Sunday, October 7, 2012

Heavy Seas Plank II

Craft brewers use wood in a variety of ways.  The most common method is to age the beer in wooden barrels.  If those barrels happen to have been used before, such as to age red wine or hard liquor, all the better. Brewers rely upon the past usage of those barrels to add depth to the flavor of their beer.  While barrels may be the most common way to use wood in the production of beer, but it is not the only way.

At Heavy Seas, in Baltimore, Maryland, the brewers have developed another innovative way to use wood into the brewing of a beer.  This method involved adding wooden planks to the fermenter.  For months, the Heavy Seas crew experimented with beers and woods to achieve a certain style with certain tastes.  The experiments produced Plank II, which was brewed with six foot planks of yellow poplar and eucalyptus woods.  The planks had been retified, which involves a a thermal process developed in the construction industry by John Gasparine.  The retification process helps to increase the flavor of the wood.  Once they receive the planks, the brewers placed them in the fermenter with a base beer to age for half of a year.  The Heavy Seas brewers called this process "deconstructing the barrel," which contributes flavors to the beer in a different way than barrel aging or using toasted wood.

Of course, the brewers used more than just wood to make the Plank II.  They used Hallertau hops, along with a variety of malts, including German 2-Row Pilsner, Vienna, Munich Light, Munich Dark and Carafa II.  Together, all of these ingredients produce a beer that Heavy Seas describes as a "velvety doppelbock."  

The Plank II fits within the guidelines of a doppelbock.  This style of beer is generally dark brown in color, strong maltiness in aroma, and a malt flavor with a strong impression of alcoholic strength.  The Plank II has a dark brown, almost cola color.  The five malts used to make the beer are definitely present in the aroma and flavor. 

Yet, this beer is not just an ordinary doppelbock.  The use of the yellow poplar and eucalyptus woods provide this doppelbock with its own unique aroma and flavors. According to the brewers, the eucalyptus wood lends notes of chocolate, balanced with a hint of toffee and smoky dryness from the yellow poplar.  I think that the use of these woods also provides flavors that give the impression that this beer is actually more like a bourbon.

The brewers recommend pairing the Plank II with smoked meats and German chocolate cake.  The richness of the beer clearly will complement the richness of the foods.  Personally, I think the Plank II is also a good sipping beer, enjoyed best by itself.

I found this beer at a local beer store, although I can't recall how much it cost. However, Heavy Seas' 22 ounce beers usually sell between $7.99 and $9.99 a bottle.  Regardless of the cost, the Plank II is definitely worth a try.  


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