Blast from the past

Ballantine's back; plus, a slew of brew news
By LOU PAPINEAU  |  August 27, 2014


Two years ago in our “Gateway to beer heaven” compendium, Chuck Borkoski, the VP/GM of Elevated Spirits, rhapsodized about the wonders of Ballantine India Pale Ale , the legendary craft brew precursor which debuted in 1878. For decades, it was a unique presence in the US market — storied beer scribe Michael Jackson praised its “thick, rocky head, delightfully hoppy nose, powerful and lasting bitterness, extremely firm full body, superb balance and soft natural carbonation” — but the public’s growing thirst for light lagers, and a string of acquisitions (it was bought by Falstaff, which then absorbed by Pabst) and contract brewing (including a stint at Narragansett in Cranston) literally diluted the brand, which used to be aged for a year in oak storage tanks. But now Pabst is rebooting the IPA. Pabst’s master brewer, Gregory Deuhs, was tasked with conjuring the classic beer. “I began this project with a simple question: ‘How would Peter Ballantine make his beer today?’ There wasn’t a ‘secret formula’ in anyone’s basement we could copy, so I conducted extensive research looking for any and all mentions of Ballantine India Pale Ale, from the ale’s processing parameters, aroma and color, alcohol and bitterness specifications. I had the advantage of actually being able to speak with people who drank Ballantine back in the day. Their feedback was crucial to ensuring that the hoppy, complex flavor that was revered for over a hundred years was front and center in my recipe.” After two years and more than two dozen five-gallon test batches made at his Milwaukee home, Deuhs had his eureka moment. The final product combines four malts and eight hops, plus the hop oil that was key to its enticing aromatics. Ballantine will be available any day now in six-packs and bombers and on tap. Cheers to retro-craft!

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