In February, my fiancé and I welcomed our handsome son Harvey to the world! His presence has been nothing short of an amazing addition to our family. And as mom prepares for her return to work, life slowly begins to transition back to normal (or so we tell ourselves). Brewing has taken a necessary back seat to parenthood, but when Easter Sunday rolled around I was able to sneak in my second batch of post-child homebrew!
Many years ago, I first imagined commemorating the birth of my children with a special batch of homebrew. My original vision was to brew a single batch of beer shortly after each birth and age it for 21 years until each child reached legal drinking age. Even before Harvey was born, I was already working on potential recipes that would warrant over two decades of cellaring. Since my oldest batches of (remaining) homebrew are just now approaching five years of age, I decided to reach out to the homebrewing community to glean some wisdom.
Mike Tonsmiere (The Mad Fermentationist) has largely influence my homebrewing over the years, so naturally his blog was my first stop. In 2007, Tonsmiere brewed a clone of Wells & Young’s Courage Russian Imperial Stout, a beer that is said to age gracefully for up to 30 years. Every Christmas thereafter, Tonsmiere tasted and reviewed the flavor progression of the 2007 batch. Christmas 2017 marked the 10 year anniversary of brewing his clone and according to Tonsmiere the beer was “as close to perfection as I can imagine creating in a big-dark-funky-fruity-historic stout.”
In 2011, Patrick Rue (The Bruery) brewed a “bourbon beer” to mark the birth of his daughter Charlotte. Headlining the recipe was corn mash and the target alcohol by volume for Charlotte’s Beer was 23%! Once brewed, the beer was transferred into a brand new, dark charred barrel where it will rest until Charlotte’s 21st birthday.
Ron Pattinson has also written about the tradition of brewing a beer for the birth of a heir. These beers, called Majority Ales (since they were drank when the child reach majority at aged 21), were essentially very high ABV old ales (upwards of 1.130 OG!), aged in casks for a long, long time. Some homebrewers have further explored the concept of brewing a Majority Ale to celebrate the birth of a child.
While a massive imperial stout, bourbon beer, or old ale sounded interesting, my passion and heart were more closely aligned with other beer styles. It’s no secret that lambic and gueuze can last upwards of 25 years as well, however spontaneous beer does not come without risk and I did not want to compound that with 21 years of aging. I ultimately reached out to the Milk The Funk Facebook Group for suggestions. The MTF community was helpful (as always) and ultimately I decided on the concept of a ~9% bière de garde.
Bière de garde, like saison, is a family of beer that originated on rural Europe farms. These farmhouse ales are often considered sisters – with saisons drawing more Belgian influence and bière de garde decidedly French. The name bière de garde means beer for keeping, or in other words beers that were brewed to be intentionally aged. Commercial examples of bière de garde are often sweet and malty with little to no yeast esters. And while my commemorative beer won’t exactly match the BJCP Style Guidelines for bière de garde, it shares the sentiment for the original concept of a beer brewed for deliberate cellaring and even more so speaks to the true essence of farmhouse ale – a product of a place with the substance of that place.
On April 1, 2018 I brewed the first batch of beer to celebrate my son. Harvey 2018 will be the first of 21 vintages (2018 – 2039) of bière de garde brewed on or around Harvey’s birthday each year. The actual recipe and/or technique may change slightly year-to-year based on sensory feedback, but the heart and soul of the beer will be consistent. The base recipe is inspired (yet again) by my favorite homebrewed farmhouse ale to date, Farm Bière. This recipe was brewed using Mecca Grade Estate Malts (Pelton, Lamonta, Rimrock, Wickiup, and Raw Barley), homegrown Massachusetts Cascade and Centennial whole leaf hops, and fermented with our foraged Massachusetts yeast and house microflora, courtesy of Bootleg Biology. Once the beer is ready for packaging (~12 months) it will be bottled with Bootleg Biology Funk Weapon #1 and primed with dextrose. Bottles will be corked, crowned, and waxed (each vintage a different color) in an effort to avoid oxidation as long as possible. In addition, each future batch will receive one bottle of prior year’s vintage added directly to secondary along with our house microflora. Eventually Harvey will assist in brewing the beer that is his namesake. And lastly, two bottles of each vintage will be gifted to Harvey for his 21st birthday (though I will feature annual tasting reviews of various vintages to document how each beer evolves over time).
Style: 24C – Bière de Garde
Description: A strong golden farmhouse ale brewed to commemorate the birth of my son, Harvey – a dry, tart, and slightly funky beer fermented using foraged Massachusetts yeast, house microflora, and Brettanomyces. To be aged for up to 21 years.
Batch size: 2 gallons
FG: 1.002 (est.)
ABV: 9% (est.)
50% Mecca Grade Estate Malt Pelton (Pilsner) @ Mash
20% Mecca Grade Estate Malt Lamonta (Pale) @ Mash
15% Mecca Grade Estate Malt Rimrock (Rye) @ Mash
7.5% Mecca Grade Estate Malt Wickiup (Red Wheat) @ Mash
7.5% Mecca Grade Estate Malt Raw Barley @ Mash
30 IBU Homegrown Cascade/Centennial Whole Leaf Hops @ 60
Foraged Massachusetts Yeast (via Bootleg Biology) @ Primary
House Microflora (via Bootleg Biology) @ Secondary
Bootleg Biology Funk Weapon #1 @ Bottling
Water treatment: Untreated Boise, ID water
Mash technique: Single infusion @ 148°F for 60 minutes
Kettle volume: 3.5 gallons
Boil duration: 90 minutes
Final volume: 2 gallons
Fermentation temp: 64°F (ambient)
Notes: Double stovetop batch brewed solo on 4/1/2018. Untreated Boise city water used for both batches.
Mash in for batch 1 started at 4:30pm, sparge complete by 5:43pm to yield 7 quarts of pre-boil wort. Boil started at 5:46pm. First hops added 30 minutes into the boil, with total boil duration of 90 minutes. Cooled in the kitchen sink using an ice-water bath. Post-boil volume of 1 gal with lower than expected 1.057 SG.
Mash in for batch 2 started at 7:15pm, sparge complete by 8:22pm to yield 7 quarts of pre-boil wort. Boil started at 8:30pm. First hops added 30 minutes into the boil as well, same 90 minute duration. Cooled in the same method as batch 1. Lowe than expected post-boil volume of 0.75 gal with 1.075 SG (~1.056 SG for 1 gal).
Each batch transferred into a 1 gal glass fermentor and pitched with fresh foraged Massachusetts yeast.
5/5/2018 – Topped off the two Harvey 2018 fermentors with ~0.75 gal of To Kaz And To Hold foraged yeast starter. Pitched house microflora.