We drew a strong turnout for the tapping of Soggy Coaster Imperial Red Ale and Beer N Bikes Belgian-American IPA on Saturday at Ska Brewing Co. The brewery was packed with eager craft-beer drinkers.
It was the culmination of a project conceived by Ska President Dave Thibodeau. He invited Beer N Bikes blogger Jeff Hammett and I to brew a beer with Ska, from choosing a style to designing a recipe to brewing it on Ska’s 10-gallon pilot system.
The bad news is we had a major carbonation problem at the tapping. The beers became over-carbonated in the kegs, resulting in huge, foamy pours. A lot of good beer went down the drain. However, with a little patience, the bartenders were able to get several pints out of each keg.
I really liked my beer. At 8.4 percent ABV and 58 IBUs, it had a strong citrus, floral hop aroma on top of the malty red base. Several people told me it had a “fruity” taste, no doubt from the hops. It hid its alcohol quite well for an imperial red ale. I’ve had imperial reds that were dull to taste, that lacked a good hop kick. Not Soggy Coaster. The taste was very well balanced between the malt and hops, with an exceedingly clean finish. It was as good as I could have hoped.
Beer N Bikes Belgian-American IPA was very interesting. It had a lot going on, with a good hop presence but also plentiful fruity esters. To my palate, it tasted of banana. It was different than anything I’d had before, but I liked it.
The beers went very quickly due to the foam issue and the turnout. Mine was on tap for only 75 minutes.
The carbonation issue was unfortunate, but stuff happens. Ska head brewer Thomas Larsen explained that when using carbon dioxide to carbonate the beer in kegs, it’s a matter of guesswork as to when it’s done. Obviously, it was on CO2 too long. Ska’s system for larger batches is far more dialed in.
We brewed only 10 gallons of each beer. With Ska’s keg of Soggy Coaster Imperial Red gone, one five-gallon keg remains to do with as I please.
It’s been a great project. Larsen and I brewed a hell of a beer, and I learned a lot along the way.