In the summer of 2015, I decided to combine my passion for brewing, my fascination with history and my love of family by brewing a beer in honor of one of my ancestors. You see, for several years now, my family and I have been researching our ancestry, something I encourage you all to pursue if you’re interested in your “roots.” What we discovered was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Through our research, we learned that many of our ancestors participated and even helped shape some of most pivotal events in American history. I’ve never considered myself overly patriotic, but I confess I was inspired by these stories. To get in touch with my Irish roots, I traveled to Ireland in 2013 and absolutely fell in love with the country, so much so, that when I returned I came up with a beer recipe in tribute of my great, great grandfather, Patrick Athanasius Dwyer, an Irish immigrant who fought in the Civil War.
Two years later, I collaborated with Factotum Brewhouse in Denver, CO to develop “Dwyer’s Ire,” a vintage-style Irish red ale named after Patrick Dwyer. Not only did I get my 15 minutes of brewing fame, but three months later, the owners of Factotum, Chris and Laura Bruns, chose Dwyer’s Ire to represent their brewery at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival. For any home brewer, entering a beer into the GABF is like a dream come true. It’s the Super Bowl of beer festivals. And of course, you can’t have a Super Bowl without a tailgate party. So, like any beer-loving fanatic, I promoted the hell out of it. I sent out press releases, created an official logo, made t-shirts and engaged in every form of shameless self-promotion I could. I even had friends from out of state fly into town just to support me (although I suspect those heathens wanted to drink a lot of beer too. I don’t think they would have been nearly as excited if I was in a Macrame competition. )
But do you think I was satisfied with that? Do you think I was fresh out of ideas? Do you think Donald Trump has great hair. HELL NO! So, in December I decided to brew a second beer in honor of my Scottish ancestors, the Bliss family. As direct descendants of the original Mayflower settlers, the Blisses have roots dating back to the colonial days. In fact, two of my ancestors, John and William Bliss, fought in the Revolutionary War for Knowlton’s Rangers, America’s first ever special forces unit. This regiment is credited for helping General George Washington gain his first victory over the British at the Battle of Harlem Heights. Kind of a big moment in American history, don’t you think? As a fitting tribute to the Bliss line, I created Pure Bliss Scottish Maple Porter, a beer brewed in the colonial American tradition. The inaugural release of Pure Bliss will be tomorrow, January 20th, 2017, on Inauguration Day. I’m sure even Donald Trump would like to get his tiny hands on a pint if he could, but unfortunately you’ll have to be in Denver to get your first taste. No matter what your political affiliations may be, I can’t think of any better way to celebrate and/or commiserate Inauguration Day than with a pint of Pure Bliss. Believe me, your rebellious forefathers would approve.]]>
August 28th, 2015 – Even before they chose Dwyer’s Ire to represent their brewery at this year’s Great American Beer Festival, Factotum Brewhouse owners Chris and Laura Bruns recognized something special about Dwyer’s Ire. Not only would the beer become one of Factotum Brewhouse’s most popular beers, it even united two families over a shared ancestor. As Chris put it, “Every beer brewed at Factotum has a history but not all of them as rich as that of Dwyer’s Ire Irish Red.”
That history dates back to guest brewer Craig Hewitt’s great-great grandfather, Patrick Athanasius Dwyer, for whom the beer is named. For Craig and his family, Dwyer’s Ire is a celebration of their Irish heritage and a tribute to their ancestry. From the style of the beer to the ingredients they chose to craft it, Dwyer’s Ire pays homage to its Irish roots, but it’s also a truly American beer.
Hewitt was inspired to create Dwyer’s Ire in honor of Patrick Dwyer, and other Irish immigrants like him, who bravely volunteered to fight for our country in the American Civil War. In fact, the Irish soldiers tales of heroism are now stuff of legend. Patrick, in particular, fought with the 9th Massachusetts Regiment of the Union Army, a regiment of predominantly Irish immigrants. As a source of pride, the regiment carried a green battle flag to symbolize their Irish heritage.
This flag was made famous in the early stages of the war at the Battle of Gaines Mill, when the 9th Mass withstood an all-out attack from renowned Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson. Even when taking heavy casualties, the 9th stood its ground against wave after wave of Confederate forces. Although it was technically a loss for the Union army, word of the “Glorious Ninth” spread throughout the North, and their exemplary courage was used as a rallying cry to inspire other Irish immigrants to join the Union cause.
The 9th Massachusetts became one of the hallowed “green flag regiments”, and they would continue to carry their signature battle flag throughout the course of the Civil War. This flag, which mixes traditional American and Irish symbols, served as the inspiration for the Dwyer’s Ire logo. For a beer with such a storied background, it seemed only appropriate that the logo, too, should be steeped with history. Four weeks from now, America will be able to get a taste of that history.]]>
If you ask any home brewer what their fantasy is, I’m sure they’ll tell you something involving gratuitous spending, perhaps a yacht makes its way into the discussion, possibly a supermodel or two, but AFTER all that, most will tell you they would love to brew their favorite beer recipe on a big batch, professional system. For those condo-dwelling home brewers like myself who are confined to making five-gallon extract recipes on their stove tops, the dream of making a beer on a professional scale remained, for the most part, nothing more than a dream. That is until now.
The product of an inspiring Kickstarter campaign, brother and sister, Chris and Laura Bruns, founded Denver’s Factotum Brewhouse in early 2015 on a simple but brilliant business model. Unlike any microbrewery before it, Factotum Brewhouse provides a unique service by allowing guest brewers to come in and brew whatever style of beer their heart desires on their professional, 7-barrel system. Not only do they offer home brewers an amazing opportunity to take their brewing skills to the next level, but the fruits of their labor are then shared with the public. Every beer on tap at Factotum is courtesy of a guest brewer.
For starters, as any home brewer will tell you, you can simply do more when brewing all-grain. It’s not to say that you can’t brew delicious, extract recipes at home, you can. In fact, that’s exactly what extract recipes are designed for. Extracts simplify the brewing process. They cut down on the guess work, provide a stable base for your beer, and you can find ready-made kits to help you brew virtually any style of beer. However, when working with all-grain recipes, the brewer has many more ingredients and variations at his or her disposal. Simply put, it’s far easier to fine tune and customize a beer recipe when working with all-grain recipes.
Unfortunately, in order to brew an all-grain recipe at home you need the right equipment, and a decent ten-gallon, all-grain system with all the fixings could easily run you $500.00 or more. Plus, if you are limited on space at home like me, an all-grain system can be impractical and cumbersome. At a cost of $395.00, Factotum Brewhouse allows you to brew an impressive 14-keg batch of beer. That price includes a $100.00 credit at the brewpub, and they allow you to take a keg of your masterpiece home with you.
But in my opinion, the greatest aspect of brewing on Factotum’s big batch system is that it is the ultimate litmus test for a home brewer. I brewed a family-inspired, vintage-style Irish red ale, and to kick off the first ever public tapping of my beer, we held a tapping party at Factotum’s spacious, industrial brewpub. Experiencing firsthand what goes into big batch brewing was exciting and educational in itself, and promoting and hosting a great tapping party was an added bonus, but there was no greater thrill for me than to quietly pop a squat at the bar and to see customers drinking and enjoying the beer I had created. If you want the experience of being a brew master for a day or to see what unbiased beer drinkers think of your creation, then I would strongly advise you to “go big, or go home.” As I can personally attest, when it comes to brewing size definitely matters.