Updated: I want to clarify as we are seeing a lot of questions–this beer is a home brew, not for sale, and is in no way related to Rogue Ales though John and I are both tremendous fans of their beers. We signed off on the label design that has some similarities to theirs only as a sign of our admiration for their brews and for the obvious sort of word play with Carl’s nickname. Our apologies for any confusion.
John and I told the story early on in the podcast of the grand cru Belgian style ale we brewed together, The Rogue Archivist. In brief, we both volunteer as part of the FedFlix project, as members of the International Amateur Scanning League. This is an experiment with public/private partnership established by public domain advocate, Carl Malamud, where the private half is comprised of interested private citizens.
The more senior scanners, myself included, meet with Carl about once a month while he is in DC. During one of the last meetings, Tim Vollmer suggested Rogue Archivist, a nickname applied to Carl when he threw his hat into the ring as a contender to lead the US GPO, would make a splendid beer name. John and I agreed.
We were already discussing a big Belgian-inspired ale at the time and felt building on top of it, making it a grand cru, would be a perfect homage to all of the hard work Carl does not only with FedFlix, but also law.gov and freeing building codes, among other projects.
John wrote an excellent description of the final recipe we made up:
It is essentially a Belgian-Style Triple Ale modestly spiced with cloves and allspice and fermented on sherry-soaked applewood.
Along with Pale Malts, [we] used Gambrinus Honey Malt and three types of sugar in the grain build: Belgian Light Candi, Belgian Dark Candi, and a bit of Torbinado.
It is lightly bittered with Spalt Hops.
He also provides some further explanation about the styles and yeast contribution.
The term Triple – or Tripel – is used in the low countries to describe a strong pale ale. The origin is unknown, but speculation is that this indicated three times the sugar content, hence a stronger beer.
The Grand Cru style is typically spiced and implies the best our kitchen has to offer.
Lastly, the yeast is a strain of Belgian Abbey Yeast that has been favored for its propensity – when pushed to unreasonable temperatures – to produce both Fruit and Floral Flavor Esters which give complexity to both nose and taste.
After bottling the beer I mentioned it to Justin, one of the other volunteers. He used the CC-licensed artwork from the poster made up around the time of Carl’s GPO bid to draw up an idea for a label. He explained that he had Oregon’s Rogue Brewery in mind, though that has no relation to the name of our beer. It’s definitely an inspired mash up. I connected him with John’s wife who does all his label designs so she could get his raw files to synthesize something between Justin’s idea and John’s very distinctive Wryneck Brewery label. The results of her efforts are clearly displayed in the photo at the top of this post.
John and I opened a bottle and shared a taste with some friends over the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll undoubtedly also do a tasting on the podcast, assuming the beer lasts that long. The hot ferment produced fruit notes reminiscent of cider that blends very well with the flavors imparted from the sherry soaked applewood. The cloves and allspice complete an effect that is not dissimilar from mulled cider. Underlying those high notes is a wonderful malt base with hints of caramel (very similar to the Brother Thelonius that we both adore).
Last night, I schlepped a box holding two 750ml big bottles and four small bottles to ChurchKey, about four long blocks from the Dupont Circle metro station here in DC. I was going there to meet with the senior scanners and Carl for his monthly trip. Over the course of a light dinner and several rounds of varied and interesting beers, I presented Carl with the two bigs bottles and shared the smalls with my fellow volunteers.
Pictured at the left is Carl’s enthusiastic endorsement, “A damn fine beer!” We didn’t open the beer, not wanting to create trouble for the venue, but I shared John’s and my impressions from tasting the beer over the Thanksgiving holiday. Carl figures he will open the beer before his return to Sebastopol, most likely tonight. He mentioned the possibility of sharing the brew at an event on the Hill so I may have further, fascinating news later tonight or tomorrow.
At all events, he was incredibly happy at receiving our homage and enthusiastic at the prospect of tasting it. Given how well the beer turned out, I have no doubt John and I will make the recipe again.