I don’t consider myself an expert on the subject of magic, but I have a few reasons to believe Perrin’s Production Manager — John Stewart — is most likely a wizard.
I got a few minutes to chat stone-cold beer nerdery with him, and regardless of having commercial brewing experience myself, he was still dropping information that was pretty far over my head. His experience at Saugatuck Brewing Company has clearly done him well.
Even before tasting his product, Stewart appears to be more than qualified to make high quality, commercial beer. His passion lies largely in quality control where he ensures through vigorous tests that every single keg or bottle is free of defects, and represents its style accurately. I tasted quite a few of Stewart’s beers, but here are a few highlights that made my list:
3.9% ABV — The very first word I have written down in my tasting notes for this beer is, “solid.” And the beer is just that. At a rather sessionable ABV, Bashtoberfest brings a well balanced and clean lager yeast profile, soft caramel notes and a rather spicy hop character that is just a touch more forward than you might expect. If you’re looking to try to figure out what beer nerds mean when they say “spicy hop character,” this beer is a good place to start.
Das Braun Lager
5.3% ABV — When I asked Perrin partner Jarred Sper about some of his favorite beers on tap that day, it was evident that Das Braun Lager was at least the beer he enjoyed pronouncing the most (and rightfully so). This beer does a great job of using atypical beer ingredients in a shockingly subtle and pleasant way.
Stewart sifted through piles information on the smoked malts available to commercial brewers, and chose very carefully a malt variety that wouldn’t steal the show, or catch drinkers off guard. The resulting beer is a light-bodied beer balancing on a tightrope of flavor profiles. The oak-smoked malts present themselves as a distinctive spice character both on the nose and tongue. A soft yeast character and malt sweetness fall between a delicately smoked finish.
4.5% ABV — Brewed for the Halloween season, Stewart put together a beer that pours nearly blood red. Believe it or not, Stewart and some of the other brewers researched every practical red food coloring they could find and ended up choosing a dye extracted from the scales of the scales of certain varieties of beetles.
Although the beer is not technically vegetarian, Stewart found it to be the most flavor-neutral dye available. Fortunately there are no notes of blood or insects in this beer — only a forward and distinct cedar-like hop bitterness and aroma from generous hopping, and a delightful caramel background. Late in the finish there are subtle notes of dark fruits and toffee.
Gilda’s Cherry Saison
4.6% ABV — Gilda’s Cherry Saison is named after the Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids, where one dollar from every pint of this beer is donated. The beer has a slight pink tint from the Michigan cherry and rose petal additions, which is rather appropriately timed for last month, which was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A bready aroma tackles the nostrils first, followed quickly byslight cherry and lemon.
Gilda’s Cherry Saison is fantastically dry with a moderate Belgian floweriness. Just like Stewart’s approach with the smoked malts, there are no excessive cherry flavors present. The cherry blends well with the beer’s acidity and brightness, and most importantly, the beer lacks the medicinal character that is very often associated with cherry beers.