Behind the Scenes at The Bruery in Placentia, CA (Plus a Preview of Black Tuesday 2012)
Every subculture has its own version of a Holy Grail. Tickets to the World Series, a pair of limited edition sneakers, or reservations to the French Laundry, for example. While these things might not mean a whole lot to most of us, these rare items are coveted by fans and aficionados.
For many in the craft beer world, a handful of limited release brews have reached that ultimate "Holy Grail" status. Among these beers is the infamous Black Tuesday— an Imperial Stout brewed by The Bruery in Placentia, California. Aged in bourbon barrels for over a year, and weighing in at nearly 20% ABV, Black Tuesday is available in limited quantities only once a year on the final Tuesday of October.
This year marks just the fourth release of the coveted Imperial Stout (The Bruery has only been open for four years). On Tuesday October 30th, The Bruery will unleash Black Tuesday to the public via an online sale on their website. If the previous three years are any indication, the 750 mL bottles of Black Tuesday are expected to sell out within hours.
But what's the big deal, you ask? Why do the eyes of beer geeks widen when whispers of Black Tuesday surface?
"Black Tuesday is a really rich, complex beer," explained Patrick Rue, the founder and CEO of The Bruery (the brewery's name is a play on Rue's family name). "We do 100% malt with the boil, then after the first day, we start feeding it more sugar which increases the alcohol, but keeps the yeast comfortable."
As is with all beer brewing, comfort of the yeast is key in order to produce alcohol in the final product. The Bruery uses its own house yeast strain to ferment Black Tuesday.
"We let the beer tell us what it needs," said Rue. "So if the yeast aren't performing well, then we won't add the sugar and it won't be as high in alcohol. So every batch [of Black Tuesday] is different; the alcohol can range anywhere from 16% to 22%. So we'll blend these different batches to make the best beer possible."
After fermenting for 3 to 4 weeks, the Imperial Stout is transferred to bourbon barrels where it will age anywhere from 12 to 16 months, all the while picking up new flavors from the charred wood in which it is stored. "Last year's version was at 18.3 ABV, and this year it's at 19.2," said Rue. "We're really happy with what we have this year, and I think it's even smoother than last year's version."
Out of the bottle, Black Tuesday pours pitch black with a quickly receding beige head. Aroma-wise, the deep black beer smells of molasses, caramel, bourbon, and roasted malt. The aromas are echoed in the taste, but there's also notes of chocolate, coffee, wood, and nuts. And even at a whopping 19.2% ABV, Black Tuesday still manages to be incredibly smooth and drinkable.
Although Black Tuesday might be The Bruery's most well-known beer, The Bruery creates a diverse collection of other brews, including a number of sours and Belgian-style ales.
"I started off as a homebrewer," Rue said. "So we still very much keep to the homebrewer's mentality where we strive to make unusual beers. We have a bit of a short attention span. So far this year we've probably brewed about 60 different beers, and luckily our customers want us to continue to do new and interesting things."
In order to have more people taste more of its offerings, The Bruery opened up new memberships for its Reserve Society today. The Bruery Reserve Society provides members a number of exclusive Bruery beers at a discounted price throughout 2013 (including Black Tuesday).
About the author: Marvin Gapultos is the author of the Filipino food blog, Burnt Lumpia. His first cookbook is due out in 2013. When he isn't cooking or writing about Filipino food, Marvin is usually enjoying a beer or cocktail, and thinking about what to eat with said beer or cocktail. You can follow him on Twitter @BurntLumpia.