Brewing up collaboration from conversation with Elder Son’s Brewing
Every craft beer enthusiast has had a conversation at some point with their friends, often while several pints deep into a great night of drinking… ‘If I got a chance to do a collaboration with XYZ Brewing, this is what I would do, and it would be epic.’ You know…that conversation.
Except this time Robert Frye, the owner and brewer at Elder Son Brewing overheard the conversation and chimed in. “Sure, let’s do it.” Wait… what? You’re kidding, right? And before I knew it, a date of early February was set to do the collaboration. After some back and forth discussion, a Scotch Export Ale was decided. Malty, easy drinking and not overpowering. A beer that could be enjoyed and not put you off your bar stool after a couple of rounds. The name Scotch Panda was selected. A mixture of the style/type of beer and the collaborative name. Not only am I getting to do a collaboration beer, but my name is on it? This was the stuff fanboys dream of!
Admittedly the several weeks wait for brew day were quite unnerving. As the days crept closer to February 8th, a Wednesday, a sense of panic immerged. So many questions were running though my head. The realization set in… that despite many years of drinking and talking about beer I knew little to nothing about how brewing was done in a commercial brewery.
I was told to show up at the brewery by 11am that morning. This was a crash course in learning on the fly quickly and following directions. My day is spent turning valve handles at specified times, keeping track of time so that the beer is transferred from one tank to the next at the proper time and hopping is done on schedule. I was tasked with cleaning out the fermenter and making sure any remnant gasses and particles from the previous batch were washed out. And not to be forgotten, I got to dump the hops and yeast in at the appropriate times! It’s not a collaboration otherwise.
When it comes to brew day, here are some things I learned from my experience to keep in mind for when your collaboration is being made. Wearing rubber boots (or at least comfortable shoes with good grip) on brew day is a must. There are several hoses lurking about on the ground, and the floors are likely to be wet. Don’t trip or slip. Falling on your face or ass hurts. Otherwise, be comfortable. A t-shirt and jeans are perfectly fine options here. Repping gear from the brewery is certainly a plus.
Next, you may be drinking some beer in between processes. There is some time to kill while your beer is in the boiler, and you are in a brewery. Consider it quality control and do your duty by making sure the brews on tap are fresh. The trick is to pace yourself. Stick with easier drinking options and smaller quantities. This is not a good time to pull out that bomber of barrel aged stout you’ve been cellaring for the last three years. You need to be coherent for this process as it takes several hours to complete. Again, hoses and wet floors. Furthermore, and this is most important, you are going to be cleaning. A lot. Infected beer not only tastes terrible, but it won’t sell and is a waste of time and resources. Who wants to make an infected collaboration beer? Hoses need to be cleaned, tanks and handles need to be cleaned. And for the love of all things good, keep your hands clean. Wear gloves when you are dumping in hops and yeast to the mix. Everything that can and will be part of the brew process will need to be cleaned prior to use, and immediately after.
All in all brew day took the better part of the day. I was finally relived of duty about 5 in the evening, at which point the beer transferred into the secondary fermentation storage tank, where it sat for the next 16 days until it was kegged on early Release Day, Friday, February 24th.
Scotch Panda was released to the public on the 24th as a 5.1% alcohol by volume (ABV) Scottish Export Ale. A number of friends and members of the local Houston beer community made it out for the release, as well as some out-of-town visitors who were aware of the opening. All in all, Scotch Panda turned out to be exactly what was aimed for at the beginning: Malty, easy drinking and with moderate sweetness and alcohol content that could be enjoyed by everyone.
Finally, I want to say thank you to Robert Frye and Elder Son Brewing for this amazing opportunity and for this story. Scotch Panda really did start out as random comment made at the Elder Son bar one night that Robert caught ear of from the back of the brewery. That one comment turned into a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget! Thanks for the support from everyone that came out that night for the release of Scotch Panda and those who have enjoyed it sense. Scotch Panda will be on tap at Elder Son brewing until it is sold out, so if you haven’t had the chance, stop by for a pint.
Elder Son Brewing Co is located at 946 North Shepherd Drive, Houston 77008.
Follow @eldersonbrewing on Instagram.
Visit them online www.eldersonbrewing.com.