Drake’s 25th Anniversary Brew- 25% Headzo

Climbing the Mountain Again

Industry treasure & Drake’s Head Brewer John Gillooly has a lot of opinions. He shares them with us. A lot. So, we’ve decided to share his opinions with you nice  readers. This month, he muses on Drake’s upcoming 25th Anniversary and the beer he’s making to commemorate it:

photo via inspector_81 on Flickr

photo via inspector_81 on Flickr

At the Craft Brewer’s Conference this spring I noticed this beer called “Class of ‘88”, which was a collaboration between a couple different breweries celebrating their 25th Anniversary. This made me immediately curious, because while I know Drake’s is about that old, I wasn’t sure exactly what we consider to be our anniversary. With the help of Roger Lind, I eventually chased down the original brewlogs and found the first time we brewed here was August 8th, 1989, so I’m calling that the official anniversary date.

Anyway, I wanted to do something special for our 25th anniversary, so my staff and I cooked up an idea to make a 25% ABV beer to release next year. I’ve done a few beers over 20% ABV in my time at Dogfish Head, including the 2002 World Wide Stout, which we managed to bring home at 23.3% ABV. When we realized that the yeast was still active at 18%, DFH owner Sam Calagione told us to keep going and to push it as far as we could, so every day we fed it a little more brewer’s sugar, and hoped the yeast would eat it. While it really wasn’t that much work, I still joked it was like climbing a mountain. It seemed strenuous! The yeast finally croaked at a little over 23%, and it’s always been in the back of my mind to try again to go even higher.

This looked like a good opportunity, especially since I wanted to do something special for our owners, John Martin and Roy Kirkorian, on our 25th – and getting a beer up to 25% seemed the way to go…

Anyhoo, enough history. We just got this beast in a tank this week. We made two separate mashes and collected the first runnings from them both, and knocked out a burly 28.1 Plato beer.

The beer itself is a Brown ale, I guess – the recipe was just a whole mess of two row and a couple partial bags of specialty malt that we didn’t want to inventory at the end of the month (a little chocolate malt, a little crystal malt, some brown malt). Now that it’s in the tank and fermenting on our house ale yeast, we’ll introduce a special alcohol tolerant yeast, and feed it a variety of sugars (we got some really nice local wildflower honey, and I’m sourcing some muscavado sugar). It should be a fun project, and as it gets stronger and stronger we’ll really have to babysit the yeast. Honestly it’s a pretty heavy nerd project, but it should be awesome. And when it’s all done and our yeast drunkenly flips us off while it falls asleep for good, we are going to stick it in a combination of High West Rye and Four Roses Bourbon barrels.

And next year we are going to drink it.

-Head Brewer John Gillooly

Next Year!? What do we get to drink this year?

IMG_20130731_103702Now that we have sufficiently piqued your interest in the behemoth that will be Drake’s 25th Anniversary Beer, “Headzo,” we’re sure you’re coming down offa that excited high thinking, “But what do I get to drink for the 24th Anniversary?”

Don’t worry. We had you in our thoughts. In his notes above, John Gillooly, told you that our 25th Anniversary beer, was made of the first runnings of two separate batches. Well, what did we do with the second runnings you ask? We reserved them to make a “small” beer (a beer made from the second runnings of a larger beer, generally session strength). Except we must’ve done it wrong, because Son of Headzo is not the least bit small. Our 24th Anniversary “Small” beer hit the tanks at 19 Plato, and we expect it to reach above 9.5% ABV before all is said and done.

With this beer, since it was not intended for barrels, the brewers kicked up the hops like they normally do with some large additions of big fruit forward hops Nelson Sauvin, Australian Helga, Mosaic, Citra, and EXP 01210. Right now (two days in the tanks), we are getting some huge tropical fruit aromas popping out of our samples.

Son of Headzo will be available on draft at the Barrel House, and possibly out at some of your favorite local craft beer meccas. But it’s just a small batch, so you should probably make the pilgrimage to see us here at home come our Anniversary on August 8, 2013. We’ll tap it at opening, 3pm, so come on down whenever you like and get your hands on our small (“small”) beer, Son of Headzo, for a toast to 24 years of Drake’s.

As always though, please remember to hold onto your head.