Good morning readers! Today’s post is a slight departure from the normal news and profiles. Maybe consider it a profile of a particular beer? We’d like to share with you the recap of our recent brew day at Big Spruce Brewing in Nyanza, Cape Breton.
The story of this beer began several years ago, as a Lemon and Ginger Witbier designed by Chris and brewing partner (and real brains of the operation) Brian Harvey. Through many iterations, thanks to suggestions and demands from (drinking) partners Shawna and Erin, it evolved into a light and extremely refreshing beer, showcasing both ginger heat and aroma, with a pleasant lemon character. It was first brewed on a small scale commercially at Good Robot, and took top honours at The Stillwell Open during NS Craft Beer Week.
Big Spruce owner Jeremy White approached us about brewing the beer on a bigger scale, and had a special local twist on one of the ingredients, so we were thrilled to bring the beer North. Erin and Chris visited Big Spruce to bring this beer to life.
Running the show this brewday was Assistant Brewer Rodney Harvie, and we struggled to keep up with him! He had already been in the brewery for a couple of hours by the time we showed up at 9, ensuring the Hot Liquor Tank was ready, and the 180kg of grain was milled. He is very focused and efficient. Jeremy was also there to help out, but was occupied at the front counter with customers, as this was an unusually busy fall Saturday for Big Spruce.
In addition to mainstays Cereal Killer Oatmeal Stout and Bitter Get’er India Black IPA, they had on their Gimme Simcoe and the Smokin’ Jack It Pumpkin Ale, both of which proved to be very popular that day. We guess Cape Bretoners and visitors both were very thirsty this weekend. And we can’t blame them!
Though Rodney had started early, there was still much to be done. After mashing in the wheat and pilsner malt base, we began zesting the 60 lemons that would eventually end up in the beer. The oil in the zest is what we were after, and so we tried to keep as much of the pith, which can become quite bitter, out of the beer.
The adage of tasting all of the ingredients that go into any recipe, food or beer, is something that we definitely subscribe to!
The recipe called for several additions of grated ginger throughout the boil, to get a slight snap spiciness, flavour, and aroma of this versatile root. We were able to source several kilograms of locally-grown organic ginger, thanks to Jody Nelson at nearby LocalMotive Farm. This special ingredient is the reason we chose to brew this usually summer favourite at this time of year. Jody is also one of the brains behind the Big Spruce food items, including malt vinegar, pickled veggies, beer nuts, and jellies and marmalade.
After the mash rest, it was time to sparge, and then begin the boil. Whole leaf Challenger hops from Big Spruce’s own farm were used for a light bitterness, mostly intended to offset any malt sweetness, and support the special ingredients.
After the 90 minute boil, the wort was chilled and moved to the fermenter. We pulled a sample and the ginger smell was mouth watering. The gravity ended up at 1.044, a little lower than planned, but we figured the high percentage of wheat may have made the mash a little less efficient. This particular beer was fermented using a blend of yeasts, for a light Belgian phenolic character, without it dominating the lemon and ginger.
After fermenting and conditioning for the past four weeks, the wait is finally over, and we can all taste Cold Remedy beginning today! The beer finished quite dry, and comes in at 4.6% ABV. It is currently available on tap at Big Spruce in Nyanza, and will be available at Battery Park, Good Robot Tap Room, Lion and Bright, and Stillwell very shortly. We hope you enjoy drinking it as much as we enjoyed brewing it!
Thank you so much Jeremy, Rodney, Ryan and Jody! Our day at Big Spruce was lots of fun and a great experience!