Labor Day is supposed to be a holiday, but for several prominent members of the Los Angeles beer community, the day of rest turned into a great opportunity to help craft beer’s cause, with Eagle Rock Brewery as home base. The mission was to start brewing an official beer for L.A. Beer Week. Oatmeal double IPA was an option, but the L.A. Beer Week committee members ultimately voted to green light an Imperial steam beer, a traditional California style that fits with the setting of the week’s blowout beer festival, which will be held at downtown’s Union Station on October 17.
Commemorative brewers included Eagle Rock Brewery co-founders Jeremy Raub and Steve Raub, brewery reps Jay Baum (Chimay Lost Coast, & Schneider) and Dennis Hartman (Spaten & Franziskaner), Gev Kazanchyan, Stone rep Nate Sellergren, Blue Palms Brewhouse proprietor Brian Lenzo, The Celebrator L.A. editor Tomm Carroll, Randy Clemens, Paige Reilly and Dave Watrous from Tony’s Darts Away, 38 Degrees co-owner Clay Harding, Nibble Bit Tabby Brewery co-founder Brian Lethcoe, Cambria Griffith and Stan Lee from Drink Eat Travel, Dan Becker of The Full Pint and Eagle Rock Brewery staffer Patrick Morse. The dedicated beer lovers started arriving at Eagle Rock Brewery just after 8 AM. Before long, we started taking turns milling the nearly 1200 pounds of grain, 50 pounds at a time.
Jeremy Raub reviewed the malts he uses in the beer, which features a blend of two base malts: Munich Standard 2 and Maris Otter. Raub ate a few grains of Maris Otter malt and said, “It’s like the difference between supermarket tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market.” Munich “gives you a nice richness. Cara-Pils is for body and helps with head retention. Crystal malt is for color.” The recipe also involved Melonoidin malt, which contributed “malt richness,” and Palisade hops.
When the water in the mash tun rose above 150 degrees, Raub started dropping in and raking the grains as part of the mash-in process. The hot water reacted with the milled grains, releasing starches to produce sugars that will ferment and form alcohol.
For anybody who ever questions how much effort goes into producing beer, spend some time in a brewery, which is hot, humid and requires plenty of manual labor, including lifting 50-pound bags of grain to be milled and shoveling spent grains from the mash tun after wort moves from the mash tun to the kettle. Of course there was still time for some fun, like when Paige Reilly and Clay Harding recreated “American Gothic,” with a brewing bent.
Each time Eagle Rock Brewery makes a batch of beer, an Ontario farmer picks up hundreds of pounds of spent grains and brings them back to his dairy, where cows chow down. Jeremy Raub said that at some point, he’d like to use the milk to produce a milk stout, or possibly cheese to pair with the beer.
The crew gathered for a photo session, providing a partial snapshot of L.A.’s craft beer community.
The still-unnamed beer will debut at LA Beer Week Festival at Union Station on October 17. Kegs may also appear at the Eagle Rock Brewery tasting room and in the bars who helped brew.
UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 9, 2010
The name of the beer will be Unity-LA’s Team Beer.