- Oct 26 '16
In the lovely town of Fullerton, California, Bootlegger’s Brewery opened its doors to Michael. An avid homebrewer who decided to turn his passion into his business, owner and founder Aaron Barkenhagen opened the brewing company in 2008 (after years of planning and construction). Showing Michael pictures of the original brewery—which was a mere 11,000 square feet and housed three well-worn tanks—Aaron explained how Bootlegger’s went from producing a mere 176 barrels during their first year to a 4,200 barrels in a short five-year span. Needless to say, they are no longer operating in such a small facility. Their quick rise to popularity on the west coast can be attributed to their warm environment, passion for craft, and wide variety of fan faves, from the Lupulin Thrill to the Palomino Pale and from the Rustic Rye to the Black Phoenix.
The Black Phoenix—a chipotle coffee stout—is one of the unique beers found at Bootlegger’s, and Michael had the chance to see the process of its creation from start to finish. Beginning at Kéan Coffee, Michael met owner and master roaster Martin Diedrich, who makes a special roast specifically for the brew. In order to create the ideal flavor for the stout, Martin uses Sumatra beans, which have muted acidity and a lot of depth and complexity. Taking the scentless cherries (the unroasted coffee fruit), the two loaded thirty-five pounds worth into the system, where it makes its way to the roasting drum. Using paddle wheels to turn and move the beans, which prevent them from burning while they roast, the duo carefully observed the surprisingly short process. A few minutes in, Michael and Martin found that the beans had begun to turn yellow and to smell somewhat nutty. Soon after, they begin to turn light brown and to smell increasingly like coffee. Then, the cracking began (caused by the moisture in the beans as it began to boil and cause the beans to crack). At that point, Martin announced that the roasting was done and emptied the beans into another vat to cool. After only fifteen minutes from the start, the beans went from raw green cherries to darkly roasted coffee, ready to use in Bootlegger’s famous beer.
After heading back to the brewery, Michael worked with Aaron to use the freshly roasted coffee in a fresh batch of the Black Phoenix. They began by mashing in with a combination of specialty malts, including roasted barley and chocolate malt, in addition to flaked oats and flaked wheat to add mouth feel. As the mash processed, the two donned gloves and got to work with the two special ingredients. They chopped up a mere eleven ounces of chili peppers in a food processor (the small amount still smelled potent and made both men’s eyes water) and ground up three bags of the coffee beans to include in the mash.
When asked why coffee beers (most commonly stouts and porters) have become so popular, Aaron explained that the combinations of flavors (coffee and roasted malts, certain hops, etc.) work extremely well together. Although coffee is usually only used in darker beers, Michael predicted that it will soon be found in lighter beers as well. However, while there are many similar beers on the market, there is one thing that makes Bootlegger’s coffee stout stand out: smoked peppers. The special ingredient adds smokiness and acidity to the beer, causing a unique and delicious flavor.
After hauling the peppers and coffee back to the mash tun, they threw in the new additions, which thickened up the mash. The smell of the peppers was immediately apparent, but it seemed to combine perfectly with the coffee aroma. After completing the batch by adding the hops (and a few more peppers), Michael and Aaron taste tested the last batch of the stout. Michael became a quick fan of the brew - he could feel the subtle heat from the peppers in the back of his throat and the delicious combination of the roasted malt and coffee.
Upon finishing up with Aaron, Michael headed over to a truck. The Viking Truck, to be exact—a food truck that uses Bootlegger’s beers in their cooking. It was there that Michael made Dragon Eggs with Head Viking Luis Flores, and the magical-sounding experience ended in magical-tasting food. After creating chili (using Bootlegger’s Black Phoenix, ground beef, garlic, seasoning salt, chili powder, cumin, paprika, chipotle pepper in an adobo sauce, black beans, chili beans, and ghost chili salt—the second hottest chili on earth), it was poured over friend tater tots before being topped with cheese, sour cream, and “Viking ketchup.” The results left Michael impressed; it was pure comfort food, he declared.
end finish out his trip, Michael sat down to feast with Luis, Aaron, and Patricia, Aaron’s wife. Beginning the pairings with two of Michael’s creations—the Dragon Eggs and the Black Phoenix—the combination was unsurprisingly delicious. The chipotle peppers from both the food and the beer complemented each other while the smokiness of the beer enhanced the chili’s flavors.
Luis’s chicken apple sausage dish, dubbed the Dirty Bird, was served with Palomino Pale Ale (an American pale with citrus and apricot notes). The dish included braised red cabbage and Golden Chaos (a Belgian style golden ale by Bootlegger’s), which further contributed to the dish’s sweet profile. However, the pale ale worked perfectly to cut through the sweetness without threatening any of the flavors. Its light body and not-too-hoppy character worked to encourage the fruity notes of the dish.
The Viking Truck’s flagship sausage, Odin, is a bratwurst, smoked in house with cabbage, bacon, cheese, and a special homemade sauce. When paired with the Smokin’ Joe (an ale with caramel malt flavors that is brewed with beechwood smoked malt), the smokiness perfectly complemented the sausage. Not surprisingly, the dish paired with the Black Phoenix also received a thumbs-up from the table.
Last was the Loki, a hot Polish sausage (braised in Palomino Pale Ale) with fire-roasted jalapenos and red bell pepper that was covered in Sriracha and Viking ketchup. The super spicy food was paired with the super hoppy Knuckle Sandwich IPA (an American double IPA with floral, citrus, and sweet caramel flavors), which worked to subdue some of the heat. Patricia also suggested the Old World Hefeweizen (a Bavarian wheat with banana and vanilla flavors), as the mellowness of the brew would prevent the dish from being too overpowering.
Sitting back, Michael reveled in the fact that there are no rules when it comes to pairings. The beauty of individuality is that each individual has his or her own taste, perspective, and ideas. Similarly, in the world of craft brewing, Bootlegger’s Brewing brings its unique persona and creativity to the table, successfully providing delicious beers and great inspiration to the world around it.