Down The Road Blog
Hops, Haze and Homogeneity
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
There's no denying it - New England IPA is more than a fad. With brewers across the world dabbling in the murky arts of aggressive dry hopping, it's safe to say that this turbid brew has truly come into its own. Their appearances range from slightly hazy to downright milkshakey, but there's one thing that truly sets the NEIPA apart from the rest of the field: hop treatment.
Setting the Stage
Historically, hops were used as much as a preservative as a flavorant. The alpha acids present in all strains of hops are useful for helping to stave off bacterial infection in beer, but over time, people came to crave that hoppy taste. Over on the West Coast of the United States, brewers have been amping up their hops for a while now, but for most connoisseurs of the West Coast style, IBUs are king. These beers feature high doses of alpha acids, greatly accentuating the bitter qualities of the hops. What has come to be known as the New England IPA is just as hoppy as a West Coast IPA, but because of differences in the brewing process, the final product is significantly less bitter. Through whirlpooling and dry hopping, brewers are able to extract the essence of the hops, without adding all that bitterness.
Juicy and Fruity
From homebrewers to large scale commercial breweries, most NEIPAs are juicy, fruity and hazy. The haze comes from a combination of hop particulate and protein haze left over from the grain bills. The juicy and fruity qualities comes partly from the yeast, but mostly from the hops. However, here's where we run into a bit of a problem. If everyone's versions of this new style needs to hit these metrics, then homogeneity may be an issue. Hops like Galaxy, Mosaic and Citra are great for getting those big, juicy notes, but with so many people brewing with the same ingredients, it all starts to meld together.
Breaking From the Pack
So if a brewery wanted to make a NEIPA, but they wanted to stand out from the crowd with some fresh ingredients, getting away from the three most trendy hops in the industry would probably be a good start. All over the world, there are agricultural geniuses who are constantly working on new strains of hops, and with aromatic qualities like "juicy" and "citrusy" in such high demand, it should come as no surprise that there are alternatives out there. For instance, Idaho #7, a hop Down The Road uses in its Seventh Star IPA, is a beautiful example of a new, experimental strain. It manifests crazy flavors and aromas ranging from melon to strawberry and even pineapple! Other strains worth checking out are Motueka, a New Zealand hop that carries a zesty lime aroma, and Pacifica, which brings a unique marmalade and floral aspect to the table, both of which we decided to use in our latest release - Queequeg's Revenge New England IPA.
So what's the harm in a little experimentation?
Cherry Feyborn: The Return of The Berliner Weisse
Friday, December 30, 2016
As sour beers become more popular in America, Berliner Weisse is experiencing a renaissance. Only a few years ago, this relatively obscure German style was relegated to the most esoteric import shelves. Today, demand for cheek-puckering beer has led to a heightened interest in the style, and Down the Road is happy to oblige. Berliner Mit Schuss
At its base, Berliner Weisse is a low ABV, golden wheat that is more sour than most wild ales and less sour than lambics. To contribute additional character, Berliner Weisse is often enjoyed mit schuss, meaning with sauce. In Germany, several herbal and fruit-based flavorings are used to add variety to the popular sour beer. The most popular of these flavors are raspberry (Himbeer) and Woodruff (Waldmeister), which is a green, herbal decoction.
Inspired by the schuss tradition, we imbue each batch of Down the Roads Feyborn with a different flavor. Our first version of Feyborn Berliner Weisse, released summer 2016, featured a massive blast of blackberries, and the juicy, sun-ripened fruit perfectly captured the season in which it was brewed. Our December batch of Feyborn features wild, tart cherries, which should provide an interesting point of contrast to the heavy, dark seasonal beers that are popular in the winter.
Schuss in a Can!
At Down the Road, we place a premium on tradition. Whenever possible, we try to promote styles from the old world. However, we also love innovation subtle tweaks made possible by new technology, improved processes and novel ingredients. Thats why we use lab-grade saison yeast in our Fee des Fleurs Saison instead of spontaneous fermentation. Similarly, its why we whirlpool our hops instead of boiling them for our Pukwudgie American Pale Ale. When we decided to brew a Berliner Weisse mit schuss, we knew that we would have to break with tradition a little bit. In Germany, the schuss is poured into the beer immediately before serving, allowing one tap to service a wide range of tastes. We briefly considered attaching some kind of cup of schuss to our Feyborn cans. We even messed with the idea of having a packet inside the can that would automatically release its contents when you crack the top. However, both of those designs proved to be rather over-engineered. Instead, we opted to add the schuss directly to the beer before packaging but after fermentation to ensure that the fruit remains fresh and flavorful.
This holiday season, remember the importance of diversity when youre stocking your fridge. Porters and stouts are great and seasonally relevant, and you can never have too many IPAs, but variety is the spice of life. Embrace your inner wild child, and party with the Feyborn!
Introducing The White Hart Helles
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Lower your arrow, good hunter. That is no common hart for game or sport. Such a pristine coat, boreal and pure, as if sunlight radiated from within. This is a sign from the gods! The White Hart presents itself to you with a message of good fortune if you are wise enough to hear it. Take heed; follow the divine beast, wherever it shall lead, and see what blessings await you. Legends and Myths Many Germanic cultures have considered white stags to be signs from the gods. The appearance of a white hart in Arthurian legend was meant to signal the beginning of a holy quest, while the Celts believed they were divine beings worthy of protection. The legendary founding fathers of Hungary, Hunor and Magor, are said to have discovered their nation by following a white stag. The symbolism of this stunning creature continues to influence modern day legends, with the white hart appearing as a guardian patronus spell in J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter. White Hart Helles White Hart is our take on a traditional German Helles. Literally translating to Light, Helles is a straw-colored lager with clean maltiness, subtle hops and a refreshingly dry finish. However, unlike traditional Helles, White Hart is brewed with Huell Melon hops to contribute a soft, fruity complexity that evokes honeydew melons and fresh strawberries. White Hart invites you to stray from the well-trodden paths of common summer beers and follow the game trail to places both secret and magical. Will you heed the call?
About the Artist Nikki Rossignol
Monday, May 2, 2016
Since its inception, Down the Road Brewery has been interested in telling stories. We have woven many disparate characters together to tell the story of our beer. From the Pukwudgie to Undine and the Changeling Child to Baba Yaga, we have conjured up quite the motley crew of mythical monsters and legendary personas, but we couldn’t have done it without our illustrator, Nikki Rossignol.
Nikki lives in in Montana with her husband and daughter as well as a pet cat and a dingo. In this vast landscape of endless plains and theatrical mountains, Nikki draws endless inspiration for her artwork. The land is both home and muse for Nikki, but it is not the sole font of her inspiration – much of what she paints comes from her dreams. “I am a lucid dreamer, and with practice I have learned to absorb the content I wish to dream about prior to falling asleep. I dream in vivid color, and I have trained myself to remember dreams in nearly complete detail. Many of my personal works are, in fact, replicated scenes from dreams.”
Nikki began painting as a young girl. Her grandmother, a talented painter herself, taught Nikki about oil paint when she was only 10 years old. Although she loves the heavy, gestural qualities of oil, it was in water colors that she truly found her prefered medium. Growing up, Nikki traveled constantly – for school, for work, for pleasure, but she always wanted to bring her art supplies with her. Oil paints are cumbersome to transport, so she resorted to watercolors on her journeys. Though difficult to learn, she soon came to love the flowing, gestural style of watercolor. When asked about her paint of choice, Nikki explained:
“ I have a deep affection for the honesty of pure paint in the presence of loose water. To be successful in watercolor is to be in alliance with the properties of the medium; water, paper, air, gravity, and color. It is a mysteriously harmonious collaboration that I find most present in watercolor. I add another element in inking after the paint has dried (or before such as the “Seventh Star” label which is a technique to bleed color into a nebula). This line-work inking overlaid upon watercolor derived from the Golden Age of Illustration (1880’s – 1920’s), and was utilized by fairytale artists such as Kay Nielsen, Andrew Lang, Arthur Rackham, and John Bauer.”
Even before coming to Down the Road, Nikki had a penchant for classical fairy tales. In fact, her drawing of the Pukwudgie, which we used on our original labeling for our American Pale Ale, was what drew us together in the first place. When asked about her interest in fairy tales and illustration, Nikki explained.
“I have known from the very beginning that I was going to illustrate, simply because I always have. I would illustrate the unillustrated scenes from my Grandfather’s copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales as early as 8 years old. My work has always been attached to a deeper narrative. Stories have habitually submerged themselves in my subconscious and, across a great expanse of reading, I have found myself most drawn to folklore. The archetypes of myths and folktales appear in my paintings like apparitions from another plane of existence. They are so immensely ingrained in my being that they take a large role in how I view (and in how I paint) subjects of both reality and fantasy.”
But her favorite mythical creature?
“The Norse Jörmungandr, or World Serpent, is wrapped around the world and in constant motion of devouring his own tail. This is my favorite mythical creature mainly because of the richness of the symbology. The Jörmungandr represents not only chaos (as an offspring of Loki) but in devouring itself encompasses the earth as a simultaneously protective and destructive force which is known in Norse tradition as the Ragnarok Cycle.”
Arist, mother, folklorist and ballerina, Nikki Rossignol is a woman of many talents, and we are remarkably lucky to have such an amazing woman working with Down the Road Brewery. Thanks, Nikki!
If you want to see more of Nikki Rossignol’s incredible artwork, check her out on Facebook
Dreaming of the Pleiades The Story of the Seventh Star
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
“Have I told you of my one true love? The shining beauty who guides me through the darkness?” said the sailor to his mate.
“Nay friend. Be her bosoms heavy and hair flaxen?”
“Nothing so base. She is of the Pleiades, one of the seven daughters of Atlas, a rare and beautiful queen of the night sky and beacon of hope to those riding the waves on the open ocean.”
“I’m afraid your love is doomed, good fool, for you speak of the stars as if they are women. Might as well invite the moon to dinner!”
“Look to the sky and count. How many stars see you in the constellation? Six. For one of the Seven has already left her celestial sorority for a mortal man. Fair Merope, youngest of the sisters, fell in love with earthbound Sisyphus, and bore him seven sons. My will is set and my heart is pure. I shall win my love and pluck her from the heavens like a ripe grape.”
“And this Seventh Star? Where has she gone?”
“To Hades, with her beloved Sisyphus, my friend. And so shall my celestial wife when I depart this mortal coil.”
Our Seventh Star IPA is a ripe, fruity brew that features the elusive Idaho Experimental #7 hop. This new contender boasts bright notes of melon, grape and strawberry, which we offset against a light swirl of Azaca hops, allowing for just a splash of tropical fruit. Like the Seventh Sister of the Pleiades, this divine IPA straddles the gulf between heaven and earth to deliver a truly cosmic experience.
A Closer Look at Chinook
Monday, February 1, 2016
Down the Road is only a few months away from its first birthday, and we couldnt be happier. In the short time that weve been operational, we have released seven styles of beer and established many lasting friendships. We are especially proud of the distinctiveness of each of our beers no two are overly similar. However, if youve been paying close attention, you may notice that even some of the most radically different beers share some of the same ingredients. You may be wondering, how can this be? How can an outrageously rich and malty stout employ the same hops as a crisp, citrusy pale ale? That is the question we will be answering today, and we will begin by looking at chinook, one of our favorite strains of hops, under the proverbial microscope. Chinook (shin-ook) Check out our ingredients lists, and you may notice that one of our most frequently used hops is a strain called chinook, which is actually pronounced shin-ook, despite the ch. Created in the mid 1980s, chinook is a versatile hop that contributes an herbal, spicy fruitiness to the brew, but that only part of the story. We also use chinook because of its effectiveness as a bittering hop, due to its relatively high amounts of alpha acids. Alpha Acids and Bittering Hops We use chinook as a bittering hop in our Pukwudgie Pale Ale, Undine Double IPA and Darkest Night Imperial Stout, but if youve tried all of these varieties, youll note that theyre not particularly bitter especially the Darkest Night. Bittering does more than just add flavor it acts as a natural preservative. The more alpha acids that go into the beer during the bittering phase, the longer the brew can last. Without these valuable alpha acids, most beer would go bad before you ever had a chance to drink it. Striking a Balance The magic of the chinook hops that we use in many of our beers comes from the hops ability to strike a balance between the antimicrobial effect of alpha acids and its delicious herbal spiciness. Chinook is a complex and versatile hop that is perfectly suited to use across a wide range of beer styles. Although it is much more subdued than many of the other flavors in our brews, the next time you have the chance to sample a few Down the Road styles side by side, see if you can detect the chinook.
Introducing the Darkest Night Imperial Stout from Down the Road
Thursday, January 14, 2016
At the end of this month, Down the Road heralds the true arrival of winter with the Darkest Night Imperial Stout. Inspired by Baba Yaga, a Slavic witch of folklore, this witchs brew features high alcohol content offset by a complex palate of fresh hops and rich malts. But who is Baba Yaga, and why is this withered old crone the face of our newest beer? The devil, as they say, is in the details. Who is the Witch of the Woods? The primeval forests of the Slavs are dark, and ponderous places. The hard roots of the ancient trees tap deep into the frozen earth, drawing sustenance from thousands of years of rot and detritus. In the dark heart of these labyrinthian woods lies Baba Yagas chicken-legged hut, where the dread sorceress tends to her crops and livestock. And from this tenuously perched hovel, the old crone beckons lost travelers to their salvation, or their doom. The witch of the woods is capricious at best, her blessings and curses fall from her lips with no rhyme or reason at least, not to the minds of mere mortals. Courteous wanderers and humble souls may find her as a maternal figure, spouting wisdom and bestowing gifts upon them for as little as a few compliments or a petty donation. Fools, oafs and bombastic braggarts, however, may draw her ire, suffering lingering maladies from her curses that haunt them for the rest of their miserable lives. Yet woe to the sorry sot who crosses Baba Yaga when she is hungry, for nothing warms the bones quite like hot, sweet blood. A Serious Stout for Serious Beer Enthusiasts Like so many of the folkloric namesakes of our beers here at Down the Road, Baba Yaga represents duplicity and chaos. She is a being who demands respect, and rewards it in kind. At 14% ABV, our Darkest Night Imperial Stout asks the same of beer drinkers. The well-balanced flavor of this deeply rich brew can be deceptive, and it would be wise to treat it with the respect it deserves. Yet those who can appreciate the composition of this complex and lusciously dark stout will find a warm companion to help them through the harsh cold of winter. Shes still out there, you know, Baba Yaga. Time may pass, and the world around her may change, but the witch of the woods has gone nowhere. In the shadow-addled depths of the endless Slavic woodlands, Baba Yaga churns the forests rich loam for her crops and chickens one eye on the footpath, the other turned toward the secret things that flit just beyond the edge of mortal vision, and to her, we raise a glass. Na Zdravie!
A Deeper Look At Our New Undine Double IPA
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Undine rises from the great abyssal gulfs of the briney deep, her piscean tail sinuous as she sets her dead gaze on our docile shores. Yet despite her lack of a soul, the story of Undine is not a horror it is a tragic romance. You see, unlike most monsters, Undine is aware of her soullessness and desires nothing more than to become human. She stalks our shores not as a foe, though her ire can be deadly to those her spurn her. Instead, she calls out to those with ears to hear her, searching desperately for a human whose love will grant her an immortal soul. The Search for A Soul How does her story end? That all depends on who is telling it. Some say that Undine found her eternal mate, a dashing prince who fell in love with the mermaid at first blush. According to these yarns, Undine shed her tail to become a human woman and the two lived happily ever after. Yet not all renditions of her tale end so nicely. Some believe that Undine married a fisherman who said he would love her until the end of time, but shortly after their wedding, the fisherman ran off with another woman. Devastated, the vengeful Undine stole her former husbands breath, leading to his agonizing demise. Other storytellers say Undine never met her true love, or he died before they married. Instead of a happily ever after, the heartbroken and world-weary Undine transformed into a burbling stream. On certain nights, passersby can still hear her sorrowful song as the springwater runs like tears from the earth. Alluring Hops, Tantalizing Depth Our Undine Double IPA is named after this queen of the depths. Its rich bouquet of tropical fruit and citrus reflects the complex nature of its namesake. This is a big, bold beer with a commanding presence, and while it may not be able to sing to you, the alluring aroma of Citra, Amarillo and Mosaic hops will seduce beer aficionados far and wide.
The Story Behind the Hooligan: The Hedley Kow
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
The Hedley Kow The Star of the Hooligan Nut Brown Ale The Hedley Kow is a mischievous spirit known for shape shifting into many different forms, playing tricks on people, and always getting the last laugh at anothers misfortune. Encounters with the Hedley Kow have been shared, and although it takes a different form each time, each story seems to have a similar theme. Sometimes, the Hedley Kow takes shape as a common animal. Once it took the shape of a cow that was being milked by a farmer. But as it was being milked, it kicked over the bucket and run away laughing. It ran into the house, making a mess of the farmers cheese and playing with the cats. When the farmer tried to hit the cow with a cane, the cow ended up with the cane and hit the farmer instead. Another time, the Hedley Kow took the shape of a horse and would toss people off into the stream while laughing. Another story tells how the Hedley Kow put itself inside a bundle of firewood that was being collected. When the old woman collecting it went to pick it up, the bundle rolled out of reach. Other times the bundle suddenly became very heavy, causing the woman to drop it. The bundlethen just rolled away again laughing. One story tells of two men traveling to see their sweethearts when the Hedley Kow interfered. The men could see their girls in the distance, but no matter how hard they tried, they could not catch up to them. As they kept traveling, the men ended up deep in a bog, where their girl suddenly turned into an ugly bogey. Despite trying to run away down separate paths, the men ran towards each other and saw each other as bogeys as well.
Corrigan, Queen of Breton Faeries and the Fée des Fleurs
Sunday, May 31, 2015
Corrigan, Queen of The Faeries of the Flowers, strides shoulder-high through the low summer goldenrod, diaphanous wings whisking the hop flowers into a symphonic rustling. She has come to lure away all the pretty children. Label for Saison de Fée des Fleurs We often think of faeries as tiny, harmless, flower-flitting things. But the truth can be darker, as the fae are not always nice. Have you ever heard of Changelings? Wondered what they were, really? Answers are in the history of Corrigan, Queen of the Breton flower fae. Long ago the plush European hills and valleys of Brittany, in western France, were homeland to the Faeries of the Flowers (Fée des Fleurs) who tended magnificent gardens that would stretch over the land as far as the eye could see. And the majesty of the flowers would last spring, summer, fall, and even winter, to blossom all year long. When the humans came with their tools and fabrications, building houses and razing forests, the faeries were driven from these lands back to the kingdom of Faery. But every summer, when the flowers would bloom on their own and magic was high in the air, the Fae would briefly return. These Faeries of the Flowers were renowned for their terrible mischief of swapping human babies and young children for aging fae-folk: Changelings. And now we meet the Corrigan, Queen of the Faeries. Corrigan would seek out very young children from families who were scornful of the faeries. She looked for poorly-tended, barren gardens, for mortal families knew that to appease the displaced Fae they had to plant the land generously with sweet herbs. If your garden was not lush or well-maintained, you were a target for the wrath of Corrigan. In the deep of a summer night, after having charmed the household into a deep sleep, she would take the youngest child and return with it to Faeryleaving an old Fae in the crib. The elder Fae look just like children and they would torment the disrespectful family with ceaseless wailing until their death (which was usually not long in coming, given the loathsome conditions of living among the humans). Fae can live to be thousands of years old, so many very well remember the arrival and infestation of a growing humankind, and in their final days, it is a rite of passage to wreak vengeance on thoughtless humans. When the familys child, the Changeling, passed away, the families mourned, unaware that their true child would yet live out a long life as a spoiled favorite of the Queen of Faeries. So the moral of these legends is to live in harmony with nature and respect the magic hidden behind the veil of our real world concerns, for fear of a visit from Corrigan coming to take from us of that which is most precious and most dear. Learn more about Fey myths by clicking on the image below. Faeries gather around the cradle of a young human they seek to change.