Nearly every homebrewer dreams of going pro and bringing their favorite recipe to the main stage. Last week we heard from MadTree’s Matt Rowe about going pro, this week we’ll hear from him about how he turned his homebrew session pale ale into MadTree PSA.
MadTree PSA: Pre-Session Ale
PSA started as a goal to make a tasty beer that you could have a few of without getting hammered, years before “session” became a buzzword. This was back in 2008 when only a few breweries were making lighter IPAs, but as Matt says
it tasted like they took their IPA and added water
Matt found the idea of a flavorful yet low ABV beer to be a great homebrewing challenge. While listening to an episode of The Brewing Network featuring Jennifer Talley of Squatters Pub in Utah talking about low gravity beers, due to Utah’s weird low ABV laws, he was further inspired to make this beer happen.
Research & Development
Matt Rowe began focusing on the session style, doing research, and slowly developing his recipe. After playing around a lot, the hop combo of Citra and Simcoe locked into place; PSA is 2/3rd Citra and 1/3rd Simcoe in the boil, which flips in dry hopping with the addition of some Mosaic.
The biggest challenge to crafting this brew was nailing the mash profile. Balancing the amount of Caramel malt without being overly sweet while keeping enough to avoid being mostly 2-row.
I found Melanoidin malt to be really nice, it gives a biscuity character to the beer that makes it feel fuller bodied than normal lighter alcohol beers.
Matt didn’t just toy with the amount of Caramel malt, but the kind as well. C-80 was too toffee, C-40 wasn’t enough caramel, C-60 hit the sweet spot. Last bit of malt is Carapils for head retention.
If you want to get more in-depth on the recipe or brew it yourself, MadTree has shares their recipes.
As most homebrewers discover the feedback of their friends and family often falls flat, hearing “your beer is great” doesn’t help identify problems or how to improve. So, as many homebrewers do, Matt entered his Loose Screw Pale Ale into local homebrew comps and won 2nd for Pale Ales in Cincinnati Malt Infusers All-American Homebrew Competition.
5-Gallons to 15-Barrels
It was definitely challenging.
From the sound of it while there were some challenges in tweaking the recipe the coolest thing was being able to play with MadTree’s reverse osmosis water system. He was able to tweak the water profile beyond you can do to Cincinnati water on a homebrew scale. Those tweaks helped balance out the sweetness even more, which has always been a priority for Matt.
From His Home to Yours
Many homebrewers love their beer and think it’s worthy of sitting on a Kroger shelf, but how many of us can say they’ve had that happen?
Matt developed PSA for five years before he got hired at MadTree. Shortly after starting there they brewed it once, and it got lost in the shuffle of all MadTree’s different one-off beers.
Eventually, MadTree decided to make a pale ale and started a series of Experimental Pale Ale beers. They experimented with different malts and hops, but by Experimental Pale Ale #6 it was basically PSA. A few more tweaks in #7, but #8 was essentially the PSA cans now in my fridge.
MadTree decided to make PSA the 5th year round beer. It joins PsycHOPathy, Happy Amber, Gnarly Brown, and Lift. Except some obnoxious lawyers in California had a different viewpoint on that.
Then all the shit with Gnarly Brown hit the head and everything got accelerated quicker … we got cans here about two days before we needed to get beer out to Kroger to hold that shelf spot.
I’m just going to let Matt speak for himself on this experience.
It’s still pretty surreal to think that a recipe that I cooked up in my basement is on the floor of Kroger this week. It’s pretty fucking surreal. It’s been a cool experience overall.
One of the most unique things is, I never really gave a shit about what people thought of my beer at all on a homebrew scale and especially here [at MadTree[, but it’s a little different when it’s a recipe that you’ve been working on for a while.
I find myself checking Untappd more frequently than I probably used to because it’s always interesting. At the end of the day, I really like the beer and I know it’s nice, but when you go from a beer that a few hundred people have had to a few thousand people have already had; it’s a little different to open yourself up to that, it takes a bit of getting used to.
I entirely plan to never run out of PSA in my own fridge. It’s fucking awesome, it’s every homebrewer’s dream to be holding a can of their beer and be sharing that with people. It’s the whole glorious fluffy shit that you get into homebrewing for in the first place. You want to share your experience with people it’s cool to see that in the physical form of a can.
So You Wanna Be A Production Manager? Hop Contracts
The last post to come out of this incredibly dense interview with Mr. Rowe will be about his role as MadTree’s production manager, and specifically, his dealing with hop contracts. Plus a few other bits that didn’t fit in this post or the first one about going pro. Expect that post to come out sometime next week.