It’s finally here! Our first seasonal beer release, a secret known to few until today, is coming on tap when our doors open—just in time for Christmas and New Years! It’s dark, it’s roasty, and it’s everything mysterious and beautiful about beer that has been fermenting long days in the back of our brewery. We will let you be the judge of the flavor profile, but be warned: it might just knock you off your feet (literally) at 9.6% ABV! Continuing a four year tradition of crafting a high gravity holiday brew, Jerry and the team here at Spotted Dog Brewery are proud to release the Corruption Imperial Wheat for your tasting pleasure!
Without compromising the rich flavors, this year’s brew is a little more controlled than the first Imperial Wheat Jerry delivered to his family at Thanksgiving in 2011. The term “Imperial” is traditionally only applied to a special family of brews that register at or above 7% ABV and derive from the Russian Imperial Stout style developed in the 1800’s—but that first experimental batch was above 13% ABV! Talk about a beer that makes your toes tingle!
How exactly did that first batch get to be so strong? The technical answer is that the yeast in the recipe went to town on the extra sugar used to make an Imperial brew—which links us back to the origin of the Imperial Russian Stout style. While the specific breweries involved are hard to pin down, the beer exporters of London in the 1800’s found Porter lovers in the Baltic area, including the Russian royalty – thus the “Russian Imperial” part of the name. In a similar fashion to the evolution of Pale Ale to an IPA, the British Porters were given a little (or a lot) extra boost in the form of hops to embolden the flavor and sugar to increase the alcohol strength. There is a disagreement between many as to whether the alcohol content and flavor strength were increased to appeal to the vodka-drinking Russian market, or solely to stabilize and preserve the beer during transport on the seas. Who says it wasn’t both?
As you may have noticed, our synopsis of Russian Imperial Stout history has skipped over the “Stout” part of the name. With the increased alcohol content, high gravity Porters became known as Stout Porters and eventually the name was shortened to Stout.
So why have we chosen the name “Corruption” for our Imperial Wheat?
While it may seem strange to name our winter holiday seasonal after such an un-festive word, Jerry has good reason behind the name “Corruption.” Traditional Porters are brewed using barley, not wheat, and the majority of the sugars come from malted grains. In a nod to New Mexico colonial history where barley was not readily available, the Imperial recipe Jerry uses at Spotted Dog uses wheat and piloncillo Mexican sugar instead—what he calls a corruption of the traditional Russian Imperial Stout. One of the results of the ingredient swap that you may notice is a darker sweetness due to the unrefined nature of piloncillo instead of solely malted sugars from the grains.
We hope you enjoy the Corruption Imperial Wheat as much as Santa did—and please remember to always have a designated driver, especially when drinking like the Russian royalty!