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The Alchemist, Enraptured - new exclusive beer for JD Wetherspoon outlets

By Fergus Fitzgerald, also posted in News on

Enraptured, The AlchemistThe Alchemist is a small brewery in Vermont set up by John and Jen Kimmich. I’d found out earlier in the year that John was coming to brew with us here in Southwold so we arranged to catch up when I was in Denver at the Craft Brewers Conference. John brought a couple of cans of his beer for me to taste. His 'Heady Topper' is a big resinous double IPA and it is about 90% of what they brew at The Alchemist and he focuses his attention on making that beer the best it can be. Believe me when I tell you that it was one of the best things I tasted over there, and there was no shortage of great beer. We had a chat about what sort of beer to brew and John really wanted to do something that encompassed something of both breweries. He had brewed a beer called 'Rapture' which was a brown IPA so we thought we’d use the base malt of one of our beers and hop it like his Rapture. The only trouble was that the hops John used in his beer were in very short supply over here. But John has a very friendly hop merchant and was also in the lucky position of having some excess stock of the varieties in Vermont and he kindly offered to sell that stock to me, and I kindly agreed to buy them. We’ve brewed a few beers with guest brewers over the last two years but this is the first time we’ve brewed one of these beers with the brewer's own hops. Importing hops directly to the UK is not something I get overly involved in and not wishing to get tied up in any red tape I asked our friends at Charles Faram hops if they could help out and they duly did, so many thanks to them too. [caption id="attachment_14918" align="alignright" width="239"]Brewers Fergus Fitzgerald & John Kimmich enjoying a beer at The Harbour Inn, Southwold Brewers Fergus Fitzgerald & John Kimmich at The Harbour Inn, Southwold[/caption] So John, his wife Jen and son Charlie all came over to spend a week in the UK. They spent a few days in London and John made the brave decision to hire a car and actually drive in London. I lived there for 7 years and never once drove there! John said he made a few driving errors, like not getting in the right lane until the last minute, but thankfully several other local drivers in London were on hand to offer him friendly advice on where he was going wrong, most of the advice was in the form of gestures, holding up a different number of fingers depending on whether they thought he should take the first exit or the second. John admitted to being similarly helpful to tourist drivers back home so he took it on the chin. Anyway, after doing the usual sightseeing in London they arrived in Southwold. The one concern we had all along was about the amount of hops that John wanted to use. It was more than Stone or Firestone or Societe had used so we knew we had to doing something a bit differently. So we decided to split the brew into several small batches and accept a bigger loss in the kettle so we didn’t draw off the hop trub at the end of the boil. And it worked. We also tried using some cotton bags to hold back the hop trub, that didn’t work, but we didn’t block up the wort cooler and we didn’t have to finish at midnight. So the brew days went well. While he was here John found out that he had been given planning permission to build a second brewery in his home town. Unusually, John isn’t closing the first brewery and the second brewery isn’t going to brew the same beers as the first, it's going to brew its own flagship beer and 'Heady Topper' will stay at its birthplace. I really like the simplicity of that, keeping the uniqueness of each and making the beers truly local. John was great company and I spent an evening at the Harbour Inn with him and his family. While we were there a pint was taken back to the bar by a customer because it had a slight haze (it was the end of the barrel). It was duly changed but John was very surprised as he is used to beer in the US having much more haze and it being seen as a sign of quality rather than indication of poor quality that we assume it to be here. Anyway, we enjoyed several pints of Mosaic and talked about beer while our sons talked about Minecraft and Clash of Clans. The beer we brewed is called 'Enraptured' and is a brown IPA at 5.5%. It uses the base malts of Broadside with a lot of Columbus, Citra and Summit hops. It is full of resinous, pine and citrus flavours backed up by sweet biscuit malts. John never got to try the beer as he was back stateside by the time it was ready, but I think he would have approved. You can try Enraptured exclusively at J D Wetherspoon outlets over the next few weeks or while stocks last.


Fergus Fitzgerald