Throughout history, the story of beer is portrayed as a literal lifesaver. The alcohol created during fermentation made the water sanitary enough for consumption. I love the theory that civilizations organized growing practices to subsist … and make beer! Even to this day, you can see how the practices of brewing and consuming beer brings people together in a community. Since brewing beer is an agriculturally based product, it’s only natural that local weather patterns and seasons play a large role in what people are drinking in their communities. Fast forward to present day, and the term “seasonal beer” is still a dominant theme for nearly every single brewery in operation.
Here at Elkmont Exchange, we’ve very recently celebrated our one-year anniversary. Our first foray into a seasonal theme was released this fall. It was a Munich-styled lager named “Autumn Blaze.” The word autumn referenced the general season of fall, the changing of the leaves and the onset of cooler weather. The term “blaze” refers to the directional markings on a hiking trail.
As it turns out, the beer drinking public loves the idea of a seasonal beer. For the first time since we’ve been open, a beer finally outsold our most popular seller, Light Lager. We’ve grown really fond of our fall seasonal, and as a result we decided to keep that trend going by brewing up a darker version with a slightly higher abv for winter. We are very excited to announce that on the first official day of winter, Elkmont Exchange will be releasing our newest seasonal now dubbed “Winter Blaze.”
Most lagers are brewed with a single type of barley called Pilsen malt. They are typically characterized as yellow in color with a clean & crisp flavor profile. For this seasonal however we flipped that idea on its head. Our brew house is set up to utilize a mash filter instead of a lauter tun. What this means to you is that we can use a wider variety of ingredients and still maintain efficiency in our processes. One of my favorite beers we make year-round is our Legion of Haze IPA, which includes twelve different varieties of grains. What I love about it most is the unique flavor and complex mouthfeel created by the use of so many different grains. For our new seasonal Winter Blaze we kept that theme intact and sourced malted barley, oats, rye and even malted corn – all grown in proximity to Tennessee and the southeastern region. Riverbend Malt Company gathered these grains directly from their network of farmsteads, malted them at their facilities in Asheville and then shipped them to us here in Knoxville for use in our recipe. In order to turn this beer dark, we added a blend of highly kilned and roasted malts like chocolate wheat and roasted barley. By tradition, you could call this a Baltic Porter styled lager, but I like to refer to it more fondly as our first “multigrain” lager.
Why go dark you ask? The season of winter is often conceptualized as a darker and colder season when compared to the others. Dark beers like spiced porters and stouts are usually the first beer styles people think of during the winter – much like we think of a warm bowl of soup or chili when the sun sets earlier in the sky and the weather first grows cold. There’s just something about the flavor of roasted malts and a 5.6% abv that can warm the belly and soothe the soul.
Here’s the thing, winter can be rough in the south. We like sunshine, frolicking in sunflowers and kayaking our day away. When skies turn grey, we need hugs. Winter Blaze is the friend sitting by the fire, helping us tell hilarious stories to anyone who will listen.