness to the mix without going over the top, pairing perfectly with the sauce.
Pan seared pollock and steamed clams with bacon, corn, and chilis were paired with Mystic’s Saison Renaud, which was also used in making the dish. With its herbal, spicy hop aroma, lemon and pepper flavors, and clean malt profile it went very well. The lemon notes naturally complemented the seafood flavors and the Saaz hops acted as an excellent seasoning without adding bitterness.
It was a wonderful meal. And a unique brewing experience. And the beer we made? It went on to win a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival.