Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: The Man in the Yellow Suit

The Man in the Yellow Suit (02)

Mike Killelea is the brewer for Center of the Universe Brewing, in Ashland, Virginia. He also might be a fashion-setter. As pictured above during the brewery's grand opening on Friday evening, 17 November 2012, he was sartorially golden.

COTUB (its less time-consuming acronym) is a production brewery, which means that it is a factory that produces beer, and not a restaurant that also makes beer (i.e.,a brewpub). A Virginia law was changed recently to allow production breweries to sell their beer on-site (as wineries had already been permitted). That's what COTUB is doing.

When I arrived at 5 pm, the facility was already packed with well-wishers, the curious, and the thirsty. Several food trucks were parked on the grounds, offering an array of foods, from barbecue to kimchi tacos. The beer lines were long (but fast-moving). On tap were
  • Kölsch (4.6% alcohol-by-volume; bright, clean, a hint of yeasty fruitiness without any of the eggy character of some iterations)
  • Ray Ray's Pale Ale (5% abv; well-structured, grapefruit character of Cascade hops not overdone)
  • Main Street Alt (5.5% abv; dark toasted bread topped with a dollop of dark-fruit jam)
  • The Richard IPA.(8.3% abv; wowsers: biscuity malt character preceded and chased by slugs of citrusy and turpentiney —in a good way— hops).
When I interviewed Killelea about the brewery last month, he made no mention of The Richard. So, I asked him about it.

The Richard was supposed to be our IPA. Back in October, we had been waiting patiently for our ABC license. We finally got it at 5 pm on a Wednesday. So we wound up brewing through the night. Finished up at 8 am the next morning. It was the first time using our brewhouse, and the boil was a bit, shall we say, vigorous. We got a crazy evaporation rate. What was intended as a 6.8% IPA, ended as a 8.5% borderline double IPA. Not what we intended. Still, it tasted pretty damn good.

We have since dialed in the steam to our brewhouse, and things are working smoothly. However, we didn’t want to release this as our IPA. So we’re calling it The Richard, after Chris and Phil’s grandfather. Those who liked it, don’t worry. Our IPA will have the same hops, malt and yeast. It just won’t be as strong. Or expensive…

The name for Center of the Universe Brewing comes from a nickname used by residents of central Virginia for the area. The brewery is owned by Phil and Chris Ray, the latter a professional baseball pitcher, who for a time was the starting closer (that's a wonderful phrase) for the Baltimore Orioles. Now, he's a brewer, and he's pitching yeast.

  • At least at first, the brewery will package its beers only in kegs, and distribute only in and around Ashland, and soon thereafter, Richmond, Virginia. But customers can also purchase beer at the brewery itself. COTUB will fill growlers —two-quart resealable glass containers— with any of the beers on draft in its taproom. These can be purchased at the brewery or can belong to the customer. Keep in mind that growlers can come in various volumes. Killelea emphasized that the brewery will fill only those of 64 fluid-ounces, and that, if a customer brings in her own, she's responsible for its cleanliness!
  • Public hours are Monday through Friday from 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm, and Saturday from 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm. For directions and more information (and to check on any changes to the hours), follow on Twitter: @COTUBrew. Follow on Facebook: COTUBrew.
  • See more photos from opening night: here. Read more about the brewery: here.
  • I.P.A. is an abbreviation for India Pale Ale, usually written as an acronym, without the periods. An IPA will tend to be strong in alcohol, in America about 6-7%, pale to amber in color, and very hoppy: usually bitter, often aromatic. For why the beer is called that, read The first ever reference to IPA, by Martyn Cornell at his blog Zythophile.

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