Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Sage of Beers!

Brew Crew!

As a park ranger, avid cyclist, hiker and  all around outdoor enthusiast nothing I enjoy more after a long day on the trails is a nice, cold refreshing beer. I've been brewing my own for almost 20 years and have experimented with a lot of ingredients and one of my favorites has always been California Sage. It gives the beer a nice flavor but more importantly the smell puts you right back on the trail.

Fast forward to earlier this month. I had entertained the idea of brewing a beer to benefit the San Dieguito River Park for years but it was just not in the cards until recently. With the help from Jess Norton from the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy we started to reach out to different breweries around the parks focused planning area. Jess was contacted  by head brewer Devon Randall of Pizza Port Solana Beach and a plan was put in motion. Devon had brewed a beer in the past that reflected the style we were looking for and most importantly she was open to the idea of using California Sage and joining forces with a local park in an effort to raise funds.

Myself and Jess were invited to take part in the brewing process and as a home brewer I was elated at the thought. Until then my biggest batch was 10 gallons usually done at home in my apartment. A 7 barrel system is huge. We arrived at 6 o'clock in the morning fired up and ready to brew. We immediately got to work on the mash tun and started adding the grains.
I heart grains!
The smell of the mash that early in the morning was inviting and invigorating, I could see myself fitting well into the role of brewer pretty easily. After the mashout and recirculation we sparged the grains in a process called lautering that separates the liquid from the grains which is then transferred into the wort boiler.

The hops were added after some boiling and at the end of the boil the star ingredient California Sage was added. Jess, Devon and myself gathered the sage the day before within the park corridor so that it was nice and fresh.

Devon and Jess picking sage.

The sage smell now permeated the brewery.

After the boil we got a good sense of how the beer was going to turn out. The smell of sage came through very nicely and and the color matched the rolling grasslands throughout the park. Into the fermentor it went, yeast was added and the magic began.

Coast to Crest Trail Ale w/ sage!

Overall it was a great experience for a great cause. I want to thank Devon and Pizza Port brewery for the opportunity to work with them on such a fun endeavor. I also want to thank the Jess and the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy for bringing two of my passions (brewing and trails) together. I think this is the first time at least in San Diego that a partnership like this has happened and hopefully not the last. 

The first ever Coast to Crest Trail Ale brewed with California Sage will be ready for release this coming Monday, April 27th. Pizza Port will be having a "Hoppy Hour" from 5 to 8pm and there will be a special CTC ale t-shirt available. Hike, bike or get yourself there somehow and enjoy a unique beer created for a great cause.

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