Wednesday, October 26, 2011

White Birch Celebrates Three More Apprentice Program Graduates

White Birch Brewing is back at the Ancient Fire Wine Blog. It might seem a bit slanted for White Birch to have shown up a half dozen times in my blog just in the last year, but what can I say? The beer is good and the people who have embraced White Birch are fun to be around.

Last Friday night Margot and I headed over to the new space White Birch recently moved into for an open house to celebrate the graduation of three more apprentices. The Apprentice Program at White Birch is one of the most unique (I know it isn’t a new idea, but for our times…) ideas to help spread the love of a craft to others whilst training people for future employment and grow your own business all at the same time.

The most exciting part of the program for consumers is that each apprentice gets to pick a beer to brew at White Birch that becomes “their” beer. Once that beer makes its way to the tasting room we get to meet the creator and enjoy their beer at an open house along with lots of other White Birch enthusiasts. Being able to meet three such people, and try their beers, in one night was a true joy.

Margot and I also ran into several Brew Free or Die (BFD) homebrew club members at the event, fermenting our choice to join up so we could hang with people with similar interests. Bill Herlicka, the founder of White Birch, has been a long time member of BFD and is a stellar example of where you can take such a passion. Beer really is that cool!

First up was a blind tasting of beers only named “B” or “O”. Margot and I preferred “B” which we found fruitier and maltier. I still don’t know exactly what was going on here, but I bet it won’t be long before White Birch fans find out.

The first apprentice was David Sakolsky with his creation, Deviant Monk. Dave described the beer as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale brewed with spices and aged on Tempranillo soaked oak. What, what, what!?!?!
I had to ask why and how this brew came to be. Dave went on to explain that this was a recipe he had been working with as a home brewer for some time, and with his experiences at White Birch he was able to create a batch that made all of his effort come full circle. One of Dave’s friends was chilling to the left of the table and he confirmed that being friends with Dave means that you get to try some pretty awesome homebrewed beer.

Margot and I found the beer to be sweet, malty with obvious spices, hints of wood aging and just a bit of wine character. This is a big beer, 10% ABV, and presents enough nuance that my tendency would be to serve it is an aperitif or with dessert in a formal pairing setting. I’d drink a whole glass of this, or a bomber, just because I could, but for me it isn’t an all night drinker. I am suspecting most other folks would feel the same way.

Way to go Dave!

Next up was Christian Weber with his Colonial Ale. I asked Christian what had him looking to the Colonial era for beer inspiration. He explained that coming to school in New England from elsewhere exposed him to people who were very proud of their heritage and history, and that stuck with him. To him the Colonial Ale brewed with molasses, which was common in that era, and aged on local cedar embraces the history and tradition in the region.

The beer is rich, and was served (at least to us) warm enough that it expose a full palate of malt, spice and wood in both the nose and mouth. The touch of Brett did add a bit of funk and character to the beer to make it stand out.

Christian, thanks for your spin on New England beer!

The last beer we reached as we worked around the room was the Eorna Ceol Ale brewed by Justin Umlah. This beer is Justin’s take on a Scottish Wee Heavy Ale, a beer style I don’t have experience with, making this tasting that much more exciting.

I again asked Justin about the motivation. Scottish heritage and a love for the style of beer were the succinct reply. He is clearly very passionate and animated creating lots of laughs at the table while serving his beer and interacting with tasters.

Margot and I both found a wonderful perfumed nose of malt, smoke and earth to the beer, with a rich malty character in the mouth that is noticeably sweet. This beer was also served at cellar temperature (purposefully or not I don’t know) which really did help us pick up the aromatics it offered.

Many thanks to Justin for introducing us to a new style of beer!

There was a festive mood during the open house. I offer the Octoberfest girl in the following picture as evidence.

As we have said before, we strongly recommend beer lovers seek out White Birch products and/or plan a visit to the brewery so you can experience it for yourself.



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