In Dutch speaking countries, the word “paardebloem” means “dandelion”. And in Utah, it means spring is in the
Red Rock Brewing Company’s Paardebloem is a 9.2% ABV chardonnay barrel aged Belgian style ale brewed with toasted pilsner malt, peaches, and grains of paradise. Its staple ingredient, from which it gets its name, is dandelion greens! A hop shortage in 2008 sent our brewers searching for something to bitter beer that wasn’t hops. Born out of necessity and a stroke of genius, brewers Kevin Templin and Chris McCombs discovered dandelion greens for bittering.
A test batch and eight years later, folks are lined up down the street to get a bottle of their very own. Paardebloem will sell out in mere hours, leaving many scrambling over to one of three Red Rock pubs for a quaff before it’s all gone.
“Why don’t you just make more?” some ask. The truth is, our small brewery can only produce so much! Barrels take up a lot of space, and need time to age and condition beer. From a business perspective, that’s money invested without any return for an entire year. Despite all of this, we have heard the cries for more, and purchased 13 fresh chardonnay barrels this past February. New barrels mean more Paardebloem for 2017! While this year’s batch of Paardebloem is only slightly larger than last year’s, 2017 should see a significant increase of batch size. That means more bottles for you and me. Yayy more beer!
There’s a lot more to this brew than a typical batch of beer. For the well being of my future self, I can’t go into the minute details of Paardebloem’s creation. What I can tell you is a bit about the special ingredients! We start with Weyermann Pilsner malt that has been toasted in our own brewpub in downtown Salt Lake City. I was given the honors this year, and recall the morning as a memorable experience. I filled shallow trays with pilsner malt and gently slid them into the pizza oven. The kernels crackled and popped, almost indiscernible from the firewood. Soon steam rose off the malt, and the kernels turned deep golden brown. The aroma of toasty, freshly baked bread filled the air. I sipped on my coffee and enjoyed the warmth of the fire. It was a rough morning. 😉 Imagine taking that experience, and putting it in a beer. That’s Paardebloem.
There’s more to our award winning spring beer than toasty malt. We also add peaches to the boil to give the beer juicy, fruity notes. A heavy hand of grains of paradise gives a peppery, licorice-like zip. And of course, crisp dandelion greens are bound in mesh bags, and added to the boil in place of hops for bitterness. For those of you familiar with the four main ingredients of beer, this last one breaks the mold! There was actually a time when hops were seldom used in beer, but that’s another blog post (hint hint!).
After a year of aging, each barrel of Paardebloem will be unstacked and have its contents sampled for quality (my favorite part). Brewmaster Kevin Templin then decides which barrels portray the ideal characteristics for the final product. The chosen barrels have their contents blended and warm filtered into a small conditioning tank where the happy beer sits until bottling day.
Bottling day is a magical event in its own right. The entire brew crew is consumed with the task of hand filling, capping, labeling, and packaging this beer baby we have all so lovingly doted on for a year. It’s the equivalent of our beer child growing up and shipping off to college. We’re beaming with pride, and will certainly be sad when she’s gone (or sold out). But revisiting a cellared bottle or two in a few months or even years will encourage pleasant memories of our darling beer child. At least we always know there will be a new one to fuss over next year! *sigh*
Back to the process, Paardebloem is blended with Champagne yeast and priming sugar before bottling so bottle conditioning can take place. The new yeast consumes the sugar, creating CO2 and alcohol. The CO2 cannot escape the bottle, so it carbonates the beer. This process occurs in a special temperature controlled room where the yeast can be active and do their thing.
Once the beer has reached the desired carbonation level, they are hand dipped in green wax. It’s fun to dip the first ten, but the last 1100 are quite a task. We gladly take turns. Really though, it’s a cool job.
Finally, our Paardebloem is allowed to chill in the cold room for several days before resting briefly on a shelf in the beer store fridge. Many are actually snached up before hitting the shelves, being distributed straight from the box to eager arms and smiling faces at the beer store entrance.
If you intend to be one of the lucky few, you best be early! Paardebloem goes on sale Saturday 4/23/16 at 11am at the Red Rock Beer Store – 443 N 400 W. Parking is limited and a line will form early. If you can’t make it, are too late to get any, or simply want more, sit down at one of our three restaurants to enjoy a bottle with your meal. It’s best to call ahead to insure your desired location has the good stuff you’re looking for.
And that’s it. Paardebloem is out of our hands and into your glass. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed helping make it. Thank you all for making this beer a success!
SEE YOU IN THE MORNING!