Second interview in the lead up to GABS 2012 comes from The Monk Brewery in Freemantle. You normally can’t get hold of their beers anywhere but the brewery restaurant, so it’s a real treat for beer fans on the East Coast. If you missed my first interview with Darren from Doctor’s Orders, you can read it here
Their beer will be a Sweet Potato Porter and the guys give some great insight into how they’ve used sweet potato in the brew; so homebrewers take note. The answers are from both Paul and Steve.
Most events such as this are a showcase of a range of beers, usually basic styles with the brewery staff selling their wares behind a small table. What do you think the benefits of an event like GABS are in winning people over to craft beer?
I think an event like GABS is good for the industry to flex their creative side and show what is actually possible in beer. The usual events and festivals where you go and attend a stall, serve your styles and explain craft beer are good for getting people into craft beer, and events like GABS (with their left of centre beer styles and flavours) help to showcase the skill in being a brewer. The GABS style set-up (big long bars with all beers pouring from one point) does eliminate the brewer-to-consumer approach many smaller breweries like to have at events, so you are relying on your beer to really stand up in the crowd to get noticed. That said, as a whole, if GABS continues to grow at the rate that it is, many people not currently ‘craft beer’ savvy will start to sit up and take notice.
With so many other potentially amazing beers all on the bill do you feel any pressure on you and your beer? or are you just like a punter and are happy to be involved?
There does seem to be some serious talent coming along, but I’d say that most brewers are just happy to come along, and drink some interesting brews. Being able to sit down, draw up a brew you’d like to do, working on ways to make it work on the kit you’ve got – that’s fun to most Brewers. Deep down all brewers, whether they’re a shift brewer at one of the big boys or a tiny craft brewer, are beer nerds at heart. Doing something like this is play. Putting out our regular range at the same high standard we put on ourselves every week is probably more stressful.
Are you attending, and if so, what beers are you most looking forward to trying?
We’ll be attending, we’ll be there the last three sessions. We’re looking forward to trying everything! Highlights will be the Barrel Aged Scotch Ale (Renaissance), Tea leafed IPA (Yeastie Boys), Zesty Wit (Harringtons), Beetroot Belgian Ale (4 Pines), Dunkelweizen (Last Drop, Jan Bruckner’s Hefeweizen is the best in Australia, hands down) and the Sarspirilla Stout (Grand Ridge). I’m looking forward to interacting with patrons (both Paul and I are volunteering for a session), interacting with fellow brewers and watching the spectacle unfold. It’s looking like a big weekend!
We don’t get to see your beers often, or at all, over here; is this a first for you guys?
As far as being invited over for the Great Australian Beer Spectapular, yes. We’re a relatively small brewery (6 Hectolitre DME, with what we like to call “3 and a half” 1200 L ferment tanks, and a bright/conditioning tank) moving about 100,000 L a year. It’s all kegs, no bottles, and about 99% of the stuff is sold onsite to keep up with our award winning restaurant. We’ve got a spot on the main restaurant street in Freo (South Terrace) and weekends see us very busy, so supplying anyone other than ourselves at the moment is not on the cards.
We as a brewery probably haven’t been very recognisable on the national scene until lately, with ex head brewer Justin Fox taking the brewery to new heights over the last four years, winning the Champion Trophy for Best Reduced Alcohol Beer in 2011, which has helped with a lot with recognition. Paul Wyman, a fellow ECU graduate and myself were hired to fill the void left by Justin’s departure to Swan. The invite to attend GABS was offered, and we love to put out beers that challenge preconceived ideas, so we jumped at the chance.
Why sweet potato?
Haha! Why not? It’s been an idea of Paul’s for quite a while now, semi inspired by the American craft brewing scene releasing specialty Pumpkin ales close to Thanksgiving.
What process are you using to get the flavours from the sweet potato?
We roasted the sweet potato in the oven until cooked through and soft, removed the skins and kept them for possible later additions, and then blitzed the potatoes until they were a soft mash. Here we added spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, and continued to blitz it until it had a fairly smooth consistency. The spices were intended to give a slight impression of a sweet potato pie. On brew day we rehydrated the mash to an easy to add consistency by blending in the Porter wort from the kettle. The Porter itself is a little more roasty than we usually do here, to complement the sweet potato flavours.
Have you experimented with different kinds of sweet potato in the lead up?
Not different kinds, just different ways to add the sweet potato. In the only pilot batch we did, we threw a little of the sweet potato in on the mash to see what it did, as well as at the end of boil and the end result was very little potato flavour, so we decided on the big batch to oven roast the potatoes rather than grill with spices, and move all of them further back into the process, almost adding them as a ‘aroma hop’. The later you add the ingredients the more aroma you get, we’ve got a nice amount of roast on the malt bill so I think we’ve got it right.
Depending on how the ferment goes, we may dry hop with sweet potato skins, a bit of cinnamon etc to magnify the characters we are looking for.