I can still taste bitter wort in the back of my throat — what I like to call the taste of success. I just capped off my first-ever craft beer brewing session with Louis Cifer Brew Works, where they’re turning an idea I had into a reality you can drink from a pint glass.
A few weeks ago, I entered the recently opened brew pub’s Brewcipe Challenge recipe contest with a suggestion I styled the Summer Nights Blueberry Black IPA. I described a refreshing brew chock full of the tart titular berries, rounded out with citrusy hops and subtle notes of chocolate. (Something you could sip while the sun sets on a warm summer night, if you will.) Apparently, the idea struck a chord with the brewing staff and it was picked out from a list of entries submitted by brewers and local beer lovers alike. I was floored when they asked me and a guest to help with the process of making it — after all, what guy doesn’t have “brew your own beer” on his bucket list?
When I arrived with my brother, co-owners Erin and Craig introduced me to Louis Cifer’s head brewer, Christine, who had used her expertise to transform my outline into a working recipe. Christine coupled roasty Munich and chocolate wheat malts with citrusy Herkules, Citra and Centennial hops. If all goes as planned, she said, the blueberry-infused beer will pack a punch to the tune of seven per cent alcohol by volume. No complaints here! Along with her assistant, Connor, we rolled up our sleeves and went to work.
It was an incredibly enjoyable experience to say the least, and one that I’m honoured to have been invited to take part in. I can’t thank the Louis Cifer crew enough for the opportunity! Here are some takeaways:
I gained a new appreciation for beer
A pint will never go down the same again. I sampled the wort at different stages of the process, and seeing how it changed helped attune my palette to the nuances of beer in general.
Although the GTA’s microbreweries are technically in competition, I was heartened to hear that they really support each other in any way they can. For example, Louis Cifer always has a keg from their friends at Great Lakes Brewery on tap. The more the better, I say.
There’s a lot of experimentation
These brewers aren’t afraid to try anything. If something doesn’t work out at first, a recipe can go through several iterations before it’s pronounced complete.
There’s plenty of waiting involved
The experienced brewers told us throughout the process that brewing is about 10 per cent scrambling like hell — and the rest is waiting for stuff to boil, for wort to ferment, etc. Always a good excuse to grab a cold one from the bar.
The career path doesn’t matter
Like journalists, some brewers go to school and others teach themselves. In the end, they’re brought together by the passion they share for their craft.
The Summer Nights Blueberry Black IPA will be finished just in time for Ontario Craft Beer Week on June 17th at 7 p.m., so feel free to drop by and give it a taste. In the meantime, check out some photos below.