About My Wedding Beers (as best as I can remember)

Leading up to mine and Eliza’s wedding this past weekend we had a lot of decisions to make in regards to what we were going to do for the reception.  We ended up choosing to do a potluck style reception (a wedding reception style we’d encountered a few times before and found really enjoyable).  As a major supplement to all the delicious things our guest brought we bought and had smoked half a hog from Greenbrier Farms (it was delightful).  Of course another important aspect in regards to wedding receptions is having something for people to drink.  We knew that we were going to be buying a bunch of non-alcoholic drinks, as well as a lot of wine and champagne (of which we still have a lot left), but for the beer front we decided to utilize one of my favorite hobbies; the art of homebrewing.

Prior to coming up on making wedding beers it had been over eight months since I had last brewed.  This was mostly due to having recently moved and spent a lot of time and energy on getting things (like a giant garden) established in the new abode.  It was never intended to be a permanent hiatus, however, I had not had any specific plans for upcoming brews.  As such, it was a lot of fun to sit down and plan out beers for our wedding celebration. 

Homebrewing even one beer is a time-consuming process, but trying to brew six five gallon beers in a relatively short amount of time is an all-out  effort.  But I greatly enjoyed it.  Partially because I hadn’t brewed any beer for a long while and also partially because it gave me an opportunity to try some styles I had never done before.  We also enlisted the help of our friend, and wedding bartender, Brian (aka Untamed Beer) to brew us up a batch of special Oktoberfest Lager.

So, here I will tell about the beers I brewed.  I cannot, off the top of my head, remember all the ingredients, so I will focus more on style and unique experiences in regards to the beers that appeared at my wedding.

Wedding Drinks Blackboard

This is the list of the "Adult" beverages for our wedding.

1). Untamed Oktoberfest:  I’ll give good credit where good credit is deserved.  Our friend Brian is a fantastic homebrewer (as well as the recently elected President of the Upstate Brewtopians homebrewers group.  Congrats Mr. President!).  I have had the wonderful pleasure over the past couple of years brewing a good number of beers with Brian, as well as enjoying many more that he has done on his own.  It was with great excitement when Brian agreed to brew a beer for our wedding, and even further excitement when he told me that we was planning on doing an Oktoberfest lager.  Lagering is not the most accessible form of brewing for homebrewers as it requires very careful temperature control and a significantly longer brewing time.  As such most homebrewers I know stick to making ales.  Generally making ales presents no real issue as there is such a wide variety of ales that can be brewed.  But as an overall beer enthusiast, the idea of making a lager has always bene alluring.  Brian was lucky to come into ownership of a good chest freezer that he could convert into use for lagering.  Knowing the time requirements, and desiring to host an awesome Oktoberfest party at his house, Brian took on his first lager challenge.  He then repeated this recipe for our wedding.  Was it a risk having him brew and untested style for our wedding guests?  Perhaps.  But I assure you (and him repeatedly) that I had full faith in his brewing prowess.  My faith proved true and Brian produced a real bad ass beer.  I had the opportunity to drink some of his first batch the week before the wedding, and was very impressed.  The beer, to the best of my knowledge, was a delightful representation of the style.  People greatly enjoyed it at both Brian’s party and our wedding.  Having had a couple of glasses of it, I can’t wait to try Mr. Untamed Beer’s next efforts in lager land.  Thanks a bunch dude!  It was awesome.

2. Lordiza’s Pawpaw Wheat: As I said above I brewed six beers for the wedding (we also had a seventh that I’ll describe below).  Most of these I tried to keep simple, low-to-moderate alcohol levels, and within the margin of some popular standard styles.  However, as a brewer I’ve always enjoyed experimentation, and Eliza wanted to try something different, and so the first beer I’ll describe here was our Lordiza’s Pawpaw Wheat. 

I want to preface this beer by disclosing that I am not much of a fan of fruit beers.  Sure, I’ve had a few that I like okay.  I’ve also had some I’ve absolutely loathed.  More often than not however, beers flavored with fruit are just not what I am in the mood for when I want a beer (if I want an alcoholic drink with fruit flavor I am more inclined to turn to some mixed drink).  As such, I have not really bothered brew much in the way of fruit flavored beers over the years. The closest thing I’ve brewed to a fruit flavored beer, off the top of my head, would be my Smoked Habanero Imperial Stout (and that beer was all around a whole different beast).  So brewing a beer with fruit, especially a particularly strange fruit like pawpaw, was a new experience for me.

Pawpaws are not exactly the easiest fruit to deal with.  They have incredibly soft (almost melting) flesh that is borderline sickly sweet in smell and flavor.  Some people love their unique custardy vanilla flavor, others don’t.  For the most part I fall more into the don’t category, they are just a bit too rich for me (which considering the other rich things I like to it , it is kind of surprising).  However, I was up to the challenge and decided to give it a shot.  It would be additionally fun as we were planning to give away pawpaw saplings as wedding favors.

I chose a wheat style base because wheat beers tend to have lighter flavors, less defined bodies, and mild malt characteristics.  As such wheat beers tend to be ideal for pairing with fruit flavors, and many of the marketed variety of fruit beers are a wheat base.  I also just suspected that a wheat beer, with it sometimes banana like aspects, would pair well with the pawpaws unique flavor.  We needed a lot of pawpaw pulp for this beer. About 5 lbs worth which Eliza expertly separated from skin and seeds.  We added the fruit (pureed and pasteurized) to the secondary fermentation, letting it sit in the beer for about five days.  When we bottled this one we had to strain it twice due to the extreme amounts to sediment.

As an end result?  It definitely had pawpaw flavor.  The wheat base was very apparent as well.  From what I tried it wasn’t bad, though it isn’t something I think I would pursue to drink regularly.  Guests at the wedding seemed particularly interested in it, and of the 46 bottles we had, only one is left.  So all in all I will deem this one a success.

3. ESB:  I really enjoy the ESB style of beer.  ESBs are rarely very complex as far as beers go.  They mix moderate hops and malt characteristics with moderate levels of alcohol and a medium to dark coloration (though never stout or porter dark).  I find ESBs to often be good “safe” beers, not apt to be too difficult or challenging to anyones particular beer palate.  That is exactly what I was shooting for with mine.  I wanted a simple and accessible beer and I feel like that is what I got.  The color was lovely, and all the drinking experience provided a nice moderation.  This beer came out with the lowest alcohol content of the six I brewed, registering only about 4% abv, so it wasn’t even a high risk for extreme intoxication (unless somebody drank like a dozen of them).  My college friend Alisa, who came to the wedding, said she really enjoyed this one.  I will accept Alisa’s praise and call it a success.  I feel like this is a recipe I’d enjoy revisiting and tweaking a bit, maybe aiming for slightly more body, though it would be fun to try to keep it a session beer with low alcohol.

4. Pale Ale:  The funny thing about the Pale Ale I brewed was that it didn’t come out all that pale.  In fact, it many ways it seemed to be really close to the ESB.  The flavors were a little different, with a bit more hops characteristics and alcohol in the Pale Ale, but this was almost negligible.  I had one and it sated fine, not a particularly memorable beer, and not really adhering to its intended style, but drinkable.  I’d give this one something like a B for a grade. If I were to revisit it I’d look carefully at what grains I was using, as I know that all the malt extracts were light, to try to get a more pale color.  I’d also consider working on the hops schedule a bit better.  Pale Ales generally tend to have pretty pronounced hops characteristics (albeit not as pronounced as IPAs) and this one was lacking a bit in that way.

5. IPA:  Of all the beers I brewed for my wedding this was my favorite and it seemed to be a real crowd pleaser too.  I am further proud of this one because it was the first IPA I’ve ever brewed.  This is funny because I love the IPA style.  However, I think I always feel like it is a style a little overdone in homebrewing circles and so had avoided it until now.  So as my first shot at the style I am real pleased with the end results.  The IPA came out with a nice amber-ish color and a significant hops kick.  It was not an overwhelmingly alcoholic beer, ending at around 5.5% abv, but that doesn’t matter all that much.  To get the real good hops flavor, I dry hopped the beer for three days prior to bottling.  I didn’t have a hops bag so I just poured the hops right in and let them do their job.  They did it well.  Brian said he was really impressed by this one, and his priase is as good, if not significantly better, than most folks.  All around I am pleased with this one and look forward to brewing it again.

6: Whitbier:  Wheat beers are often a hard sell as a lot of people are not fond of their particular flavor (Bear says they taste like socks, Eliza calls a lot of them dumpster juice).  I love wheat beers and they are a style I have brewed often.  I have had what I consider a lot of success with them over the years, unfortunately the one for the wedding was not one of them.  It just didn’t work.  I think I needed more malt and probably some better specialty grains.  The coriander and orange peel I added did come through, but not very well.  This beer wasn’t undrinkable or foul, it just wasn’t terribly exciting, or all that good.  I have the most bottles of this left over, which is not surprising considering people’s general avoidance of wheat beers.  It wasn’t an absolute bomb but it wasn’t really a success either.  I’ll give it a C and leave it at that.

7. Oatmeal Stout: I love stouts.  The first beer I ever brewed was a stout.  I’ve brewed many more in this style since.  I knew I wanted a dark offering for my wedding beers and so a simple oatmeal stout seemed to make sense.  I don’t think this beer was bad (My dad and Uncle both really enjoyed it), however it did leave me a little underwhelmed.  It definitely could have used a bit more body and malt flavor, and while it was certainly a dark beer, I’d have liked it even darker.  Most of what displeases me with this one is an easy fix using a bit more specialty grains and dark malt extract.  I’ll definitely be brewing more stouts in the future, and next time I’ll pay closer attention to make the end result a little bit more to my stout expectation lever.

8. Smoked Wheat:  This was not a beer originally intended for wedding.  In fact, this was the last beer I had previously brewed before starting work on these wedding brews.  The Smoked Wheat was a collaboration effort between myself and Mr. Untamed Beer.  Really it was a very experimental beer to see how well we could smoke our own grains (very well it turns out).  Whereas Brian is very good at keeping his brewing to a schedule moving from primary fermentation to secondary to bottling/kegging, I am pretty horrible, especially when it comes to bottling.  I hate bottling.  It is unquestionably my least favorite aspect of brewing.  Really I just need to put some money aside to get some kegs and a keggerator so that I can be done with the whole bottling thing.  I’d probably be willing to brew a lot more often if I knew I no longer had bottling to deal with.  Due to my dislike of bottling I kept putting off the final process for my share of the smoked wheat and just let it keep sitting in the carboy.  First for a week, then a month, and then suddenly seven months had gone by.  Oops.  Some styles of beer can handle some aging, especially dark and malty styles like stouts and porters.  However, wheat beers are not generally thought of to be good aging beers.  That is why I was terribly surprised and pleased to find, after I finally did bottle the Smoked Wheat, that it was really quite delightful.  The smoked flavor had matured nicely and the beer had retained a nice body.  It is an interesting flavored beer, mixing the smokiness and the wheat (two flavors that are not often paired with one another).  Lynne (my new sister-in-law) really enjoys this one, as do I.  I consider this beer a lucky success.  It was further nice that, having put off bottling for so long, I had plenty to provide for the wedding as well. 

We also had hard cider provided by our friends John and Kirsten (which I didn’t get to try but heard was quite good) as well as a lot of wine and champagne (which I also haven’t really got to try, but we still have several cases of both wine and champagne so no worries right?  Won’t have to buy wine for a year or so).  All and all I think the beverage front was a shining success.  I think that those of our guests who do drink really enjoyed the opportunity to try a variety of different homebrewed beers, and I really enjoyed getting to get back into the whole brewing thing.  Can’t wait to brew my next beer now (though after bottling almost 300 bottles I can live to wait a little bit.  Fucking bottling, it sucks so much).


~ by Nathaniel on October 14, 2011.

One Response to “About My Wedding Beers (as best as I can remember)”

  1. […] Thanks for sharing Dan. You can read about my wedding brews in this blog post. […]

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