BlogDBB Post 002 – Dirty Reindeer

Friends, it’s so wonderful to be writing to you again for the second iteration of BlogDBB! James here again to Sherpa you through this excerpt. A ton has happened over the last month that I could easily tell you about, but nothing excites me as much as our most recent beer and can release, Dirty Reindeer! Much like an Avenger… this cocktail inspired beer has an origin story of its own, and I’m about to tell you how it came to be such a passion project of ours.

Several years ago, Ben was visiting Louisville, KY for the Shelton Brothers Beer Festival with a great group of Charlotte beer friends. Ben and his friends were drinking some of the absolute finest beer on the planet at the festival, but also managed to hob knob their way through Louisville’s amazing bar scene. They were frequenting places like Holy Grale, Garage Bar and Seidenfadens, where Brian Strumke of Stillwater Brewing would DJ during the weekend. In an effort to pace themselves, Stiegl Grapefruit Radlers were consistently ordered since they’re just 2.5% ABV. All it took was for one question to change their lives… “would you like a shot of bourbon with that Radler?” “Wow! This is very relevant to my interests, so yes, I would love to try this concoction!” Ever since that fateful question was posed, the Dirty Reindeer cocktail has been a staple in our home bars.

Fast forward to Spring of 2018 when Ben and I were shootin’ the breeze about potential beer projects as Divine Barrel was getting off the ground and I remember asking him about attempting the beer version of Dirty Reindeer. With a sly grin, he replied, “it’s already on the list.” So, as you can see, this project has meaning and soul behind it. It was also one of the most challenging beers Ben has executed to date. Think about it… how does one exactly go about crafting a cocktail inspired beer that contains a delicate grapefruit Radler while simultaneously capturing the boozy punch of bourbon?

The answer is to start by brewing a delicate wheat base. We then processed and conditioned the base beer on several hundred pounds of Ruby Red Grapefruit in the fermenter to give it that semi-sweet and grapefruit pith of the Stiegl Radler that inspired us. Once the beer completed its secondary fermentation post fruit addition, Ben added Buffalo Trace bourbon soaked oak chips into the fermenter. The oak chips were the perfect vessel to impart the noticeable but light bourbon character for this style of beer. They allowed for a bourbon essence instead of a heavy-handed level, which would have taken away from the fruited base beer.

We are so proud of our version of the Dirty Reindeer. While delicate and refreshing, it was a bold project to take on. In a crowded marketplace full of hazy IPAs, heavily fruited kettle sours and adjunct laden stouts, who the hell is crazy enough to make a nuanced Imperial Grapefruit Radler? We’re obviously that crazy. We will always try to push the limits as a brewery, and while brewing beer that’s popular and relevant is important to us, we are unapologetic about trying to push the limits in this beer game a little bit. We hope you’ve enjoyed Dirty Reindeer, and if you haven’t had a chance to then we hope you’ll come visit us for a pint and/or 4-pack! And don’t forget, you can always enhance Dirty Reindeer by making the Dirtier Reindeer: Add a shot of bourbon to the base beer, iced or not! Thank you so much as always for taking the time to read this post, and I’ll see you again next month!