Test Kitchen: Local Collaborations

Test Kitchen is an ongoing print column and online blog by the Publisher of Brewer Magazine and Test Kitchen Brewer Tyler Montgomery. With a 1.5 barrel brewhouse launched in 2019, this is his experience and notes from the journey along with reviews of products and services.

 

As the Test Kitchen gears up for its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations we’ve designed our first Scotch Ale: Wee Heavy (5% ABV, 14 IBUs, 17.3 SRM) for the occasion. 

This development is very much two fold. First, we wanted something unique for the celebration, and second we had been listening to our customer base. 

One area of business where I can never express more emphasis is that of listening to your clientele/customer. Whether you’re completely a production model without a taproom or a taproom without any distribution, you hopefully have a strong client base that will feed you the hopes and desires for your brewery. 

Don’t misunderstand me when I state that particular emphasis; I do believe you should create what you enjoy deep down as a brewery, but following along client desires will assist your growth in the long run. 

We’d had several clients over the past year express a desire for our attempt at a Wee Heavy. While it was slightly outside the normal wheelhouse for the Test Kitchen, sometimes you have to get outside your comfort zone. 

Additionally, this experiment provided us an opportunity to work with another local business in our tiny town — something I believe all breweries could do a lot more. 

For this particular beer we wanted a light smoke and a barrel-aged taste. Unfortunately we didn’t have an empty bourbon barrel on hand — I know that’s strange since we’re in Kentucky, but please judge later — so I decided to take our team back to the good ole days of homebrewing. 

While the Test Kitchen doesn’t operate as a brewpub, a few days a week we purchase pulled pork BBQ from a local restaurant. This individual spends a ton of time each week releasing delicious smoke smells into our downtown and it was there that the smoke mission began. 

We sourced freshly smoked logs from our pulled pork vendor and soaked them in bourbon for about a week. I used to do something similar with oak chips during my homebrew days. 

After we soaked the wood in the bourbon we then released it into our Wee Heavy for two weeks supplying us with that unique smoke and bourbon flavor. 

In my opinion the Wee Heavy could have come out a tad stronger — a tad higher ABV nearer 6%, and a stronger smoke flavor — but for a first attempt it’s not too bad. Fortunately we’ll have our local clientele to give us their feedback before we make a second attempt. That’s the beauty and purpose for working closely with your brewery’s clients. 

Lastly, this process brought us closer to one of our vendors and a local establishment. These networking opportunities cement your business in your community and help you grow. The crossover with other restaurants and companies will assist in bringing you new customers that may have never considered your brewery prior. 

 

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