by Nancy Bishop
It didn’t take long for my beer trail traveling companions to call and ask when we were going to hit the Trail after they heard about this year’s Super Beeroes theme.
But it was only early March. I reassured them that I wouldn’t forget my loyal beer friends when it came time to visit the breweries on the River Rat Brew Trail, but I didn’t tell them that there’s a special beer being brewed that will be offered at the breweries this year.
And I certainly didn’t tell them that I was about to attend a meeting in late March at Jackass Brewing Company where the nine breweries collaborating on the special brew would develop the recipe for it. Or the brewing day in April at Rusty Rail Brewing Company that I’d also be at.
But the word is out now and the Super Beeroes brew is fermenting in the tanks at Rusty Rail, so I can tell my friends and you about it.
At the first meeting, owners and brewers from Lost Mine-d, Rusty Rail, Rock God, Eclipse, Jackass, Hidden Stories and Covered Bridge, led by Rusty Rail Head Brewer Logan Powell, talked in detail about the kind of yeast, malt, hops and grains – and the amount of each — that would go into the brew. Also participating in the collaboration are Old Forge and Marley’s.
The group was lively and enjoying each other’s company, but most of the conversation was over my head, I must admit. I would have been more at home talking about the ingredients in a recipe for my homemade brownies that people tell me are the “best-ever”!
By the end of the meeting (and in time for a delicious lunch at Jackass), the group had decided the special Super Beeroes brew would be a hazy pale ale made of white wheat, flaked oats, Hornindal Kveik yeast, Pale 2Row malt and Citra and Cascade hops.
Citra hops I learned are the new “darling” of hops for craft beers. Developed in 2008, Citra, as its name implies, gives a citrusy flavor hinting of grapefruit and tropical fruits.
In mid-April it was time to put it all together at Rusty Rail. The process began at 7 a.m. when the first batch of mash was mixed up in one of their huge vats. Mash, I learned, is the process of soaking the grains in hot water to hydrate them, convert the starches in the grain to fermentable sugars, and activate the malt. Once the right temperature was reached, brewer Will Warick of Rusty Rail, with folks from the other breweries in the collaboration taking turns helping, moved the liquid, called “Wort,” into another tank where a process of spinning the wort called lautering or sparging took place.
Then it was time to shovel the spent mash out of the first tank to get it cleaned and ready for the next batch. The spent mash I learned goes to local farmers to use as cattle feed. Some of it also goes to make dog treats. So, it’s an environmentally friendly recycling process!
After about 2 hours, the wort was ready to go to the fermenting tank where the yeast would be added. Before that happened, I got a chance to taste the wort. It was citrusy and a little sweet. Can’t wait to taste the finished product when it’s finished in mid-May. It will be available to purchase at the breweries in the collaboration, either on draft or in a six-pack to take home.
Don’t miss out this year! Get a Super Beeroes Trail Passport and start visiting. I have mine! The 2023 River Rat Brew Trail features 15 breweries in five counties and runs through October 31. There will be prizes to be claimed after you hit all 15 breweries.
And be sure to check out the “What Kind of a River Rat Are You” page when you visit the website. Bet you can’t guess what River Rat I am! (Hint: Think “words on a page.”)