Fellas, It Just Doesn't Get Much Better Than This!
A real-life braumeister creates an EverQuest II-themed beer.
by Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle
I enjoy high-quality, unique beers like some people enjoy Renaissance paintings. While college friends were pounding swill and sleeping away the weekends, I much preferred a quiet chat with a few close friends, enjoying a random selection from our favorite tavern's sizable beer list. I still, on occasion, will travel far and pay big a few favorites by the case when I can't find my McEwan's Scotch Ale, Beamish, or Franziskaner Weiss at the local establishments.
That's why when Dan Riley of Fresno, California emailed me, asking if I'd like to try some of his EQ2-themed beer (dubbed "Blackburrow Gnoll Stout" after the recipe jealousy guarded in the deepest recesses of the Blackburrow dungeon), I did the little happy beer dance I usually reserve for Steelers touchdowns.
Beer and MMORPGs, my favorite social vices!
Truth be told, there's few better ways to render a TTH editor useless than to send him beer. I steeled myself; this was about good investigative journalism, right? (hic) When the UPS guy dropped off the beautifully clinking package last week, I hustled it inside, pulled out a handful of bottles (one for me, one for the fridge, one for me... German-Americans have the unique racial tradition of enjoying good beer warm or cold), popped a cap, and settled in.
Since the tele-taste internet protocol is still in development, I'll put on my beer connoisseur pseudo-poetic hat and walk you through the Blackburrow Gnoll Stout experience. Crack open a bottle of BGs, but don't dare drink this beer from the bottle- you'll miss out on the chocolatey aroma! Pour, and BGS forms a robust head of foam when emptied into your favorite Pilsner glassware, but try a brandy snifter to enjoy the full-bodied aroma.
Fans of lite and "ultra" beers beware, Blackburrow Gnoll Stout is not for the feint of heart. First, BGS is a stout, and if you don't know what a stout is, have a Guiness! (Well, at least until you can get some BGS!) In any case, like any good stout, this beer is pitch dark, has just a tinge of dryness, and is absolutely packed with flavor. Speaking of flavor, there's a hickory-smoked tang that hits you like fireworks with your first sip; you sense it, then you feel it. It may not sit well with some, but one need only think of a quiet, country evening in front of a crackling fireplace to prepare the palate. Despite this stout's glancing dryness, you'll discover a wet, fresh texture after the billowing wave of flavor. Swallow, and BGs offers a crisp, clean finish with no unpleasant aftertaste.
Whew, now I'm thirsty! If you're likewise at work and drooling for some good beer, please accept my apologies! Let's quickly move to an interview with the brewer of this savory stout and try to put our beer cravings on hold momentarily!
TTH-Ethec: "These boots were made for..." was the first heritage quest I did, and the amount of travel for that irksome dwarf in Ardent Needle was memorable. Were you inspired by the second step of the mid-20s quest, or did you discover the Blackburrow brewery, located by swimming through a secret chamber in Blackburrow basement, earlier in the game?
Dan Riley: Well, I accidentally discovered the brewery when I was doing my level 20 ranger [armor] quests. Very cool. Much better then in EQ1. Then again for that darn Dwarf. I still haven’t found that griffon. But it was really the EQ1 version that got me started. I always wondered, "what would this legendary drink taste like, and why did that poor bartender die for it." So yes, my stout is all based on the pesky gnolls.
TTH-Ethec: What class, level, and server do you play? How long have you played EverQuest 2?
Dan Riley: I play on Lucan D’lere. Along with my wife, father-in-law, brother-in-law, cousin, 2 nephews, and a few of my real life friends. We also have a Ventro server to add to the fun and chaos. I play a level 35 Inquisitor, a Shadowknight, and a crafter. I started playing EQ2 at launch. But had to stop for 6 months due to real life (kids, work etc.) Now I have been back for about 3 months with these new characters. Total EQ1 time was about 5 years. I would also like to add, that my wonderful wife has played EQ1 and now EQ2 with me since before we were even married.
TTH-Ethec: Are you a "provisioner" in Norrath as well?
Dan Riley: I am actually a level 35 armorsmith. My wife has taken off with the provisioner. She cooks more in the game the in real life hehe.
TTH-Ethec: The recipe is truly original. How many sabretooth brewmasters in the lowest nether-regions of Blackburrow did you have to knock down to loot it? :)
Dan Riley: Mmmmmm, (goes and checks the post in West Freeport.) 1265 Gnolls. I am guessing about 100+ of those has got to be brewers. BUT, it was the top dog that had the recipe locked in his chest.
TTH-Ethec: Roleplaying aside, I think alcohol and MMOs go together like coffee and an early morning. Do you, like me and many of my pick-up groupmates, play under the influence, or are Blackburrow Gnoll Stout and EverQuest 2 best enjoyed separately?
Dan Riley: Well, I normally keep a keg in the fridge for any occasion. But for player EQ2, my friends and I tend to go through plenty of glasses on a Friday or Saturday night. Let me tell you, there is nothing funnier then listening to a bunch of drunks on Ventrilo trying to dungeon crawl. Especially with a buzzed 62 year old prior-Navy Father-in-law, who's swearing at an orc that's it’s kicking his ass =P.
Now, when I really want to add stress to the group, I just play my healer under the influence.
TTH-Ethec: LOL, well, I add stress to my groups just by showing up. How long have you been brewing beer?
Dan Riley: About 3 years now.
TTH-Ethec: Most people don't realize how artful brewing is; how one mistake on time, temperature, ingredient quanties or composition can separate award-winning beer from a lip-puckering, headache-inducing glimmering potion of the gag. Could you briefly walk the uninitiated through the brewing process?
Dan Riley: Sure, but I gotta tell you, the first batch of beer I ever made was TOTALLY undrinkable. Then we had a few bottles explode, beer shooting to the ceiling, and some pea green ale that just might have killed a person.
I begin by making a yeast starter one to two days before I even begin brewing. This will allow me to grow the yeast to a volume needed to begin fermentation in less then 24 hours. I start brewing by completely sterilizing all my equipment. I use an Iodine wash solution and leave no corner unwashed. The fastest way to spoil beer is to allow bacteria to grow inside the fermentor. Next, I bring my water in my mash tun to 170 degrees. Then mix in your grains until it looks like a huge bowl of oatmeal. Check the temperature and adjust the heat until the oatmeal is 150 degrees. Cover and let sit for one hour. Now fill another pot of at least the same size with water and heat to 180 degrees. When the hour is up, you will rinse the water over the grains slowly and collect into a third pot. This should take about 30 – 45 mins to rinse. Now, you will boil the collected liquid (now called "wort") and add your first set of hops. Keep a slow boil for 50 minutes and add your second set of hops. Boil for another 10 minutes, and then turn off the heat. I use a counter flow system with an oxygen injector to cool the wort as fast as possible. No matter the size, you want to try to get the finished wort to 70 degrees in less then 30 minutes.
This wort is then collect into a fermentor, and your yeast is pitched in. A small amount is taken for a start reading on the alcohol, a lid is applied, and an airlock in placed to keep bacteria out. At 4 weeks, I take a small sample and check the gravity. If it is finished, I rack the now finished beer into a priming tank. Add corn sugar, and begin to bottle. I used to force carbonate with CO2, but BGS needs aging time in the bottle to get its mellow blended taste. Let the bottle sit at room temperature for 2 more weeks. Then enjoy, either warm or cold. It goes great either way.
TTH-Ethec: So how much time, from buying the hops to capping the bottles, does it take to brew Blackburrow Gnoll Stout?
Dan Riley: I usually allow 8 weeks from start to finish. This is why I make large batches. I also tend to have a batch in the fermentor as I am drinking another.
TTH-Ethec: Is it accurate to descibe BGS as an "American stout"?
Dan Riley: Well, (scratches head) yes, it would be classed as an American style. It takes into account the BBQ style of American style cooking and flavor. You should really try it with a big juicy steak, or (drool) my favorite!!! RIBS!
TTH-Ethec: The biggest question: is Blackburrow Gnoll Stout comercially available at present? Sometime soon? If not, what about letting us in on the recipe? I can think of quite a few players that would enjoy tipping back some EQ2-themed hops.
Dan Riley: You’re about the 100th person that has asked me both questions. In short, I am planning on starting commercially before the end of the year. There are two taverns already that want to carry it, and I haven’t even tried yet. My ability is about 50 cases (1,200 bottles) a run, and can be brewed every day. Give me a few more months, and once I have the copyrights in place, I will be more then happy to post the full recipe for all those home brewers like me =). We are also looking into other brew types. So far "Ogre Swill" is coming up, and "Fayberry Wine" as a wine cooler type. We also have plans to custom print labels on bottles to reflect a person’s character. How would you like to have a case labeled "Ethec’s Brew" with a picture of your character on it? OHHHHH and one more thing. I still need to get the approval of SOE – EQ to use the name "Blackburrow Gnoll Stout" on the bottles. Otherwise, I am going to have to list it under my other label. So far they have not answered my email, but I hope somebody up there in EQ2 reads this article.
TTH-Ethec: Custom-labelled beer, very cool. Regarding getting permission from SOE- we hope so too! Thanks much for the beer and the interview, Dan. We wish you many levels of success, commercially and in-game!
Have brewing questions for Dan? Want some Blackburrow Gnoll Stout to call your own? Save up your trinkgeld, contact me, and we'll see what Dan's brewing!
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