The Making of Main Street Ale
In the last three years, Fort Wayne has seen a resurgence of suds. Area beer drinkers enjoy the variety of craft beers, but GnomeTown, part of the Hoppy Gnome family, is the only craft brewery in town where — since 2016 — you can make your own. Mike Flaherty, GnomeTown Brewing’s head brewer, is ready to show you how.
“One of our owners saw the concept in California, and we decided to create our own program here. We worked closely with brewers at Saugatuck Brewing in Michigan,”
A wide variety of ales, stouts and porters can be created. Eight bright copper-clad steam jacketed kettles offer a highly-efficient system, which helps reduce the time it takes to brew. About three hours later, you’ll be the proud owner of roughly 7.75 gallons of your own special beer.
Then, around three weeks after brew day, the beer is ready for bottling. GnomeTown can fill a keg, but the most fun is bottling and labeling your beer (approximately 40 22-ounce bottles). The recipe is saved, so if you like what you brewed, it’s easy to replicate.
As a home brewer, I have a lot of interest in this sudsy beverage. I suspect most beer drinkers aren’t so interested in how it’s made, but I think we should appreciate how grains, water, hops and yeast make the finished product in our raised glasses.
Fort Wayne magazine approached me with the idea of brewing its signature beer at GnomeTown. The result is Main Street Ale, the official craft beer of Fort Wayne magazine. It’s quaffable and lightly-hopped with an additional infusion of local honey for a tinge of flavor that compliments the light body and nominal (if any) bitterness. Main Street Ale represents the creativity within both the city itself and the magazine’s home at 600 W. Main Street.
All brews start with hot water. We used 6.25 quarts of 164º water for the mash-in to breaks down the enzymes in the grain and make a sweet-tasting tea called wort. After adding the hops and honey, the wort was boiled for an hour.
While the steam was rising over the boil pot, I sat down with Flaherty to talk about the recipe for Main Street Ale.
We discussed what to expect in the flavor profile. This particular beer only needed three weeks for fermentation and to settle any leftover grain and hop residues. The finished Main Street Ale has a light aroma, a light golden color and a low 5.8 percent ABV (Alcohol By Volume), which makes it perfect for summer.
“The choice of ingredients in this ale creates a light and refreshing taste, and you may notice subtle floral notes,” he said. “This is a great recipe for a crisp, refreshing beer to enjoy as the summer starts heating up.”
As an all-grain brewer, this was the first time I worked with extract, which is roasted barley rendered down to a sweet syrup. Flaherty makes the GnomeTown brewing beers all-grain, and guest brewers do the grain/extract method.
Six-row malted barley has good protein and enzyme content and contains less carbohydrate. For a little color, we chose Carmel Crystal 20 L. “It’s a lighter roast and tends to be a little sweeter,” said Flaherty.
Extract brewing speeds things up by a few hours. For this brew, Flaherty suggested Pilsen LME because it produces a very crisp, clean, pale-colored wort with malty flavor. This is essential for building a complex character without adding a lot of color.
Since fermenting barley makes sugars, it’s always fun to think of creative additions, thus the honey from local Southwest Honey. “Quality natural honey can add some subtle flavors and character to the beer even though the sugars ferment out. Most other readily-fermentable sugars do not add any additional character to the beer,” said Flaherty.
The final addition to the recipe, Cascade hops, was added during the boil. Relatively low in IBUs (International Bittering Units), Cascade is popular with craft brewers, especially to add floral and citrus aromas.
As mentioned, GnomeTown’s guest brewing program is always done with the extract methods. “Brewing with extract saves time and streamlines the process while giving more predictable results,” said Flaherty.
Brewers can provide an existing recipe, or Flaherty and Assistant Brewer Brandon England can create one. Brewers get all the grains, extract, hops and yeast to brew the beer as well as supplies for bottling and labeling. Brewers submit a name and label design. Everything is included in the $225 fee. To set up a brew date and for more information, Hoppy Gnome/GnomeTown Brewing, 260.422.0070, hoppygnome.com