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    Brewers not only understand the science behind making good beer, but they also get that brewing requires creativity. Not everyone possesses both qualities — it’s like a biologist who is also a chef. Here, some Louisville-area brewers dish on unusual beers they’ve made over the years. None of them are currently available, although Against the Grain’s There Gose the Neighborhood comes back around. Particularly funky brews are typically small-batch experiments. Some simply cannot be replicated. Such is the magic of beer.

    New Albanian Brewing Co.
    415 Bank St. (New Albany, Ind.)

    NABC brew chief David Pierce remembers when a Kentucky Common, a beer that was invented in Louisville in the 1800s, was an unusual beer to make, but today many area brewers are trying their hands at the style. So he reached for a beer he made 20 years ago during his early years as head brewer at Bluegrass Brewing Co. in St. Matthews: a Belgian double (or dubbel) with cardamom seed. Pierce says it was a traditional Trappist-style ale with a slight twist. “The profile was sweet with a vaguely cola or licorice aftertaste, without the anise edge,” Pierce says. “It…depleted quickly. It was one of my first forays in Belgian beer.”

    Against The Grain 
    401 E. Main St. (Slugger Field)

    Sour and “bretted” beers are becoming more and more popular around the U.S. Jerry Gnagy, Against the Grain’s head brewer, knows a little something about making funky, sour beer. One from this year is There Gose the Neighborhood, a Gose-style (50 percent malted wheat) ale soured with lactic acid bacteria. While souring a beer is nothing new, Gnagy brewed this particular one with roasted red peppers, cilantro, calamansi fruit, Chardonnay-barrel-smoked sea salt and toasted coriander, finished with wild Brettanomyces yeast. “The aroma was all roasted red peppers, but it was really mild in the flavor. The flavor was almost salsa-like, but I tried not to color anyone’s opinion by saying ‘salsa beer,’ because that doesn’t sound good,” Gnagy says. “The acidity kept you wanting to drink it, and so it was more than just a beer to taste — you could move through a glass and want more, which is my proof for a good beer. It was a really good seller.” 

    Beer Engine
    1036 Burnett Ave.

    Beer Engine’s Brian Holton admits that he doesn’t really do weird beers, but he did come up with one example that doesn’t exactly qualify as “normal.” “I have a small barrel that has a mix of organisms in it that will funk up anything I put in it — sometimes super sour, like lemonade,” Holton says. “I tend to think of ways ingredients can or should play together and complement each other. Something I’ve brewed every spring for the past few years is a Blue Spruce American wheat. The fresh tips that come out in the spring add lots of piney, vitamin C flavor. My line of thinking was that it’d be interesting to match those tips with a piney hop variety and see how they complement one another.” 

    Gordon Biersch Brewery
    400 S. Fourth St.

    Nick Landers took over as brewmaster at Gordon Biersch at Fourth Street Live early this year. A few years ago, while living in Milwaukee, he brewed a Fernet stout for a New York restaurant, which wanted a beer that tasted like the Fernet liqueur (known for having a bitter flavor and big, spicy aroma, featuring ingredients such as rhubarb, chamomile, aloe and saffron.) “The malt bill was pretty standard for a stout, but the spices were ridiculous. It was only a 15-barrrel batch, but I used star anise, fennel seeds, a bunch of other spices I can’t remember, plus a little saffron. Even after cleanup, the aroma would linger for an entire day,” Landers says. Now, I’ve had plenty of Fernet, but only as a few ounces at a time; and usually a shot. I couldn’t even think of drinking an entire 12-plus ounces at a time. But the restaurant said it was perfect. That’s one beer I don’t mind never brewing again.” 

    Apocalypse Brew Works
    1612 Mellwood Ave.

    Leah Dienes (pictured) is head brewer at Apocalypse Brew Works but has been home-brewing for years. She and a group of fellow female brewers hold an annual brew-in. Eight years ago, Dienes and another brewer made a fairly simple American wheat beer — wheat malts, light hops, yeast — infused with peaches, but the beer was somehow overlooked and never tapped. It sat in her friend’s garage for a year while “wild garage yeast from southern Indiana” took over.

    “I asked about it at the following year’s brew-in. Being the adventuresome sort, I popped a picnic tap on the keg and tasted it. Wow. No off flavors, with a Belgian twist. That keg went on tap for the ladies as a ‘Belgian Surprise’ and we drank all five gallons that day,” Dienes says.

    Great Flood Brewing Co.
    2120 Bardstown Road

    Matt Fuller and his partners at Great Flood Brewing Co. haven’t been brewing commercially for long (the Bardstown Road spot opened earlier this year), so in the summer the crew was excited to put their Belgian strong ale into a Copper & Kings apple brandy barrel for aging. The golden-colored, slightly cloudy beer featured a citrusy nose, unexpected carbonation and just a hint of apple. The two months of barrel aging — which was originally a Woodford Reserve barrel that was later used for the apple brandy — added only a hint of subtle oak flavor. “Basically, the ingredients for the brewing side were pretty plain, as far as most Belgians are concerned,” Fuller says. “What we were trying to do mainly was to make all the parts of a good Belgian strong but just a little more restrained, which would play well with the apple brandy and the oak. It was little bit of a shot in the dark.” 

    Article written by Kevin Gibson

    Images courtesy of Aaron Kingsbury

    This article appears in the winter issue of SWIG. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here.

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