A Monastic Autumn

A Monastic Autumn
By: Nick Irvine

As the weather begins to turn its pages from the hot summer days to the crisp and breezy fall here in the High Desert, people tend to find themselves in two distinct camps. Some people will walk around town with a big giddy smile on their faces and a skip in their step as they dream of all that this season brings. Halloween, fall spiced flavors of everything from lattes to candles, and hoodie weather. The others? Well, they are simply the ones seen rolling their eyes at the former. For the brewery tribe, this season is, and will always be, a chance to showcase the flavors of the season in the now iconic Pumpkin Ales.

At Dark Sky, we each have our favorites, and we are always anxious to find some newly discovered gems, but two years ago we had our very own shot. How would we put our mark on this oh-so-delicious season here in the Arizona mountains? If you know anything about us brewers here at Dark Sky, you are well aware that it would need to be something off-kilter, slightly in your face, and most likely a nice punch to the liver. I mean, isn’t fall just ripe for those big boozy sippers? Ryan and I sat down and noodled some ideas. “Well, we have that Belgian Strong Ale yeast in the walk-in. Have you ever heard of anyone doing a Pumpkin Belgian Strong?”

Cut scene to us adding all of those glorious spices that tread the fence between fall and Christmas aromas. A pungent blast into the boil kettle, they began to seep out of our then tiny brewhouse, smoothly blow across the bar and rest in the noses of the lucky patrons in there that early afternoon. These aromas ended up matching really well with the phenolic and spicy flavors contributed by the Belgian yeast variety.

In my most dramatic infomercial voice: “But Wait, There’s More!” We also just happened to have among these walls, a special barrel. We had just emptied a Four Roses Bourbon barrel that was so graciously given to us by our friends at Park Plaza Liquor in Prescott. Do we dare add yet another layer to this beer? Well, we did. That is one of the special draws that craft beer has on my heart. There is an infinite amount of creativity just waiting to be unlocked. This year, along with the regular ‘Oh My Gourd’, we also will be bottling our Bourbon Barrel Aged version. That barrel still had a lot of flavor to give and boy did it give. We blended it back with a bit of this year’s batch in order to balance out the bourbon and return some of the lost spices. Let me tell you how fun blend testing a 10.2% beer at 7:30am is!

Through the changing of the seasons we should always strive to open our arms and hearts to the new opportunities that may present themselves whether it is the chance to explore all the diversity that fall has to offer in our amazing state, or the times soon spent around family and friends. Go out and explore some of the changing nuances of your own personal craft, whether that be photography, raising your kids, or of course, brewing beer.

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Erik Merkow
Founder and CEO at Az Food & Wine
Erik: a father, writer, son, photographer, corporate guy, friend, brother, and foodie wine guy

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