Summer is winding down and fall will soon arrive. On the plus side, the change of seasons brings us new beers! BridgePort is welcoming fall by releasing two new beers—Witch Hunt and Hop Harvest. Jeff Edgerton, BridgePort Brewmaster, filled me in on the details.
Is a fall seasonal new for BridgePort? Why did you decide to introduce a new beer for fall?
Jeff Edgerton: We felt that we wanted a seasonal beer to transition from Summer Squeeze to Ebenezer. A fall “harvest beer” seemed like a natural fit.
How did Witch Hunt come about? Most spiced fall seasonals usually include pumpkin. Why did you go a different route?
JE: I had discovered the joy of the combination of apple pie and beer so I designed this beer with that in mind. I wanted this beer to remind the drinker of a slice of apple pie or apple crisp. So we used hops with a decidedly fruity character, we spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, and we used caramel malts to make an inviting caramel color and background slightly sweet maltiness. I have never understood the use of actual pumpkin in beer. It has so little flavor on its own. The pumpkin pie spices are what you taste. ·
Did you brew some test batches of Witch Hunt and serve them in your pubs?
JE: We brewed two test batches at OSU. The first batch we didn’t like the spice balance. It’s very easy to go over the top with the spice flavors. We adjusted the spice components and brewed the second batch. That was it. We did not serve these in the pub.
With the new release of Witch Hunt, will the release of Ebenezer be delayed?
JE: It’s always a little tricky knowing how to transition from one seasonal to another so the Witch Hunt will really help us to release Ebenezer at a more appropriate time. It’s a little early to release a holiday beer when it’s still 90 degrees outside.
Does BridgePort have a barrel aging program? If so, how many and what types of barrels do you use?
JE: We have done barrel aging using Jack Daniels barrels, Maker’s Mark barrels, and local Pinot Noir barrels. We also do some beers as oak-aged using virgin oak chips in the tanks. Our next Big Brew release will be an Oak-Aged Old Knucklehead following Hop Harvest. All of these methods create interesting and unique flavors. Most of this has been for the purposes of creating one-off beers and we don’t have a “barrel-aging program” in the formal sense. We own some barrels, sometimes we buy a few barrels, but nothing on a regular basis.
This year’s Hop Harvest is a pilsner, which is a departure from recent years. Why did you change the style?
JE: The Hop Harvest beer has always been a platform for experimentation for us and we have made tweaks and adjustments to the recipes every year. This year we decided to use a pilsner malt (Great Western Malting Superior Pilsen) base and a lager yeast and make an Imperial pilsner style fresh hop beer. We used Austrian Aurora hops in the kettle (pellets) for bittering, and about 4 lbs/barrel of Oregon grown Tettnang fresh hops from Goschie Farms in the hopjack.
In your opinion, how does the experience of drinking a fresh hop beer differ from a beer made with traditional dried hops?
JE: If you’ve ever been in a hop dryer full of fresh green hops you realize that many components of hop aroma and flavor are lost during the necessary drying process. Our unique ability here in hop country is that we can take advantage of our proximity to the fields and try to capture some of those beautiful aromas and flavors once a year. It’s difficult to put into words but it’s a more complex flavor that we try to capture the best that we can. We get one shot a year.
When will Hop Harvest ’12 be brewed and released?
JE: Bridgeport’s Hop Harvest Pilsner is already in kegs and will be bottled by the 19th of September. It should hit the store shelves around the last week in September.
Thanks to Jeff for taking the time to share the details about his new fall releases! Here's my review of Witch Hunt, part of my upcoming series on new fall seasonal releases.