A transatlantic collaboration between a Seattle brewery and a UK brewery produces Ottrey Porter, launching in Seattle on November 1st
The other day I was talking to someone about the idea of our local breweries forging relationships with breweries overseas, similar to the way American cities have “sister cities” in other countries. Seriously, I did just have that conversation with someone. And then yesterday Adam Robbings reached out to inform me that Reuben’s Brews forged a relationship with a brewery in England. Details below.
Individual breweries and the local brewing community as a whole stand to benefit from having sister breweries in other parts of the world. Has anyone done it? Sure. Off the top of my head, the first one that comes to mind is Chuckanut Brewery (see our stories).
There are all sorts of altruistic reasons why it’s a good idea. International collaboration promotes a spirit of unity amongst brewers across borders and above politics, it fosters greater creativity, it broadens brewing horizons, and it’s fun. Also, having some sort of international relationship is a really a good public relations opportunity for everyone involved.
The accent is a dead giveaway. No use trying to hide it; Adam Robbings is an Englishman.
“When people ask me where in the UK I’m from, I usually stutter around before I respond,” says Adam. “My family moved around quite a lot when I was young, then I went to university in the midlands (the middle part of England), then moved to London after graduation. I lived in London for 9 years before moving to Seattle in 2004. So Seattle is actually where I’ve lived the longest part of my life of anywhere – yet my accent still puts me kind of out of place sometimes!”
Sure, but everyone has a place they call home, right? Despite a somewhat mobile childhood, Adam calls Windsor home.
“I lived in lots of places when I was a kid, but when people ask me where in the UK am I from, I say Windsor,” Adam explains. “Despite moving house a number of times, there was one constant – I went to the equivalent of high school at Windsor Boys’ School. So I feel Windsor was a home base for me.”
“When we visited the UK last year, it was exciting to see that the craft beer boom had really taken off. A number of new breweries had opened since I had last visited – let alone since I had lived there last. Windsor and Eton Brewery opened up in 2010 and was just the equivalent of a few blocks from my high school – so Grace [Adam’s wife] and I had to visit!”
Of course, when two brewers get together, and they happen to like each other, talks of collaboration are inevitable. The distance between the two breweries, and the significant airfare and time required to travel between each, creates some obstacles for the collaborative brewing process, but that doesn’t mean collaboration is impossible.
“When we were talking with the brewery team, we discussed my history, Reuben’s Brews, and we thought a collaboration beer would be an excellent idea. But flying halfway across the world to brew a collaboration beer a few months later was a little difficult to justify, so we decided to brew the same beer at each of our breweries on our different continents and release it at the same time.”
But What Kind of Beer?
Next question, what kind of beer should they brew? After some discussion they agreed on a Brown Porter. Neither brewery had ever brewed a Porter and that style has historic significance for this particular part of England, which is just west of London.
Furthermore, a Porter would pour well on draft as well as cask. Windsor and Eton Brewery is predominantly a cask brewery.
“In discussing and finalizing the recipe, I feel that both breweries moved out of their comfort zones a little – which is the benefit of collaborations,” says Adam. “Brewing a beer that neither brewery would have otherwise brewed is surely the point! Windsor used a couple of malts that they wouldn’t have used otherwise that I love – Pale Chocolate and Crystal Rye. Pale Chocolate is a little lighter than Chocolate malt, but it adds a little smoke complexity in the background that you don’t get with a standard chocolate malt. And Crystal Rye is like a medium crystal malt – but uses malted rye, which will give a little rye spice in the finish.”
“For us, the recipe uses Windsor Yeast – a traditional British strain I had never used before – we’ve tended to use the Whitbread strain when brewing British beers in the past. We also used a dark British crystal in this beer. I’d usually use a crystal malt that’s less caramelized for this style – but it makes total sense to use the darker version for this beer. It should lend itself to giving some rich, toffee, plum and prune notes – which combined with the yeast and rest of the malt bill, could make this Brown Porter really tasty!”
“And then to the name. We wanted to recognize in the name the Windsor links to the beer. We’re calling the beer Ottrey Porter here in Washington. Windsor Boys’ School has 8 different houses named after previous students who lost their lives in one of the two world wars. And each pupil who went to the school was assigned to a house. I was in Ottrey. So it seemed a perfect choice to call our beer “Ottrey Porter” recognizing the collaboration, the school and town I’m from.”
Ottrey Porter comes in at 4.8 percent ABV and 28 IBUs. It will be launched in the taproom on November 1, and we hope you get chance to try it!