The table full of exotic ingredients in the bottling area of St. Paul’s Vine Park Brewing hinted that something interesting was about to take place. Around twenty-five people milled about surveying the little baggies of cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, cilantro, and black pepper, anticipating the brewing adventure that awaited us. This was the scene on Monday morning at Vine Park’s second Brew with the Brewmaster event featuring Aran Madden and Chris Staples, the two-man team that is Furthermore Beer.
The idea of the Brew with the Brewmaster events is to give beer enthusiasts an opportunity to interact with professional brewers. Brewers create recipes and then work with guests to actually brew those beers on Vine Park’s brew-on-premise system. It’s an opportunity to see firsthand how brewers work and to witness the minute-to-minute adjustments that brewers make during a brew session. And best of all, after two weeks each participant gets to take home bottles of the beers they brewed. “This is fun.” said Vine Park co-owner Daniel Justesen of the Furthermore event. “It’s been interactive. It’s been exciting. It’s been recreating things on the fly and adapting to the environment. That’s what makes brewing fun, taking things from here and there and turning it into something that’s hopefully going to taste great. And it sure smells great in here.”
As Furthermore brewmaster Aran Madden explained it, the theme for this brew was “taking India Pale Ale back from the colonizers.” Each of the six beers was a unique take on the pale ale or India pale ale style using pungent Indian spices as flavoring elements. “I’m pretty excited about the beers. I think that this ‘real ales of India’ could be a thing.” said Madden. “It’s just funny that for us as a beer culture, it’s not just that it’s a style; it’s the dominant style in craft brewing right now. And nobody seems to think about the fact that India pale ale originates in something that the British did to India. And there’s so much that India has to offer.”
Participants were split into six groups, each group responsible for making one of the beers. My group brewed a beer called The History of Non-Violence. It is a reasonably bitter, low-alcohol IPA featuring tamarind, coriander, candied ginger, and cilantro.
With multiple beers coming together at once, the atmosphere was a bit chaotic. Justesen laughed, “This is exceedingly crazy, more than usual. Normally we’ve got a bit more control over the whole process.” And Madden said, “Brewing six beers at once is hectic. It’s really hectic. Especially since most of the beers were developed over the last couple of days.” But the craziness also presented him with an opportunity. “It’s really gratifying to be able to do all of this in one day. This would take me a year to get around to buying ingredients, and test batching, and getting stuff from a fermenter into a corny keg, and carbonating, and all that stuff. So six beers in one fell swoop is fantastic.”
In the end, chaos included, I believe everyone had a great time. Vine Park regular Cory Reiman summed it up this way, “Free lunch, great beer, and recipes that no one, including the master brewer, has tried? Come on. How often do you have access to a master brewer to pick their brains? Even if you’re a novice you can come here for the whole experience that most people would never have. Even if you’re fully knowledgeable, to be able to pick the brain of a master brewer is a great opportunity.”
I can’t wait to try the beers.