Top of the World

Last update 2016-12-24

Story of this Beer

I think I’m the first man to sit on top of the world. — Matthew Henson

Since I re-newed my dedication to home brewing in 2015, I had an idea to make a few beers with local ingredients. I don’t think hops are grown around here but I was aware of craft maltsters starting up elsewhere in the US. At the time, I think there was one down in Virginia but focused on distilling malt, a different ingredient from brewing malt.

Late in 2016 I met the founders of Dark Cloud Malthouse, the first independent maltster in Maryland. I saw them tweeting with Eastern Shore, a brewery I discovered during a family vacation in St. Michaels. I mentioned my interest in local malt, which led to a couple of conversations and an offer of some of their malted barley on condition that I give them feedback on how the ingredient worked in any beers I made with it.

For these beers, I wanted to come up with names that were directly tied to Maryland. There are some local beer and spirits related business that have adopted some interesting place names like Twin Valley and Owen’s Ordinary, the name of the historic tavern around which the town I live in grew up.

After some fruitless brain storming and researching of my usual sources, like Maryland signers of the Declaration and Constitution, I decided to look much more locally, like Twin Valley or Owen’s Ordinary. It turns out that a park right near where I live is commemorated to a local hero, Matthew Henson.

Henson was part of Peary’s polar expedition and was the first person actually to reach the north pole from that party. Unfortunately, he was not really recognized until many years later. Regardless, he led an interesting life and I was glad to learn some fascinating history related to my neighborhood.

Recipe and Log

This is the 2nd recipe I formulated for Dark Cloud’s 6-row malt. I shared the 1st recipe with them, they asked I consider making something simpler that showcased the malt more. The other beer is based on a Kentucky common with some dark crystal and caramel rye, not leaving as much room to taste the 6-row on its own. I wanted to brew something historically American, a cream ale fit the bill nicely. This one is pretty straightforward, using just their malt and a bit of corn. I have been using cluster for bittering in my English inspired ales so already knew I liked it. Cluster used to be grown in the Hudson Valley of New York, not exactly local but local enough in my mind to make sense for this recipe. It is an older variety as well so likely was used in a historic ale very similar to my use of it here.

I will brew this beer for the first time in early January of 2017. What makes this beer is the cold fermentation and conditioning. I have not made a lager, before, but have the kit now required to do so. White Labs has a nice blend that seems like a better step for me as an ale brewer. I am very excited to see how this very different fermentation profile shows off the malt and hops.


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