2016 Holiday/Winter Recap


Since we are still getting our bearings in regards to brew scheduling, our first round of holiday beers were created within a very small window. When you think of beers shared during family/friend gatherings around the holidays two brews come to mind - a Christmas Ale and a Stout. Along with our two holiday brews we also bottled our first IPA called Chop Hops. All of this was done in just one night.

We handled 15 gallons of beer in one sitting, the most we've dealt with at one time since we started to homebrew. Two brew kettles were on the burners at the same time while Chop Hops was being racked for bottling.

I knew that I wanted to tackle a Christmas Ale as our first holiday brew. We have a favorite Christmas Ale that is available to us in our neck of the woods created by Great Lakes Brewing Company. My brother-in-law, my wife and I stumbled across this beer about four years ago on a trip out to Cleveland, Ohio. It was late July and I remember walking into a dark bar, adorned with leg lamps from the holiday classic, A Christmas Story. I guess you could say I was living under a rock at that time, not knowing that Cleveland was the site where this movie was filmed. What better place to try a kick ass Christmas Ale?

The brewery tends to do a release of this beer in the summer - Christmas in July, and we were just in time to have a taste. Upon my first sip....a Christmas season flavor bomb went off on my tongue. All the flavors that bring you back to the holidays (Honey, Ginger, Cinnamon, Clove) they were all there. I knew this beer was special. It would take a few years for Great Lakes to get distribution of this beer to New Jersey and when it finally did we stocked up and shared the story of how we stumbled across it on a road trip.

When coming up with a recipe I thought to myself, why fix something that aint broke...? I was able to track down a clone of the Great Lakes Christmas Ale and used that as a base. There were certain malty characters that I wanted to replicate and also was interested in changing up some of those flavors to create my version of this ale.

The result of my tinkering turned into Boas Festas, our first holiday beer, or Christmas Ale if you would. This beer is full bodied and the yeast strain we used really pulls out each of those iconic seasonal flavors. You know you did a decent job on a recipe when someone who doesn't usually over analyzes beer or drinks too much craft beer for that matter is able to literally pin point each flavor note. After presenting this beer to other tasters we also received reviews of Boas Festas packing a punch with hints of peppermint. All in all, Boas Festas turned out to be not only a great Christmas Ale but, an all around enjoyable winter brew. We're looking forward to building on this one next year!

Next challenge to conquer was our first attempt at a stout. I have been doing a lot of research around this beer in particular. In the long run the plan with this style is to have it find it's place a top our flagship lineup.

For any fellow Portuguese people or anyone who is friends with someone of Portuguese heritage, you may be very familiar with a popular egg custard pastry called Pasteis De Natas. These delicious custard cups are amazing, especially right out of the oven, chock full of vanilla and cinnamon flavors, the perfect combo for any stout. I spent some time reading through various recipes for Natas and started to convert these flavors into a malt bill.

I also got a hold of some vanilla beans and constructed a tincture using Portuguese Aguardente. I may have over shot on the malt bill as this beer has yet to carbonate. The ABV may have been too high so I plan on dialing down this beer next time around. As of right now the first batch of Pasteis De Natas Stout is sitting in bottles in the cellar as I wait and see if these decide to carb up. Aside from being un-carbonated at the moment, the flavors are very strong and will need some tweaking themselves. The beauty of brewing is that there are really no rules and we'll try and try again until we get this one right. I have high hopes for Pasteis De Natas Stout and look forward to sharing future batches.

As mentioned in the beginning, we also bottled our first IPA called Chop Hops. This beer has become my personal favorite for obvious reasons. Out of five gallons brewed I was down to my last 15 bottles or so right before our tasting event. I couldn't stop myself from cracking one of these open for my personal enjoyment. Im really confident in the recipe I created for this one. The hop aroma is out of this world thanks to fresh hops from the Yakima Valley, that were harvested this September. Chop Hops had three separate hop additions during the boil, it was then dry hopped in the fermentor and then another hop addition was added while we racked this batch for bottling.

The beer poured really nicely with great head retention. When you dip your nose into that glass you're welcomed with fresh/juicy aromas from the three varieties of hops. This was deemed our first flagship and we're planning on brewing up another batch next month to continue to share with our friends and family.

Once the stout, Christmas Ale and the IPA were all bottled and put away in our cellar, our shelves were packed to the gills (granted, I put a large dent in the ChopHops myself). It was time to share with our friends and family. Our first tasting/bottle share event was a great success.

We wanted to do another one, and quick. We went through a lot of small plastic tasting cups the last event so this time around I thought that creating a nice glass for my friends and family to enjoy beer out of would be a good idea. We found a place who really did a great job in creating our first branded beer glass.

We have now created five different beers under the Terra Costa name since October. This week we are getting a jump on two more beers that we plan to share before winter's end bringing our count to seven. In the works we have a winter warmer along with a porter with hints of espresso. Names are still pending for these and we will share info on them as soon as possible.

In the meantime, be sure to follow us on social media to stay up to date on everything TC.

Instagram: @TerraCostaBrewing

Twitter: @TerraCostaBrew

Facebook.com/TerraCostaBrewing

We'll talk soon! Cheers!

-Mark

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