Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wichita Ale Tales: The Brewer Polishes Old Snortin' Norton.

In Wichita, Kansas, Dan Norton is the Head Brewer at River City Brewing Company. We've been stopping here every time Barbara and I drive to Minnesota...for years. This time, though, Maria (our server) offered something different: Old Snortin' Norton, a beer created by the brewer to celebrate his 1,000th beer. It is...fine. Said the same in an email to Norton; asked for details. And you know, sometimes you just can't beat other people's stories. Here's at least three – from the brewer's mouth.

Thank you for the nice comments on my 1,000th batch. A lot of times for commemorative brews, I’ll brew something very big, add some crazy ingredients, age it in some kind of barrel with tons of dry hops, push the limits a little.

I have been researching my family history quite a bit this year, and I thought for my 1,000th batch that I’d keep it simple with a straightforward style, but a style that is “all there” when it comes to flavor. My grandpa Bob taught me how to homebrew when I was 18 and stumbled upon his batch of Pale Ale that he brewed in the basement fridge.

Grandpa Bob was a strong-willed, some say stubborn guy that loved his family and grandkids very much! He was an engineer for the Grand Trunk Railroad in Battle Creek, Michigan, and was known at every bar that was on his route home from work, as Old Snortin’ Norton, or sometimes “Snort” for short. He was also on the USS Reid in Pearl Harbor, and when you look at records online of who was on that ship, it lists the crew with a column for nicknames. Sure enough, it says Snortin’ Norton next to my grandpa!

I never got to sit at a brewery with Old Snortin’ since he passed when I was 20, so I wanted to honor him with this beer, and every glass I drink of it, I raise it up for my grandpa!

Since we all hail from England, I decided on an English Old Ale. My version is on the dark end of the spectrum for this style, but within range. The 7.7% alcohol Is also towards the top range, but that’s what I wanted. I used Maris Otter as my base malt for this beer, which adds a little more grainy-biscuit flavor and a little more body than our standard 2-row Pale Malt.  Some Caramel 80, a mid-range Caramel malt adds a little toasted toffee-like flavor, Chocolate Malt and Black Malt add to the complexity by adding their dark color and sweet roast flavor.

But hold it to the light and the deep amber color of the Caramel malt will shine a nice garnet color. East Kent Goldings, and Fuggle Hops add their spicy English Hop character, then I fermented with a English yeast strain, which adds that signature flavor. All in all, I think it turned out really good. It will age nicely, so I am stowing two kegs away for a rainy day, possibly for our 18th Anniversary Party (which is a can’t-miss event!)

If you and your wife were to only have one day a year to stop into the brewery the first Saturday in March would be it!  We pull out all the stops and release some really nice beers that day.  Plus, they are all $2.50, you can't beat that!

Cheers to you and your exploration of good beer, Richard.

Companies, brands, products (such as RCBC's handmade beers) – they're all burnished by good stories. Big-time thanks, Dan Norton, for sharing these. The photo of the brew pub (top) is from the Wichita Library, thanks very much. In the smaller photo, the glass on the right contained the Old Snortin' Norton. Barbara's Emerald City Stout – same brewer – is on the left.

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