One of the best-worst things about Milwaukee’s Craft Beer Renaissance is that the Cream City now has so many breweries it can be tough to keep up with all the great beers everyone is releasing. The downside is that I can’t drink new beers as fast as they are released; the upside is that if I haven’t been to a brewery for a few weeks, when I visit again they have two or three new beers on tap. Plus, this glut of new beers means I always have a reason to head out and drink some beer.
It was this mission of sampling new beers that took me down to meet Kevin Wright of Third Space Brewing.
On my first visit to Third Space, I was impressed by Kevin’s super drinkable, perfectly balanced West-Coast style IPA, Pale Ale, and Kolsch, but knowing of his experience at Hangar 24, it seemed likely that at least the IPA and Pale Ale were beers similar to ones he’d crafted dozens of time before. I loved these beers, but I wasn’t surprised that they were great.
Driving home from my first visit, I just kept wondering, “what else is this man capable of?” But after my latest visit I’m wondering, “what isn’t this man capable of brewing?”
In the month since I first visited Third Space, Kevin has been busy, adding two beers to his already stellar line-up. Mocha Java Porter and Unite The Clans.
I started with Unite The Clans, a scotch ale. At 5.8% ABV, this was not the heavy-bodied, excessively robust kind of Scotch Ale that, like a gruff highlander, can only be tolerated in small doses (unless you have a taste for such things). Instead, this Scotch Ales was complex yet drinkable, making interesting use of Cara Rye, which, I learned from Kevin, is a relatively rare caramel rye malt. This is interesting because, although we typically associate rye with darker, malt-driven beers, it is not typically malted dark. The Cara Rye malt builds complex, roasty flavors that work with the herbal, woody notes of the classic English hops, Fuggles, to create a beer more along the lines of a Scottish gentleman: certainly robust, with real depth, yet genteel. The kind of man who is as comfortable wandering the Scottish moors as he is navigating a drawing room or speaking in Parliament. And like that gentleman, Kevin’s Scotch Ale is a beer you’d want to spend some time with, getting to know well enough to appreciate its layers, knowing you’d never tire of it.
My palate whetted, I eagerly dove into Kevin’s Mocha Java Porter. I am a big fan of porters partly because I love how their working class background so wonderfully echos Milwaukee’s, and partly because I think they are the remedy to some of the problems presented by many of the bigger Stouts so often prized in today’s craft beer market. Porters can offer the same complex coffee, bitter chocolate notes, and the same balancing sweetness, without the heavy body or beasty ABV of some stouts. Porters also provide a complex base that brewers can play off of through the use of specialty grains or adjuncts.
Enter Third Space Brewing’s Mocha Java Porter. I love how Kevin worked with two, closely related adjuncts, cacao and coffee. This seems typical of his style. As a brewer, he knows how to achieve more with a few basics — in this case yeast, water, grain, cacao, and coffee — than some guys who barrel age everything with coconut and whatever they found in the bulk spices section of the local co-op.
As an example, consider how adding coffee to a beer complicates the process of brewing.
Typically brewers avoid using coffee like a spice, adding it at the end of the boil, because this tends to extract bitter, astringent flavors from the coffee. This is also why most baristas like to brew with water that is slightly cooler than boiling.
Some brewers who use coffee in their beer cold-brew the coffee and then add it into the beer after fermentation has ended. While this method can work great, it presents a risk of both reducing the body of the finished beer and lending it a watered-down character. Brewers who add coffee using this method must brew in a way that accounts for the coffee added to the finished beer, which isn’t always that easy.
Brewing his Mocha Java Porter, Kevin took a different approach. Using Stone Creek’s Cream City Blend — ground just as he picked it up — Kevin brewed the coffee directly in the fermented beer. The effect is a stimulating brew of solid body, pleasing warmth, and slight spice, all of which blend into the light, roasty character of the porter. In effect, Kevin managed to walk a very fine line with this beer, crafting a wonderfully drinkable Porter that balances malt and adjuncts perfectly and is just super sessionable. Though Kevin himself uses a different term — something he picked from a Welsh professor at the UC-Davis Master Brewing Program — Moreish.
1.(informal) (of food) causing a desire for more: this beer is very moreish
Moreish. I couldn’t think of a better term to describe every beer I’ve had from Third Space.
I’ll take another!