The collaboration has a long history as OB’s head brewer Dave Chichura started his brewing career back in the late 90s in Indianapolis. He met Dave Colt at Circle V Brewery. Chichura began brewing shortly thereafter at a local Rock Bottom where he met Clay Robinson. The trio became friends and that relationship continues today. As often happens in the brewing world, Chichura moved on through a few other breweries and ended up in Colorado as the head brewer at Oskar Blues.
Colt and Robinson stayed in Indianapolis and worked to get Sun King Brewing off the ground rather than act as consultants for other breweries. The brewery opened in 2009 as the first non-pub, production microbrewery in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, we cannot get the normal line up from Sun King as they only self-distribute within a 50 mile radius of the brewery. They have seen great local success, though, growing from 560bbl in 2009 to around 10,000bbl in 2011. Tastings at the 2011 GABF tell the story. Their beers are excellent and Grapefruit Jungle could very well supplant any desert island beer that this author claimed before. Denver is missing out.
Chichura, Colt and Robinson kept close contact over the years and the relationship recently spawned the idea for the fist collaborative brew for each of the companies. The beer that is in the works is called Chaka, and will be an interpretation of the Belgian dubbel style. This runs a bit counter to the breweries’ normal line-ups that tend to favor English and German styles interpreted in their own way. Forays into Belgian styles have been made by both breweries but it is not the norm. They felt like this beer would be a bit of a “Shock-ah” to their fans. (BTW, the TTB is no fun)
It was important to the brewers that each state have local representation in the final product. In the case of Sun King, they are bringing a local specialty to the table. Shagbark hickory syrup is a regionally made syrup flavored with bark from a hickory tree. Robinson suggested that it was sourced from a small purveyor who sells in the area. Traditionally, dubbels are brewed with a dark rock sugar to both add a caramelized flavor as well as boost the alcohol slightly. In Chaka, the syrup will be used in place of the adjunct and will offer similar characteristics along with a toasted smoky flavor.
Oskar Blues is represented with a Belgian-style pale malt from local maltsters, Colorado Malting Company. Belgian pale malt has a generally stronger profile than an average base malt. The grain is kilned for a longer time than a normal base grain and this draws a darker overall color and a rich malt character along with a toasty finish that will act as a solid backbone to the beer. The barley that becomes CMC’s malt is grown outside the malthouse in Alamosa, CO and malted and kilned in small batches, keeping things close to home.
Local yeast wranglers, Brewing Science Institute, are providing the yeast which is a proprietary blend of different Belgian strains, which should offer spicy and fruity aromatics to the final beer.
The beer has yet to be made. The Oskar Blues version will be brewed on March 2nd and everyone will pack up for Indianapolis to brew the recipe at Sun King the following week. The target release for the beer will be at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego at the beginning of May, 2012. The beers will be available at each respective brewery after that. Two can designs will be used and availability will be extremely limited. Chaka-can, Chaka-can…
Thanks to Chad Melis and Clay Robinson for talking with me and letting me gush about my dream of having a Deviant Dale’s and a Grapefruit Jungle, at the same time. Also thanks to Jason Cody at Colorado Malting Co for cluing me in to what is going on down south.