‘Tis that time of year again, when Ryan Morrow (Brewmaster at Nickel Brook Brewing Co.) and I get together to release our annual birthday collaboration 11.05. This is the 4th year we’ve brewed 11.05 and this is the 4th style we’ve tackled. The first year we brewed a Barleywine and barrel-aged it for 1 year in bourbon barrels. The next year we brewed a Triple IPA and followed that up with an Imperial Saison with the 5 fruits of Five Alive. This year we elected to brew a Belgian style Triple finished with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis.
The only consistency between each year is that the beer needs to be 11% ABV and it needs to be released on November 5th (obviously).
Now this can make it difficult when selecting a style to brew, as not all styles work at 11% ABV, but it certainly hasn’t made it impossible. Interestingly, the hardest part about this year’s brew had nothing to do with finding the right style. It was about finding the time needed to let the beer condition properly.
Ryan and I are both big fans of beers that can be very drinkable even at elevated alcohol levels and Belgian Style Triples certainly fall in that category. And we’re also big fans of working with Brettanomyces, so brewing a triple with ‘brett’ seemed like a no brainer. We just needed to find the time to brew it and still have time for the ‘brett’ to do it’s “thang”. Oh, and we had to time it all perfectly so that the beer is ready for it’s very specific release date of November 5th. Easy, right?
We tried to brew the beer earlier in August, but then a few things came up and our planned brew date never happened. This tends to happen quite often in production breweries during summer months. You just got to roll with it.
We were finally able to brew the first batch of 11.05 on August 31st, which still gave us more than 2 months before the November 5th release date. We figured this would be enough time. It turned out it was. Kind of.
The first batch fermented out well and after 2 weeks in primary fermentation, we pitched the ‘brett’. After almost 2 months in the tank, it’s developed a nice background farmhouse funk, while still maintaining its Belgian Style Triple roots. A nice fruity/funky nose leads into a soft, mellow malt body and is finished with a quick spiciness. And as per our wont, its highly drinkable for the 11% ABV.
The second batch was brewed 2 weeks after the first, so we were already not going to have as much time for the ‘brett’ to develop. Add on to that it took almost 3 weeks for the second brew to finish its primary fermentation. Time was no longer on our side as we were now into early October at this point.
So, in order for us to meet our hard release date of November 5th and still have the beer we wanted to create, we needed to make a slight change. What we elected to do was to let the first batch continue aging in the tank and have the farmhouse character develop some more. This batch would go entirely to kegs. The second batch we let dry right out on the primary yeast and then we conditioned it in the package with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis.
What that means to those going to enjoy 11.05 from the can is it will initially taste like a great Triple. For the first few weeks of its life you can expect the clean flavours and aromas you’d expect in a Belgian Style Triple. But if you resist cracking open your cans for a few months, you’re going to taste an entirely new beer.
With time the ‘brett’ will change this beer. As it slowly munches on the remaining sugars left in the brew, it will start creating new, interesting flavours and aromas. And the beer will continue to develop as you let it age.
We encourage you to buy a few cans and taste them over time, coming back to the beer every few months and seeing how it’s changed. You might find that you enjoyed it young more than you did when the ‘brett’ took over! Or you may find that given plenty of time, the beer has evolved into a much more complex, richer brew. We leave the last part up to you.
AVAILABLE AT OUR RETAIL STORE NOVEMBER 5th
Use hashtag #BestAfter and let us know what you think of this year’s 11.05 as it matures and conditions!
$1 of every can and pint sold at our brewery will go towards Crafting a Cure in support of JDRF Canada.