‘The Best Beer I Ever Brewed’ – A.J. Rorabeck (Rurban Brewing)
Since starting to brew my own beer five years ago, I have come to realize that there is much more to it than the end product. On the road to brewing a great beer there are many twists and turns, highs and lows, near disasters and strokes of creative genius. When all is said and done, there are few better feelings than seeing all of your hard work come together into something delicious and truly your own; though, the way you get there often makes it taste that much better.
This is the first installment of a new feature on the blog where I ask brewers to share the story of the favourite beer they ever brewed.
A.J. Rorabeck is the ‘Rurban’ Brewer.
“My ‘Best Ever Beer’ was a sour beer that I called ‘Road Apple’, brewed in August, 2009.
I teach sciences (physics, chemistry, and biology) and mathematics at a small high school in Eastern Ontario. Teaching high-school is my hobby that pays the bills for our old farm. So, at the time I would have been doing the usual; tending to chickens, keeping up with the weeds, property maintenance and repairs, planning for the upcoming school year, writing – and brewing beer.
I love sour beers – in particular, the Lambic and Flanders Red styles. Lambic beers are driven by lactic acid and are usually pale and light. Flanders Red Ales, also known as Flemish Reds, on the other hand, are driven by acetic acid and tend to be darker and more complex.
When it came time to brew, I made a Lambic wort, which I hopped with un-aged Saaz hops instead of the usual ‘aged-to-death’ hops. I decided to put the wort on toasted white oak cubes and ferment it with a Flanders Red yeast mix, instead of a Lambic mix, and see how it would turn out.
It was just one of those moments where you go ‘what if?’ ‘What if a Lambic were fermented with a Flanders mix?’ It was a simple question, with dubious possible result.
I gave my beer the name ‘Road Apple’ based on what I anticipated the result would be (for those not familiar with the term, a road apple is horse shit). I’m also a big Tragically Hip fan, whose second album carried that name.
In the end, the beer turned out great.
It had a low aroma of acetic sourness (think hints of vinegar) but also contained aromas of apple and pear, oak, and honey. The sourness in the flavour was soft, and the beer had more in common with a white wine, like a good Vidal or Chardonnay, than beer. It had a nice balance: sharp and not flabby at all. It was well-carbonated: Gueuze or Champagne-like, which made it spritzy, refreshing, and light-bodied; the perfect drink for a hot summer day.
I was surprised with the final product. As with all traditional sours, it takes time, and I actually didn’t sample a bottle of the beer till July 2011. I still have one bottle left that I keep resisting – I want to add its dregs to the next batch of this beer that I brew. And I’d love to brew it again – I just haven’t yet!”
A.J. Rorabeck and his wife Karen are in the process of opening ‘Rurban Brewing’, a small-batch brewery in Cornwall, Ontario. Currently in the start-up phase, they hope to be operational by Spring or Summer next year.
An extremely passionate homebrewer with over 8-years of experience, A.J. plans to deliver fresh beer, of exceedingly high quality aroma, mouthfeel, and flavour to Eastern Ontario, using only the best all-natural ingredients.
Some of the beers you have to look forward to include: Rurban Harvest (a Harvest Ale boasting bold citrus, fruit, malt and hop flavours), Impy Brown (a Brown Ale with rich citrus and floral aromas and a caramel quality that compliments the bitterness), A *Wheater* Shade of Ale (a lightly bittered Wheat Ale with a beautifully floral hop aroma and grainy malt presence) and let’s hope that Road Apples finds its way into the market one day, as it sounds delicious!
Be sure to keep an eye out for A.J. and Rurban Brewery. There promises to be a lot of great beer coming our way in the next little while; whether directly from a brewery in Cornwall, or through collaborations in the coming months.
For more information about Rurban Brewing, visit them at http://www.rurbanbrewing.com.
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