Surly’s QC Boss Riley Seitz writes about the creation of The Familiar.
“Proud” is the first word that comes to mind when I taste The Familiar, along with tart, juicy, fresh, crisp, citrusy, and bright. The Familiar is the product of learning, teaching, sharing, and curiosity.
In collaboration with the Witch Hunt, we at Surly had the opportunity to help this organization host and celebrate their first kick-off event as a non-profit. The Witch Hunt’s mission is to foster professional pathways for women and non-binary individuals in craft brewing through education and advocacy. The brew day at our Brooklyn Center facility was an opportunity for the Witch Hunt to gather and learn, network, and spread the word about their mission and purpose.
Just like any other day in beer production, brew day started bright and early. There were about 50 participants, all of whom held brewing jobs that ranged from brewery sales to quality control, and from front-of-house to brewers.
The goal was to include all levels of experience and knowledge of the brewing process. Those who hadn’t had a chance to stand on a brew deck before were prioritized to get their hands dirty first. It was incredibly rewarding to see their faces light up as they threw 50-pound bags of unmalted wheat into the mash tun. For production brewers, dumping bags of malt loses its sparkle real quick, but for those that have never been a part of the process, it was their first opportunity to share in the pride and purpose of brewing.
Throughout the day, we walked through every step of brewing. We talked about the technical aspects of mashing in; from pH, to temperature, to gravity, and malt bill. During lautering, participants learned how to take a gravity and pH sample, what those measurements mean to the process, and taste wort for the first time. During run-off and boiling in the kettle, we went down into the tap room to listen to a fantastic presentation about the history of women in beer.
Once boil finished, a handful of participants helped pack muslin bags with 30 pounds of sweet orange peel and 10 pounds of orange zest to add to the whirlpool. In the middle of the day, we also taught the importance of yeast health, how to count yeast cells, and how we harvest and pitch yeast into the fermenting vessel. The goal was to create a relaxed environment where participants felt empowered to ask questions about every aspect of the process.
In witchcraft history, familiars are the spirits and companions that helped young witches grow and learn in their sorcery. The Familiar Ale name is a tribute to the spirits that have guided us along our paths and opened doors that were once closed.
The beer itself is a bit of an experiment. The initial idea was to create a kettle sour, but we didn’t have the production time to babysit the souring process. We had tossed around the idea of creating a mimosa-inspired beer, so we melded the two ideas together and created a tart, dry-hopped ale with piles of orange added. The souring process was the experimental side of the project–since we didn’t have the time to sour the beer over a few days using live lactobacillus culture, we added lactic acid and citric acid directly to the kettle.
I am a bit biased but this beer is a CRUSHER. I hope it makes you think of the warmer and sunnier times ahead! I am also equally proud of the humans that helped make this beer as I am about how the beer tastes. The staff at Surly and the Witch Hunt crew are so incredibly stoked to share the fruits of our labor and learning on International Women’s Day, March 8th, at the Surly Beer Hall in Minneapolis. Cheers!
Further reading from The Growler: Conjuring Up Equality: Witch Hunt provides education and advocacy for women in beer