Backlash Beer Co.

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The Null

The idea for a Mystic/Backlash collab was born (no surprise) over a few brews at the Beer Summit close to a year ago.  The decision was an easy one.  I’ve been a huge fan of Mystic’s since their inception – just about the same time Backlash started – and I was excited at the possibility of what kind of crazy beer we could conjure up.  We exchanged contact info, returned to our fest booths and continued pouring beer until we were blue in the face (beer fests never seem to get any easier, even after 5  years of practice).

As it happens, time went by quickly and our busy schedules kept both Mystic and Backlash preoccupied.  But we eventually set a day to brainstorm and get the project moving.  On a snowy winter evening, Zach and I piled into a Zipcar (which, as an aside, was so high tech that I couldn’t figure out how to start the damn thing for about 10 minutes – no joke) and headed over the Tobin.  The next few hours were hands down my favorite part of the process.

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We didn’t want to make a beer just for the sake of making one (definitely not ours or Mystic’s style), and thinking of a new take on a beer style these days is pretty damn difficult.  After some time and a few beers, one of us said to the other “What about a smoked quad?  I don’t think I’ve ever had one”.  It was a weird moment because one by one, we all confirmed that we hadn’t drank nor heard about a smoked quad – who would’ve thought?  We decided to use smoked malt from Valley Malt and also age the beer on locally sourced apple and pear wood. We were off and running – The Null was born.

Louie Berceli of Mystic absolutely nailed the label with a really slick reference to Eugene Thacker’s nihilistic/pessimistic work “In the Dust of this Planet” – I think it sums up the vibe of this beer and our two companies perfectly, with Backlash making a beer called Death and Mystic brewing Entropy it just seemed very fitting.  All that was left was to brew it.

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It’s always a fun time learning the quirks of another brewer’s system.  I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t have a nit to pick about their setup, but we tend to be perfectionists.  That being said, the brew day went surprisingly smoothly. It’s a bit odd when something doesn’t go wrong.  You kind of sit there and wait for it, but somehow the screw-up never came.  I really wish we could have somehow captured the aromatics of the mash that day.  The smoked malt had a mouth watering scent running through the entire brewery.  Charlie Cummings (brewer)  and Bryan Greenhagen (brewmaster/owner) from Mystic were absolutely awesome to work with.  The amount those two know is a little intimidating, but they’re great dudes who have a palpable passion for what they do.  Mystic’s “Day of Doom” yeast went to work and in the coming weeks, we decided how we would handle the wood addition.  Bryan ended up toasting the wood in his oven at home to bring out some caramelization, and the beer was taste tested until the wood character was just right.

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The result is really something to be proud of.  The Null pours a deep dark brown with a complex aroma of fig, dates and plums but with this super interesting smokey overlay.  It’s different, but enticing.  The taste follows the nose closely.  Chocolatey caramel goodness and dark fruit sweetness that is perfectly cut by the smoke and, as it warms, a pleasant hint of alcohol- to be expected from a Belgian Quad pushing 9% ABV.  The wood is subtle and mingles in beautifully with the smoke character. This is a beer that’s probably unlike anything you’ve had before, but what did you expect from a Mystic x Backlash collab?

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Oh, and in the spirit of marching to our own beat, we’re releasing this huge beer in the middle of summer.  It’ll be available this Saturday the 23rd at the Mystic taproom only.  Limited draft pours and a 2 bottle per person max – so make sure you get there early.  Come grab some bottles and share a Table Beer or 2, or 3.

Hope to see you guys there!

Helder

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Our take on beer clarity – a case study

How clear (or not clear) a beer is these days seems to be a point of debate among some of the beer community.  Up until recently, I didn’t have much skin in the game because all of our beers were unfiltered – so I didn’t have a basis for comparison.

Our beers tasted great, and that’s all I cared about.

Were they hazy?  They sure were.  Granted, many of our core beers were (and still somewhat are) Belgian beers, but even our Uprising! Series Double IPAs had what is now being called the “New England IPA” look – unfiltered and hazy. Have a look:

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There ya go – and mind you these are still among our most popular beers ever.

Coincidence?  If you had asked me 2 months ago, I would have said “maybe”.  But I’m here to tell you  now that the big, juicy, intense hop aroma and flavor that craft beer drinkers are increasingly demanding today is simply not possible when you’re also trying to make your beer brilliantly “brite” or “clear”.  And I can say this because I’ve now attempted to do it both ways.  Let me explain.

With batch 1 of Ricochet – our West Coast IPA which was previously only available on draft (now also in cans) I chose to use Biofine Clear – a vegan “clarifying agent” that helps clear up a beer’s haze caused by yeast, hop particulate etc.  This stuff works like you wouldn’t believe.  It took an IPA that gets hit with a ton of hops and made it look like this:

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Clarity that would make beer traditionalists’ hearts sing with joy.  The thing looks like a pils.  Mission accomplished right?  Well..

Having tasted the beer halfway through its dry-hopping regiment (Ricochet is double dry hopped), I knew that the Biofine had taken something away from the beer.  The nose was a bit muted, and the flavor not as dynamic as I remembered it.  The beer was still excellent, and if I didn’t know what it tasted like prior to using Biofine, I might not have cared.  But I did know, and I did care.

So the second time through, with the exact same beer, I left all of that hop goodness in there – understanding that the resulting beer would not be nearly as clear as batch 1 – but also not really giving a shit.  The result:

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And, because I love this picture:

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Anyone notice a difference?  Yea, exactly.  And the difference doesn’t stop with what your eyes can see.  This beer is exactly as I remembered when I tried it halfway through dry hopping the first time around.  Huge mango flavor and aroma, smooth as silk and eminently poundable.

So, suffice it to say that we’ll be sticking with the “raw” approach from now on.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with brewers who choose to filter / Biofine / or give their beers extended cold aging time in order to produce a more “brite” finished beer – it’s just not for us, and I firmly believe our fans agree.

That’s where I stand.

What about you guys?  We’d love to hear your feedback.  Help us ensure that our suspicions are true.

Batch 2 just left the brewery yesterday heading for Portland, Maine and Boston, Mass – if you haven’t already, join our mailing list below where I send out updates on where you can find each batch we make (you can also respond directly to me with any thoughts/reviews of the beer itself, as mentioned above).  Seriously it’s way easier for us to share our sales info this way – get to it.

Hope everyone enjoys Batch 2 and beyond!

H

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Cans!

So – I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s this weird little fad that seems to be taking root in the craft beer scene whereby brewers are putting their beer in cans.  I know, its bizarre.  I’m skeptical, but hell – why not join the party?  We’re pretty pumped to announce our partnering with Foolproof Brewing in Pawtucket, Rhode Island to bring our two flagship brews to your respective taste holes in 16oz cans.

And I believe I speak for our fans and the Backlash team as a whole when I ask, emphatically – WHAT THE HELL TOOK SO LONG?!

See, there’s the thing – when you don’t own the facility where you make your beer, you’re sort of at the mercy of whatever packaging equipment is available to you.  So it’s been a long process in finding the right partner that could help us turn the corner.  And seriously, it’s about time.  We announced the move to smaller format in early 2015 and haven’t put Groundswell or Ricochet into any sort of package outside of draft since.  The idea was to let the  22oz format stuff clear off the shelves before we launched something else, but the effect was that we’ve had very little shelf presence outside of our limited release stuff.  It’s been frustrating for anyone who’s wanted to find some Groundswell to take home, or haven’t been able to find Ricochet on draft.  Only having these two styles in draft packaging also introduces a host of logistical issues when you’re at our scale, but I won’t bore you with that shit.  Suffice it to say, I’m very very happy to no longer be draft-only with these – which is a questionable strategy with your flagship beers to say the least.

So, digging into specifics – it looks like we’ll be ready to rock in about 2 months, conservatively.  We’ve received TTB approval on our labels, which is one of the bigger road blocks in this process.  From here on out it’s just a matter of getting the cans sourced/delivered/and brewing some delicious beer.

This is a huge step for us – and I know it’s not a big deal given the massive tectonic shift towards cans in the market, but we’re still thrilled to join in on the fun.

We’ll keep you posted!

H

 

 

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New Things!

Hey Everyone –

As you may or may not have noticed – we have a new site.  We’re still building this thing out a little bit more, so bear with us.  We’ll get back to regularly updating you with our comings and goings right here on the blog, so stay tuned.

For now, we only have one pressing piece of information for you, and it can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ

See you guys soon!