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The Dram Shop goes to Sierra Nevada Beer Camp!

Last spring I had the pleasure of getting an invitation from Sierra Nevada Brewing to attend their  Beer Camp at the original brewery in Chico, CA. It sounded cool, but I had to think about it. Let’s see here: three days at the Sierra Nevada brewery with a small group of fellow campers learning about the company and their processes, ogling their state of the art facility, tasting rare and experimental beers, eating amazing food, designing our own beer recipe, and brewing own batch of beer with one of Sierra’s top brewers…. My schedule became instantly clear. A shocker I know. After all, Sierra Beer camp is a sort of coveted experience in the craft beer world. And to be honest, with the shop having been open less than a year, I was flattered that they asked me.

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The first order of business was an email conversation prior to heading to Chico, in order to get a head start on our beer recipe. We settled on the idea of doing a New Zealand inspired beer with all of the hops coming from the Pacific country. Some of these hops can be tough to get but a brewery like Sierra Nevada has large hop contracts and, well, you should see the hop storage room at the brewery. It doesn’t hurt that they are also one of the few whole hop cone only brewers in the US–meaning that there are no pelleted hops used in any Sierra beers, a fact that they will tell you is reflected in the superior hop bouquet of their beer. We also decided to use the mighty kiwifruit in a nod to our brethren from the island nation. We had a diving off point, and would sort out the details in Chico.

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Upon arriving at the brewery, I got an eery feeling that I was in Ken Grossman’s (the brewery’s Founder) version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory. From the immaculate brew house and cellar, to the cutting edge green technology being used literally everywhere, to the almost gilded taproom, I got the sense that his fingerprints were on everything. And to be honest, he’s done an amazing job with his brewery.

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But anyway, back to the beer. We decided that stylistically, a lager with a grain bill including munich as a base, pilsner malt, a small amount of wheat would be a nice way to allow the mellow, sweet notes of the fruit come through, and also to keep the nelson sauvin, Wai-iti, Waimea and Wakatu hops right at the center of the flavor profile. This style would also keep the beer refreshing and quaffable. We blended 20 pounds of kiwifruit with an industrial immersion blender for the 10 barrel batch that we brewed in the pilot brew house at Sierra. One interesting fact about this brew house is that it was designed to mimic the main brew house and cellar used for all regular batches of beer but to scale. This way, pilot batches can be brewed and scaled to large batches taking away as many variables as possible.

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With our batch of kiwi lager safely in the fermenter it was time to turn our minds to the name of our beer. Many names were thrown out, none of which bear repeating here. Suffice it to say that after sorting through our trove of creative hail mary’s, the good folks at Sierra Nevada settled on nice, non-offensive, litigation free name: I.B.U.zing Kiwis.

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The good news is, we finally got a few kegs of our I.B.Uzing Kiwi on at the shop, and I can’t wait to tap one and see what our creation tastes like!

Join us this Saturday and let’s take it for a test drive!       

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