In celebration of Nashville Craft Beer Week, three Black Abbey staff members who do not usually work on the brewing side of the business – although they all have home brewing backgrounds – poured pints of special small batch ales they made on successive nights at the brewery’s taproom. I am fortunate to live on the same side of town as Black Abbey, and was able to drop by the taproom each afternoon, have a pint, and talk to the brewer.
Relatively Easy Kölsch (7)
Dark & Stormy Belgian Dark Ale (8)
Springwater Sahti (7)
(phirx ratings) are on a scale of 1-10.
All three small batches were five gallon batches brewed at the beginning of April on Black Abbey’s pilot system. On Thursday, Blake Powell poured his Relatively Easy Kölsch . Kölsch is a subtle style, originally from Cologne, Germany – in fact for a beer to legally be called a Kölsch proper it must be brewed there. For my own take on a homebrew using Kölsch ale yeast see my post Sebastian Ale. Blake’s beer was a “Kölsch style ale” as it was brewed with Kölsch ale yeast but not in Cologne. His beer was light and refreshing, with a very clean profile and a hint of back bitterness. Blake told me he added a half pound of honey to the pilsner malt for this beer, and used Saaz hops.
Originally from Denver, Kayleigh Morse tends bar at the taproom and coordinates Black Abbey’s social media. She came to Nashville after a stint at Left Hand Brewing. Kayleigh’s Dark & Stormy Belgian Dark Ale was inspired by a cocktail made with Kraken rum, ginger beer, and a twist of lime. This complex dark ale was brewed with Chimay ale yeast and the malt bill included Pilsner, Munich Special B, and chocolate malts. Kayleigh added 7 spices including vanilla bean, star anise, pink peppercorns, and cloves, and an oak spiral in secondary. Dark & Stormy had a fresh ginger nose and a bitterness that became more apparent towards the end of the pint. It reminded me of Anchor Christmas ales I used to enjoy at the end of the 90s.
“I wanted to challenge the drinker.” Kayleigh said. “It’s a very complex beer on several levels. What you smell when you hold it up to your nose is different than what you experience on your first sip, and your first sip is different than your last sip. It takes you on a journey – I love beers like that.”
Isaiah Kallman has worked at Black Abbey since the day it opened in September of 2013. For last week’s event, he brewed an ale in honor of his Finnish heritage: a Sahti (Finnish Celebration Ale). Traditional Sahti has a very high alcohol content – which Black Abbey is not able to reproduce due to Tennessee’s current restrictive laws governing high-gravity beer – so Isaiah’s Sahti was reminiscent of the style rather than representative: Springwater Sahti clocked in at 6.1% ABV. Traditional Sahti is very sweet. “In Finland,” said Isaiah, “Sahti’s wort isn’t ready until it makes your lips stick together.”
Springwater Sahti was brewed with Saison ale yeast and included smoked malt as part of the mash. Pine branches, along with a juniper branch stolen from a neighbor (Finnish tradition again), were set in the bottom of the mash tun and the wort filtered through them. This unusual technique was used to emulate characteristics of the beer that derive from the pinewood saunas where it is made in Finland. Only a half ounce of bittering hops were used and the ale was finished with an ounce of juniper berries. The light brown ale had a fruity saison nose and was slightly sweet but sessionable.
The staff nights at Black Abbey were a fun way to celebrate the diversity of styles that is now available to beer lovers in Nashville. Hopefully this is an indication of things to come…