Crooked Lane Wins Gold at World Beer Cup
All our beers have a back story, and this one happens to have a pretty interesting one! This recipe was originally conceived as a collaboration between our Head Brewer Ellen Sherrill and Breakside R&D Brewer Natalie Baldwin. On a recent trip to Portland, Ellen brewed with Natalie, and the resulting Belgian Blonde was fermented in an open top fermenter. The visuals of this beer were incredible, with yeast Krausen rising from the fermenter. Our version of this beer was crafted with some ingredients targeting authenticity, featuring Dingemans Pilsner and a classic Belgian-origin yeast. We brewed the beer at our place as a first generation starter beer for our Belgian yeast, in preparation for our planned Belgian Golden Strong, Betty.
Like Breakside experienced, the beer fermented beautifully and with vigor! The resulting ale was delightfully drinkable, very well attenuated and with very subtle banana, bubble gum, prominent apple and pear, and bright, spicy hop flavor. The foam was beautiful and displayed the lacing so important in this beer style. We were very proud of this beer, but considered it a one-off and put it into our Traveler’s Series packaging, and kept it simple, just calling it Belgian Blonde Ale.
Shortly after the Belgian Blonde and Betty, our Belgian Golden Strong ale, were finished, we had the good fortune to receive a visit from Belgian brewer Jonas Demeulenaere from Brouwerij De Ranke, as he was on an epic tour of NorCal’s best breweries. (think Sierra Nevada, Russian River, Anchor Brewing). Of course, we had to get his opinion on our two Belgian-style beers… Teresa demanded an honest opinion, but she and Jonas had just met so politeness could not be ruled out. Jonas thought the Belgian Blonde was a pretty good example of the style.
When it came time to send off our World Cup beers, we realized one of the beers we had planned to send, our German-Style Pilsner, was not going to be ready in time. At the last moment, we swapped our competition entry to the Belgian Blonde, thinking, “Shoot, why did we not give this one a name?” We carefully bottled our beers, and shipped them off to competition. We brought the short fills and excess bottles to our friend’s birthday party, and added some levity to the evening.
This year’s Craft Brewers Conference was especially fun for us; Ellen participated in a planning retreat and worked with the Pink Boots Society to lay out the agenda for the coming year. Teresa was invited to speak on the topic of community-focused fundraising, and shared with many brewery compatriots Crooked Lane’s passion for helping our community and some of the strategies we use. We met a dozen beer heroes we hadn’t met in person, and made friends of acquaintances. And when it came to the awards, we found ourselves cheering for our good friends at Morgan Territory who won three medals (three!!!), Danville Brewing that won yet again with Granny’s Tipple, an English Barleywine (that beer can’t lose!). Slice won Strong Hazy Pale Ale, and Liquid Gravity won for their Liquid Gravity IPA- these wins are not a surprise to us or anyone else. They are so well deserved! Overall, California did very well and we should all be proud of our California breweries. And the last category we had a beer in, the longest shot, the outside smoker, the nameless Belgian Blonde went and won a gold.
We could say we had worked on this recipe for years, and we had perfected it in anticipation of just this very moment. However, winning an award like this can be like catching lightning in a bottle. There are thousands of incredible beers that don’t win anything, People like to say it’s a crap shoot, and that’s true, but impeccable packaging is critical given the transportation and time delay from the submission to judging. In order to have a chance to catch the lightning, you have to start with a technically perfect beer! We are so proud to have caught the lightning this time, and we are going to enjoy this one thoroughly! We’ll brew this beer again ASAP and invite everyone to come taste it and celebrate with us.