For about the past three years I have been serving as the Chairman of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild. The past year saw a lot of exciting things for the Guild. One of them was the creation of the first Virginia Craft Beer Month in August (thank you Delegate Betsy Carr!). The centerpiece of Virginia Craft Beer Month was our festival held out at the Devils Backbone brewpub in Nelson County (doing it again this year!).
I was working at Legend at the time. I thought it would be cool if all the brewers got together to collaborate on an RVA brew that we could send to the festival. Pretty cool – right? Everyone was game for it – Hardywood, Extra Billy’s, Legend, Midnight. So one day we put together a nice lemongrass wheat beer on the pilot system at Hardywood. It turned out really nice. As the beer conditioned and the yeast dropped out, the lemongrass became real prominent. I really enjoyed it.
So flash forward a year. I’m now at COTU. Chris and Phil have pretty much given me the go ahead to pilot batch whatever I want. I’ve always had that lemongrass flavor in the back of my head. And I’ve always enjoyed Belgian-style tripels. I was pretty familiar with them, as Legend has brewed a tripel for the past few years. So I brewed a pilot batch with some dried lemongrass. It was real nice. We decided to make a larger batch. However, I knew I wanted the lemongrass to be more prominent. Enter my friend David Hunsaker. David has a farm just down the road from the brewery (Village Garden). And he grows lemongrass year-round in his greenhouse. Awesome!
The recipe is mostly pilsner malt with a little bit of Vienna and Munich malts as well. Belgian Candi Sugar, added during the boil, helps to boost the fermentables without adding too much body. I bruised and chopped up the fresh lemongrass (just a few pounds) and added right at the end of the boil, so that the aromatics wouldn’t boil off. I then fermented the beer on a yeast strain that originated from a well-known Belgian brewery. I fermented it a little on the cooler side, as I didn’t want the phenolics and fruitiness from the yeast to overwhelm the lemongrass. I’m real pleased with it. I hope you are too.