Unfiltered: It’s Our Anniversary!

By John Gillooly, Drake’s Brewmaster
August 21, 2017

We’re gonna party like it’s our birthday because, well… it IS!

Drake’s is about to celebrate our 28th Anniversary, which in “craft brewery” years is like 150. Each year, we make special beer to celebrate the day and this year, we have a couple that are particularly noteworthy:

First up – The Void

The Void was brewed to about 12% ABV in the brewhaus, and in the cellars, we dragged it up to 17.5% ABV with multiple additions of dark and amber Belgian candi sugar. 

@drakesbeer: Get ready to experience The Void ✨🌚🍺 This Intergalactic Stout is…

We then aged it for 2 years in High West bourbon barrels, which smoothed out the alcohol, and added awesome bourbon and vanilla notes to the beer. We have deemed this an “Intergalactic Stout,” since if a 12% beer is fortified enough for a boat ride across the Baltic, then this guy is ready to rip out to space.

Fun note – I got to write up preliminary “copy” for the bottles (we’re bottling The Void! Buy it and age it!) so I submitted “Welcome to The Void, Drake’s Intergalactic Stout – Brewed to go where no man has gone before” (because I totally want a “cease and desist” order from Star Trek). We’ll see how much of that makes the label.

But yeah, The Void! It’s really barely a beer – it might have more in common with a Port or Madeira, and has a lot of potential for aging. Taste it now to set a baseline, but these super ABV beers really pick up nuance over time, as the heat continues to fade and the sugars round into notes of raisins, dates and dried cherries.


Next – ’89 Pale

@bsgpeter: Got invited to brew a special beer for @drakesbeer 28th Anniversary…

The other beer we did especially for this party is our ’89 Pale, based on a couple different recipes from the original Drake’s brewing logs. We did our best to use only ingredients available in 1989. This required a fun bit of research and sourcing. We also included one of our favorite brewers to help us make it – Peter Hoey, a long-time Sacramento area brewer in the process of opening a new brewery in Sacramento, called Urban Roots Brewing.

The malt was tough – those varieties available in ’89 have largely been abandoned by farmers, due to poor agronomic qualities. We did manage to locate some Copeland malt, which is a direct descendent of 80’s variety Harrington, and the malt itself has very similar brewin’ properties (it just grows better). Also, as was the way of brewing in ’89, we added some British caramel malt, though I didn’t have the heart to add it at the, umm, traditional excessive quantities. I added plenty. And, of course, wheat! You needed wheat, for… umm, head retention.

Hops were both easier and most difficult. Some of the varieties from back in the day are no longer grown, because they are objectively… not good – though I still wanted to play around with them. (Really, I just wanted to write “Eroica” in a brew log.) Anyway, the thing with hops is that in 1989 there just weren’t that many, particularly domestic ones and I did want to use domestic hops. Many of the ’89 recipes are weird blends of British, German and American hops that look like a train wreck on paper, though at the rates they were being used at, maybe it didn’t matter so much (more on that in a bit). We settled on 3 hops for the recipe:

• Cascade, which many of us consider the foundational hop of American craft brewing (see: Anchor Liberty Ale, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale).
• Willamette, a hop of British descent that was widely used.
• Chinook, a newcomer at the time, both celebrated for its “aggressive” aromatics and derided as “catty.”

We used them at rates that made us snicker – the whirlpool and dry-hop additions were both ⅓ lb per barrel, as opposed to our 1500 Pale Ale, which has 1lb/barrel in the whirlpool, and 2lb/barrel in the dry-hop.

So, the beer! It tastes like 1989. Honestly, it’s such a spot-on throwback, it’s ridiculous. And when people taste this, they really need to realize that, by the standards of the day, this was a hoppy beer.

Well, running out of things to say.  See you at the party!

‘Unfiltered’ is a recurring column by our Brewmaster, John Gillooly, where he dishes on whatever topic he’s inspired to prosthelytize about. With over 20 years of brewing experience, ranging from Red Hook (back when they were independent) to Dogfish Head, John’s take is always uniquely his own and we do our best to bring it to you as it is… unfiltered.


  1. joshua grissom says:

    Question? Where can i get my hands on a 6 pack of THE VOID!?!?!?! I am located in Stockton, Ca.