(Erin Schultz is the first guest blogger on Marieatfourpeaks.com. A couple weeks back, we were sitting at a meeting, and she told me about this program. It was new. It was cool. And I haven’t heard of any other local breweries doing something like this. We arranged a Scope, but she provided me with this write-up that had to be shared as it is chalk full of information about an underappreciated bar ingredient. Enjoy! MMR)
Four Peaks Craft Bitters Program
A Brief History of Bitters
Bitters started around 1700’s in London as a hangover cure, mixed with canary wine. Many original uses for bitters were medicinal. By 1750, they started mixing the bitters with burnt brandy, which is the beginning of one of the first cocktails mixed with bitters.
Although started in Europe, cocktail bitters gained more popularity in colonial America. The word cocktail describes a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.
Bitters themselves are aromatic flavoring agents made from roots, bark, fruit peels, seeds, spices, herbs, flowers, and botanicals in high-proof alcohol. Tasted by alone bitters may often taste bitter or bittersweet, but bitters is not a particular flavor profile and has a wide variety of flavors. Therefore, bitters have become a more like a spice cabinet for bartenders.
Craft Cocktails Come to Four Peaks Brewery
Two years ago, with the help of Jason Asher from Young’s Market Company, Four Peaks started its new cocktail program enveloping the idea of making craft cocktails that bring the brewery into a cocktail glass. We loved the idea of marrying beer and liquor, as they go through a similar process. The mix of beer with cocktails has been around since the early nineteenth century, but until the last decade or so, beer didn’t get the recognition it deserved in what it could provide to a cocktail.
Going through multiple Four Peaks specific craft cocktails that include many different varieties of simple syrups, shrubs, tinctures, based off of our beer. I thought why not bring the profiles of our beer into yet another bar spice, bitters.
A Sirius Start
I started with one of my favorite beers, Four Peaks Sirius Black Russian Imperial Stout. I spent a few hours with one of our head brewers, Melissa Osbourne, talking about the process of making Sirius Black, and the flavor profiles included. This particular strong beer is bourbon barrel aged and has notes of coffee, licorice, orange, and vanilla. How great of a beer to start with?
I worked with Melissa and Andy Ingram, one of our owners, to dial these bitters in to reflect the correct notes that they want to come out in the beer, and voila!
Standing today, we have Sirius Black Russian Imperial Stout bitters, Hopsquatch Barley Wine bitters, Double Pumpkin Strong Porter bitters, Odelay Mexican Chocolate Brown Ale bitters, and more to come.
A Product of Patience and Passion
So, I am not a professional at making bitters, and had a lot of reading and research to guide me. I currently do bitters the old and long way. I have done my bitters in a sous-vide, and although quicker and successful, it tends to lack the depth that natural infusion creates. Each bitters version takes a month to make and produces a large mason jar of product.
I start with the profile ingredients and a high proof alcohol of any kind, I pair the alcohol to go with the beer profile. Some, ingredients I use from the brewery, and I will dry citrus peels or peppers to use. I let that sit for two weeks and shake it every day.
At two weeks, I strain the liquid and separate the solids and liquids. I take the solids and add 1 cup of water, and then boil/simmer this for 10 minutes. I let this sit in a jar or one week, so now I have two jars that are sitting for a week that I shake every day.
One week later, I strain the solid containers for any liquid, throw out any solids remaining, and combine the two jars. I fine strain these, cheesecloth/coffee filter/or centrifuge, and then add two tablespoons of beer infused simple syrup. I let this sit for a week, shaking it every day. One week later, I fine strain or centrifuge again, to get any remaining remnants leftover.
And, there we have it, Four Peaks Bitters Program.
A Glimpse Into the Future
We have just started this, and it is growing and becoming more refined. We are using these bitters in upcoming cocktails, and they are available to mix with anything we would like to serve. Each new seasonal beer lends to new bitters. In the long run, our beer has found yet another way to find a solid spot in the bar and shine.