Last Saturday was the annual Red Ledge Brewers Iron Brewer competition hosted by The Red Salamander in Grand Ledge, MI. Each year Karl, the owner of The Red Salamander, selects a secret ingredient and unveils it on the day of the competition. Then one by one each team is allowed to go into the shop and collect ingredients for the beer that they will make to showcase that ingredient. After that, we brew.
The morning was sunny and temperatures were to climb into the 70s. A front was moving in and rain was predicted for later in the day but no precipitation would fall on this brew day. Several minor pieces of equipment had been left in Grand Rapids but we had the grill and sausages to throw on it so all was well. We brought along any adjunct ingredients we might need. Nutmeg…check. Orange peel…check. Bay leaves…we had almost a pound. We were ready.
The secret ingredient was announced at 10 am. This year it was Jolly Ranchers. Yes. That’s right. It was Jolly Ranchers. I was horrified for the briefest of moments and then it all became clear. At the same time, Tom and I said, “Purple Nurple.” It was done. We were going to make a Belgian Tripel.
We had a few of the members of our team sort out and unwrap about two pounds of grape Jolly Ranchers for the ten gallon batch we were going to make. Tom and I went inside and collected our ingredients. Our recipe consisted of pilsner malt, cara pils, and German opal hops. Additionally we planned on throwing in some orange peel, cardamom, and coriander. We used our Jolly Ranchers and some cane sugar that I brought in place of Belgian candy sugar and topped it all off with some Abbey Ale yeast.
Aside from the difficulties of dissolving two pounds of fake grape flavored corn syrup this 1.081 monstrosity of a beer came together well. We may have also partially melted an auto siphon into something roughly banana shaped but we’ve decided to try to forget about that. At this point either the five gallons of head space in the fermenter is enough or there is grape flavored yeast crawling across the floor of Tom’s dining room as I’m writing this.
Next month we take our beers in for judging. The team that makes the best beer wins the coveted Iron Brewer trophy. Then we’ll see how this thing turns out.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever put into a beer?