Thursday, March 29, 2012

Oishi: Brooklyn Brewery's 1st Release of The Worshipful Co. of Brewers

The Worshipful Company of Brewers is the name of the London brewer's guild founded in 1438 -- it's also the name of a new program that the Brooklyn Brewery has initiated which allows each of the various brewers at the brewery to craft their own custom beer on the old 25-barrel system in Brooklyn.

On Friday March 23, 2012 the first beer of the program, brewed by Brooklyn Brewery veteran brewer Tom Villa, was released. The "Oishi" was served up inside the brewhouse to a lucky gathering of NYC beer scene insiders and industry folk. Garrett Oliver, the Brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, addressed the group, explained the program and introduced Tom's creation. As Garrett promised, Tom is a man of little words, and what words he does offer are very quiet! We thought that we'd squeeze enough words out of Tom to make an interview out of the meeting, but, alas, the man prefers to let the beer speak for itself.

(We tried to interview Monster about the beer, but all we could get out of him was some gentle purring -- taken as a sign that he approves of Oishi!)
Dan bows to Brother Tom -- quiet as a monk!
The Oishi, which is Japanese for "delicious", is a 3.9% abv session version of the Sorachi Ace, which normally clocks in at 7.6% abv. We love the Sorachi Ace, and we also found Oishi to be an incredibly tasty, refreshing treat. Hazy golden in color with a light, white lacy head, it had a nice lightly citrus hop note mixing with some pleasant yeast aroma. While fairly light, effervescent and well carbonated, it offered a body that was light yet substantive. The flavor hinted at something of a mix between a Belgian pale ale and malty saison, with a faint citrus note in the flavor as well. The hops seemed to add to the citrus quality, melding nicely with the yeast flavor, and there was a nice bitterness to enhance the almost wheat-like pilsner malt flavor (the main malt used is German 2-row pilsner malt). This is a beer that will be very easy to drink by the liter on a warm spring day!
Inspiration, along with Avril.

Tom told us, off mic, that he was aiming for an even lower abv for Oishi. But anything under 4% seems sessionable enough! He also tried to convince us of some imperfection in his creation, but we wouldn't hear any of that! Everyone present was raving about the brew, including some very opinionated beer critics. I don't know how many times we heard, "I love this beer!" that night!

While Tom was too modest for the microphone, he was gracious enough to answer some questions about the beer via email, which we appreciate very much.

The inspiration for Oishi was Avril and Sorachi Ace -- really, just an interest in making a sessionable beer that's tasty. The possibility of a table Sorachi had been floating around in my head for awhile. It just seemed that if done right, it would be a beer that people would enjoy.

To hit my target ABV I just used a lot less malt, and to give it a little more body I added some floor-malted Munich dark malt. This malt doesn't add color -- just a little malt backbone. And since the beer was so light, I felt that it needed that.

The yeast and fermentation were the same as Sorachi. The yeast is our house Belgian yeast. I did lower the bittering hops proportionately, but then further reduced that amount slightly more, because I really wanted the hop aroma to be the focus. The Sorachi Ace hop has a beautiful aroma, and I felt that it should be the first sensation that the drinker experienced. As for the dry hopping, I dry hopped it twice because after the first dry hopping it just wasn't popping enough ("hopping enough"-ed). And there are some hops in the dry hopping other than Sorachi Ace [ed. Simcoe and Amarillo], but the Sorachi was by far the central hop.

I did consider brewing a smoked helles, but I could only choose one style this time, so, maybe next time. Who knows what I'll be into on the next go around.

Also, to answer your question, I do enjoy low ABV beers -- I mean, I still drink the strong stuff, but it's nice to find the delicate and subtle nature of a session beer. So, am I eager to do it again? Yes -- but now I understand a bit of what Garrett goes through with the Brewmaster's Reserve series. It is slightly stressful putting a new beer out there to be judged.

Over all, it was a fun experience and it was nice to have all the people show up for the release party.

You could tell that Tom was very excited, proud and nervous about his beer. Tom started with the brewery over 10 years ago in the warehouse, moving boxes around, and has worked his way up to being one of the key movers of the entire organization. Garrett noted that Tom's the hardest working guy in the brewery, and that's easy to believe, given the result of his work which we enjoyed by the mugfull.

Oishi will be available exclusively at the Brooklyn Brewery tasting room, so we're told, so make sure that you visit soon to get a taste of this very limited supply of extremely delicious beer! Domo arigato, Tom!

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