The Washington Cask Beer Festival (Saturday, March 29), which is completely sold out, will showcase dozens of interesting, creative beers. If you know anything about this event, you will not be surprised to learn that one of the beers is an oak-aged strong ale brewed using, among other things, candy sugar. The beer, named 841, is a collaborative effort produced by a group of eight brewers. They set some basic parameters and then divided themselves into groups to concoct four different recipes. Next, they compared notes and collaborated to finally arrive at the one final recipe. Then they brewed it.
Eight brewers, four recipes and one beer equals 841. As I said, if you know what kind of beer to expect at the Cask Beer Festival none of this is surprising; however, it might surprise you to learn exactly who is responsible for the 841 Strong Ale.
“It was a blast! It was challenging but really fun,” said Kim Brusco, brewing operations manager for Redhook Ale Brewery. “The parameters we set where that the beer had to be about 34 SRM (color), between 40-60 IBUs, and 9.5 percent alcohol. We also agreed that the recipe had to feature a special ingredient or special process.”
Last night Brusco told me the story of the 841 at the Beveridge Place Pub. He spoke with unmistakable enthusiasm. “It’s turned out really well. It was an interesting process, but we had a really good time and it turned out to be a damn good beer.”
Gary Sink, the publican at the Beveridge Place Pub, has sampled the 841. He nodded in confirmation of Brusco’s opinion of the beer.
Redhook will be pouring the 841 Strong Ale at this year’s Cask Beer Festival alongside a cask-conditioned version of the soon-to-be-released Big Ballard. For those who don’t know about Big Ballard yet, it is an Imperial IPA that will only be available in the local market. (See our previous post.) The bottle features a familiar face on the label. Ya sure, ya betcha! He’s back! And unlike the 841 he’s sticking around. Big Ballard is going to be part of the regular Redhook line up. The 841 Strong Ale is a onetime seasonal release.
Don’t make me sock you in the neck
As a lifelong Washington resident, who learned to love beer in the early 1980s when the craft beer revolution was just beginning, it warms my heart to know that our old friends at Redhook still have plenty of creative fire burning beneath the brew kettle. Personally, I never doubted it, but I know that many people do. While many craft beer enthusiasts have become quite oblivious to Redhook’s existence, others harbor a weird, irrational distain. I have heard people say some of the most stupid and uninformed crap about Redhook.
So, while some people begrudgingly refer to them as Budhook, and others seem to have completely written off Redhook for dead, they continue to win medals at prestigious beer events. In 2009, they brought home two medals from the GABF, gold for the ESB and silver for the Treblehook barleywine. The Redhook sister brewery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire brought home a third GABF medal – a bronze for the Weizen, a south German style hefeweizen. Am I the only person who was impressed by the Tripel that Redhook poured at January’s Belgianfest?
I don’t mean to sound like an apologist for Redhook. They don’t need me to do that. I am very well aware that some people simply cannot get over Redhook’s involvement with Anheuser-Busch. I will just say this, I know for a fact that the people working in the brewery at Redhook have little or no contact with the satanic forces of evil. They do not get their marching orders from Anheuser-Busch.
I don’t mean to sound like a Redhook cheerleader, either. They don’t need me to do that. It’s just that I am excited to try a couple of new, interesting, creative beers from Redhook. Lest we forget, they’re one of the breweries that got this whole thing started.
Didn’t get tickets to the Cask Beer Festival? Both of the beers mentioned above are available at the Redhook brewpub in Woodinville.