red lion inn blog
Stories and glimpses from around the Red Lion Inn
The Lion’s Ale: A Beer is Born
Beer is important to us here at The Red Lion Inn. From our humble beginnings as a stagecoach stop and tavern, to the opening of the Lion’s Den after Prohibition was repealed, we have served beer, and lots of it: around 20,000 gallons a year or 128,000 imperial pints. We are fortunate to have 34 Craft Breweries in Massachusetts and 3 located right here in the Berkshires. Wandering Star Craft Brewery in Pittsfield, the Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington, and in October of 2012 Big Elm Brewing in Sheffield opened. Bill and Christine Heaton of Big Elm met while working at Victory brewing in PA. They soon married and opened Pittsfield Brew Works in Pittsfield. Tiring of the restaurant business, they sold Pittsfield Brew Works and began planning a brewery-only project.
We started carrying their beers as soon as they were available. One of the perks of small town living is that the beer delivery person is usually the brewer just as the man or woman delivering our vegetables usually just picked them hours before. Bill is very passionate about beer and when we discussed the type of beer we were looking for he suggested brewing one especially for us. Shying away from super hoppy IPAs we discussed flavor profiles and decided a traditional English amber ale best fit with The Red Lion Inn — a beer you can imagine Colonists drinking while discussing the Monarchy or more recent guests debating Red Sox vs. Yankees.
So on a snowy day in February a group of us headed to Sheffield to assist in the inaugural brewing of Lion’s Ale. Myself, Food and Beverage Director Brian Alberg, long-time Barmen Patrick Flynn and Bob Hardiman, and even our General Manager Bruce Finn joined in on the fun. The wort (grain and malt that has steeped) was boiling when we arrived. We took a quick tour and went right to work. We measured specific gravity (the density relative to water, to help gauge sugar levels and potential alcohol levels) added the hops, and Brian even got to clean out the mash tun!
Making beer is thirsty work. While waiting for the wort to boil we sampled the Big Elm lineup. The IPA was very hoppy and assertive, 413 is a farmhouse ale brewed with local honey and spices, and the Gerry Dog Stout is a robust oatmeal stout. We were even able to taste some of the limited edition Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrel aged beers, delicious but don’t drink too many.
Fermentation is a little like baking or pregnancy. We think the ingredients will make a great product but we can’t be sure until it’s done cooking. Fast-forward to March 17th, St. Patty’s Day (an appropriate day to release a new beer), and the moment of truth.
It’s perfect (at least we think so) a smooth, malty, rich yet very drinkable amber ale.