“All events are based on a true story… Loosely.”
It wasn’t a stormy night, but it sure as hell was dark.
Late September, with beer supplies running low, we tried something we had never dared to do before. We were running out of IPA, and we had to boost up production to make sure we had enough to meet the Oktoberfest rush. So we fired up the boiler, and set out to brew four batches in one single day.
It wouldn’t be a one-man job, of course. Alex would get there early in the morning, around 4am, and start milling in. By the time the rest of the guys got there, we’d be well into the boil on our third batch. The last twenty barrels, however, were all up to Tyler, who drew the short straw. And he wouldn’t get finished until at least 4am the next day. Four guys, 2,500 gallons, and 24 hours of brewing.
Or so we thought.
Tyler’s brew started out as a pretty normal batch – as normal as it can be when you’re only beginning around 11pm. But there’s a certain calm about working by yourself so late at night. With no one else around, Tyler could take pleasure in the tranquility of the brewhouse. He could sit as the grain cascaded down into the mash tun, and listen as the winds of the Santa Anas wailed gently outside. With no one around to make fun of him, he put on his favorite Spotify station – “Steal my Sunshine,” by Len.
You do you, Tyler.
But the calm wouldn’t last, of course. He didn’t hear the crash of the old Elm tree outside as he banged on the grist bin to get the last of the malt out. The lights going out, however, he couldn’t ignore.
“Just my luck,” he thought. The rest of the brew wouldn’t be impossible without power, just a much bigger pain in the ass. Manual pumping instead of automatic. A much more laborious lauter. And certainly another couple hours taken away from his beauty sleep.
By the light of his iPhone, he opened the valve to let in the hot liquor. But in his haze, he turned what should have been a trickle into a torrent. Scalding hot water jumped out of the brew and hit him in the face. As he screamed in pain, he scrambled to get back to the control port to shut off the stream, and pulled the lever just as the water started to overflow.
A ruined batch. The power down. And all by himself in a dark brewery at midnight.
“No!” he said aloud, “I can still fix this.”
He ran up the stairs to the malt room. A few bags of grain should balance out the extra water, no problem.
“They want more beer? They’re gonna get more beer…” he thought demonically. He grabbed a few bags and lumbered down the stairs. He pulled them up to the brew deck, and just as he started pouring them into the mash, the lights came back up, more blindingly than before. The speakers popped back on, but where once gleeful Canadian pop reigned, Iron Maiden now took control at full volume. A mighty whirlpool spun as Tyler emptied the grain into the pot. He tore his eyes away from the hypnotic eddy to glance at the label on the bag.
Black Malt. A roasted barley with no place in an Angel City IPA. His late night batch was toast.
“This isn’t right,” Tyler thought. And yet, he kept pouring, bag after bag, turning his pale infusion into a deep, entrancing black; the potion spinning madly as he concocted his brew.
He stared into the whirlpool until the wee hours of the morning, his eyes wildly focused on this beer that he felt was somehow out of his control. At each stage, his furious mind tried to tear him away from the possessed concoction, but he felt as if he was following the orders of an ethereal brewmaster, as obediently as if he were real. The heavy metal kept playing, spinning faster and faster as the boil reached its end.
The spell broke only as the last of the wort cooled and entered the fermentation tank. It seemed to pulse with life as the brewer stood before it, a beaten man. He took a few measurements. IBUs – 66.6. SRM – 66.6. He trembled as he took the gravity measurement, fearful of what it might show. The hydrometer showed 15.3˚ Plato. He knew before he ran the equations what it would mean.
This was the devil’s brew, not his.
Just as he had retaken control of himself, the panic set in. He knew this beer could not be destroyed. Any attempt to dump it down the drain would surely just tempt the satanic brew back into the kettle.
This beer can only be neutralized, he thought.
As dawn started to break, he darted to the cooler. “There must be something I can counteract this evil with,” he thought, “But what kills that which cannot die?”
Suddenly, he knew. Blood. Nothing else would quench a demon. He needed to make a blood beer.
7am – the other brewers would be here soon. He crawled through all of the various ingredients of the cooler, until he found them. Piles of them. 100 pounds of Oranges. Blood Oranges.
“That’ll have to do,” he thought.
He would have to brew another batch. The fifth in just over a day. He furiously began the preparations as the other guys put on their boots. They thought it was curious he wasn’t at the morning taste test, but chalked it up to a rough night of brewing.
They had no idea.
Tyler worried that the hastily brewed beer would not stand up to the tormenting batch from the night before. But as it flowed into the neighboring fermentor, he took one careful sip.
Immediately he knew. This would make a fine brew. But more to the point – it would be the perfect antidote.
And within moments, he was proven right. The tank filled with the blackened IPA slowed its retching and writhing till it gave only the slow, familiar burp of a fermenting beer. He was safe for now, at least.
Over the next three weeks, his nerves barely held together. Would the black ale wield its diabolical influence too strongly? Would the blood oranges be enough to match its evil power?
As the beers completed their transformation, he took his first trepidatious sips from the tanks. First he sampled the sabotaged IPA. Where once he feared something he could not control, he now felt a deep sense of respect for the monster he had contained. Rich and powerful roasted notes, colored by bracingly fresh hops. He at once knew the perfect name for it – the Number of the Yeast.
And the Blood Orange Berliner – tart, sweet, with just a hint of citrus brightness. His sip of this one immediately calmed his palate which had been enriched by the last. He knew he had made the perfect cure.
After Tyler confessed his story of demonic possession to the rest of us, we were hesitant to release either of these beers. “Why tempt fate?” we thought. But as we mused on this, Tyler eagerly pushed two pint glasses on us – one inky black, and one pure white. It took only one taste of each to convince us.
So now, dear public, the beers are yours to try. One that stands and guards the gates of hell, and one that pushes back and proclaims, “Get behind me, Satan!”
The only question that remains…which do you try first?
Number of the Yeast and Blood Orange Berliner will be on tap at the Public House starting Halloween weekend!