This one goes way back to the days when Boom Island Brewing Co. was a distant dream. I had been brewing at home for several years and was an avid runner. My daily running route took me around Lake Harriet in Southwest Minneapolis. It was the perfect distance to take in a dose of my favorite and newly discovered podcast, Basic Brewing Radio. Having grown up in Arkansas, the sounds of the voices of host James Spencer and partner in crime, Steve Wilkes, were like being back home. Many of the topics covered on those early episodes have stuck with me throughout the years. Until this day, I still refer brewing friends to the two cleaning and sanitizing episodes from March of 2007. I can vividly remember the episode from July 2nd, 2009 while on the train from Brussels to Leuven as Ken Grossman from Sierra Nevada spoke on the importance of yeast management and lab skills. Another favorite of mine is the June 28, 2007 episode which had Peter Bouckaert, speaking on the of art and purpose of brewing.
A couple of months ago, I was scrolling through the recent episodes to see what I may have missed while on our most recent trip to Belgium when I came across James’ recent Basic Brewing Video episode where he visits a sorghum molasses operation in Cane Hill, AR. He then proceeds to take that sorghum and use it in something of a Belgian strong blond ale. Instead of using candy sugar, he substituted in the sorghum syrup. I looked at the calendar and realized the Homebrew Con 2017 was coming to Minneapolis this year and voila, a collaboration was born. I reached out to James to find out if he would be interested in sharing a few details regarding the brew so we could brew a commercial batch of it for the conference. He was fully onboard!
Then came my first problem. Where does one buy authentic, bulk Sorghum molasses in Minnesota? I haven’t seen a stalk of sorghum since I was a kid in Arkansas. Sorghum is not exactly cold hardy plant. I did some research and found out that there is actually a national association of Sorghum syrup producers. These guys point out that much of what we see advertised as sorghum molasses has actually had cane or beet sugar added to the concoction along the way. Members of the National Sweet Sorghum Producers & Processors Association produce their syrup from 100% sorghum pressings.
Come to find out, there is a producer just south of here in Iowa. Maasdam Sorghum Mills in Lynnville IA was able to send up 50#’s of the sweet syrup for our batch. Into the kettle it went along with a healthy dose of Belgian Pilsner malt and some malted wheat, and we were up and brewing. The beer rang in at 8.7% ABV after several weeks in the fermenter. We kegged it up and you will be able to find it pouring at the Homebrew Conference from June 15-17th. On the 17th of June, we will have it pouring at the Boom Island taproom paired up with an amazing Crawfish Boil from 1-9pm! I am looking forward to meeting up with James and having a glass or two with you! Cheers!!!
James and Kevin will be doing a podcast and tasting on their Sorghum Molasses Tripel during Homebrew Conference 2017.
More readings about sorghum and recipes.