Written by Boulevard brewer, Jeremy Danner
The third installment in our series of collaboration beers represents a complete departure from the expected course in many ways. Our chosen partner brewery, Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, isn’t a brewery in the physical sense, but rather a whimsical collection of folks operating as tenent brewers in a small brewery in the Boston area. Husband and wife team Dann and Martha Paquette (along with their friends Anya and Bocky) design, brew, market, and sell an amazing variety of beers that have garnered huge respect from the beer drinking community in the Northeast and everywhere folks have the chance to try their creations. So, how did we get here? How did we come across this wonderful group of people? Simple: beer brought us together.
We first met Dann and Martha at the Beer Advocate American Craft Beer Festival in June of 2011. The Alstrom brothers had invited us out to participate in their festival and the timing happened to coincide with our exploration of the Boston beer scene prior to releasing our beers there. I had heard of Pretty Things and had followed their story for some time. Their beers had achieved legendary status in the online beer forums, but I’d never tasted them myself. Midway through the first session of the beer festival, I headed over to the Pretty Things booth to introduce myself and try their beers. I think I said something along the lines of, “I’m Jeremy from Boulevard and I’ve heard some crazy things about your beers and I have to find out if they’re true.” Ever humble, Dann replied, “Well, let’s see.” I tasted every beer they poured that night and fell in love with the way Dann and Martha approached the craft of designing beers as well as their super creative approach to branding and marketing. Check out their website. It’s insane! Later in the evening, they came to visit us at our table and having never had any of our beers proceeded to taste down the line as I had. Apparently they liked our beers because they kept bringing local brewers and friends by to taste them throughout the festival. “Here, you’ve got to try this beer!” is one of the most flattering things another brewer can say about your beers. Later that night we all ended up around the same table in what they described as one of their “home bars,” Deep Ellum. We shared dinner and beers and late into the night our Chief Operating Officer offhandedly suggested we make a beer together. Everyone seemed to become a bit more clear-headed for a second and agree this was a great idea.
As with any plans that are made over dinner and beers, a more official follow up was required. We came back to the brewery and turned it over to our decision makers who all agreed it was slightly crazy, but also a brilliant idea. Having worked with Jean-Marie Rock of Orval fame on an Imperial Pilsner, and then later with the pioneering Deshutes Brewing Company on a White IPA, partnering with a brewery that had a huge, loyal following in their hometown (much like ours), but somewhat obscure as you ventured out of their region (much like us) seemed to be the next logical, but completely illogical step. In September when we released our beers in Boston, we once again met up with the Pretty Things team for beers, but this time our Brewmaster, Steven Pauwels, was there to meet Dann and Martha. They hit it off instantly and spent much of the Beer Advocate Belgian Beer Fest trying beers together and cementing the idea that this collaboration should definitely happen. The next decision was to determine what style we should brew. This is where things got even more unexpected. Dann had spent some time brewing in Yorkshire. This is also where he met Martha, a native of the area. Being keenly curious of traditional English brewing methods, Dann proposed we attempt to brew a Yorkshire Stingo, a style that had long died out, but had seen a small amount of revival in recent years. The twist was that the Pretty Things team wanted to brew the beer to be somewhat historically accurate. Brewing this beer gave Dann the opportunity to allow years of research and tasting to become a reality in the bottle.
In April, the Pretty Things crew, along with their friend and legendary DJ, John Funke, traveled to Kansas City to brew with us. During their time here we shared some great beers and took them to our favorite Kansas City BBQ destinations. I believe Anya described their adventures as “death by smoked meat.” Having only spent time with the Pretty People in Boston, it was really great to host them in our hometown. The collaboration brew day was extremely memorable. To share the brewhouse with brewers that have such a unique and exhaustive approach to the way they design and create beers was truly an honor. Just as with any job, it’s really cool to work with your friends. As I write this, we’re preparing to bottle the first run of our Yorkshire Stingo. We hope to create a beer that displays a rich, malty character derived from the exclusive use of English malts that’s balanced by deft additions of English Goldings and Fuggle hops. The historical aspect comes through in that primary fermentation took place on oak and the beer has a pronounced sourness from the use of lactic acid producing microbes. In the time that this beer was originally produced, it’s likely that this sourness was part of the flavor profile, so Stingo was nicknamed due to the sting your mouth felt from the acidity in the flavor.
The whole collaboration process has been a dream project and we’re very pleased to be able to introduce our loyal fans in the Midwest to our friends from Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project. We expect to release this beer sometime in the early fall and look forward to sharing a page from the rich traditions of English brewing.