If it had been any other brewery hosting Louisville, Colorado’s Gravity Brewing, this collaboration idea never would have worked. But KettleHouse’s head brewer and Gravity’s head brewer go way back, so when the Colorado team showed up in Missoula, Montana, with plans to brew a collaborative dry-hopped malt liquor, there was a resounding “let’s do it” in the brew house.
“Malt liquors don’t get any credit,” says head KettleHouse brewer Tim Mason. “Everyone’s brewing something new and different, but we’re starting back where it all begins. We want to recreate the first beers we drank together. In today’s day and age, where you’re trying to pump out as much quality beer as you can as fast as you can, it’s good to go back to this.”
Mason and Gravity’s head brewer Taylor Kuck met in Chicago years ago, where both were attending the Siebel Institute brewing school; after class, they’d head to a divey blues bar and drink 40s of malt liquor. Malt liquor is generally defined as high-gravity lagers with lots of grain adjuncts; you probably know them by their brand names of Mickey’s, Olde English, Steel Reserve, etc.
“The nerdy aspect of this is that everyone thinks malt liquor sucks and is crappy, but the cool thing about craft beer is you can do whatever the hell you want,” says Gravity owner John Frazee.
The brewing team, which also included KettleHouse’s north brewpub lead brewer Corey Regini, took a thoughtful approach to ingredient selection. The grist is made up of six-row barley, flaked corn and rice: “The original gravity is very high. We’re looking to make this a 9% beer,” Regini says. “So any time you get that high in ABV, it challenges the extraction.”
The yeast strain that can handle the job is a Swiss strain, Zurich, which Gravity supplied and has affectionately nicknamed “a beast of a yeast” for its ability to churn out lager fermentations up to 15% ABV.
The curve ball in the recipe is its dry hopping additions of buzzy varietals Citra, Mosaic, Falconer’s Flight and Zythos … not exactly common for a malt liquor.
“The grain bill is for us,” says Tim Mason. “The hops are for the customers.”
They’ll get to see what customers think on March 25 at Denver’s Collaboration Fest, the festival for which this beer was created. A select few kegs and (it’s hard to tell whether this was a serious consideration) wax-dipped 40-ounce bottles may make it into KettleHouse’s north taproom and Gravity’s taproom.
If you’re brave enough to want to give the beer a try, the name to look out for is Corner Store.