The story is often the same. A home brewer finds his passion in making beer and wants to find a way to make it a living. Some go to work in local breweries, others start their own. We are the latter. Unfortunately it often goes overlooked that there is a critical fundamental difference between making beer at home and making it commercially. Home brewing is pure undiluted creativity. From recipe formulation, to tinkering with and upgrading equipment, to designing labels, to enjoying the final product-- It's all about imagination. These aspects of creativity are necessary on the commercial level as well but the key difference is that commercial breweries do not just make beer. They sell beer. That is something that Blue Tape realized early on. We don't yet have a brewery to make beer, so we are doing everything we can to sell beer that doesn't yet exist. This website, our social media pages, our business cards, any promotional item we produce, are meant to sell this brand and its theoretical beer. But where does that leave creativity?
Legally speaking, any pilot batches we brew for recipe testing are home brew. Undiluted Creativity. More often than not, we brew a version of a beer that we have started calling "Aurelia." Aurelia is Elizabeth's middle name, and also the name of her Grandmother. It's also delicious beer. The recipe for this beer has much more resembled a process rather than codified list of ingredients. I think we have brewed the exact same version maybe twice; there are always subtle differences to make this the ideal version of the initial idea.
That initial idea was simple. At the time, my two favorite styles were American Amber Ale and Saison. On a basic level, we took the grain bill from an Amber, combined it with traditional Saison bittering and aroma hops and fermented it with Belgian Saison yeast (if I recall, Belgian was chosen over French because the French are assholes). Pretty simple. The first time Aurelia was brewed I think it was just called "Amber Saison." But it almost didn't even become beer. The Belgian Saison yeast is notoriously finicky and stops fermenting halfway through its process. It will start again given time and a rise in temperature, but I needed to try this beer sooner so we added a more behaved French Saison strain (preconceived notions of the French were put aside). It yielded a delicious beer. Was not quite amber enough though. So the grain bill was modified and on a whim a small quantity of the ever popular Citra hops were added for some irresistible tropical notes. French Saison remained the yeast of choice and its peppery spice and citrus qualities played incredibly well with the spike of Citra. These yeast characteristics are amplified by warmer fermentations, so this beer has been allowed to freely ferment at ambient room temperature for subtle flavors, but it has also been fermented in an attic at the height of summer for more pronounced flavors. Over the next brews, various caramel malts were added in various quantities to strike a balance with a varying hopping schedule to provide the perfect bitter edge and subtle earthy aromatics. The creativity never stops.
All of that said, this beer is still just a concept. We hope that it will become our flagship ale someday, but ultimately that will be determined by our guests. Aurelia is a beer we brewed because it is the beer we want to drink. But someday this will be beer for selling as much as it is beer for drinking.
On a meta note, I'd like to do more posts of this nature that sort of lay out the creative process behind developing various beers. Depending on feedback, they could be more or less technically detailed, focus more on what goes through our heads when conceptualizing a new beer or discuss flavors and aromas at length.