Thursday, March 6, 2008

Big Empyrean News Break

I contacted Jim E. at Empyrean after I read the post at Beer Advocate wanting to confirm what was posted. Jim indicated that all this information would come out at the end of the month in a press release. He has given our blog the skinny and has allowed us to post it so here it goes in his words mostly.

We are looking at expanding into Sioux Falls and Council Bluffs – we are meeting with a couple of distributors in Sioux Falls the end of next week in no small part due to several retailers in that market asking for our beers. Our Fremont distributor also owns a distributorship in Council Bluffs – we’ve been putting off going into that market until we redo our labels to include the bottle redemption for Iowa. At any rate I’m estimating it will be May before we have beer for sale in either state – at this time we have no agreements and nothing is set in stone.

So it looks like this part of the rumor could become true if everything comes out, here is to hoping it does for IA and SD.

We will be releasing bottled Better World Belgian-style Wheat Ale in late April – it’s already out on draft and available in a few places in Lincoln and Omaha. For now it is not on tap at Lazlo’s and FireWorks but may join our permanent line up soon enough. We did a lot of experimentation with this style last year and the final version is near perfect in mine and Rich’s mind – it’s not a true Wit in that it contains no coriander or orange peel but it does use the Hoogarten/Celis yeast and chamomile flowers. Ferment temp is kept pretty low (a practice common with German hefe brewers, Rich picked it up over there in the 70’s) so it has a nice balance of wheat beer, citrus fruit and Belgian tangy character without the clove/banana or spice and citrus bomb aspects of a lot of Wits.

So this one was confirmed as well and it is already available in a few places. I hope I can convince the locals out here to carry it, we will see. I look forward to your opinions. The only Wheat beers I like are the Belgians, so this has a chance with me, but I am sure will be a big success as this state is pretty supportive of wheat beers in general.

We were considering axing the Chaco Canyon at this time last year but it is an integral part of several of our menu items (beer cheese soup, beer bread) also it saw a nice increase in bottle and draft sales last year. It’s not going anywhere.

This rumor has been busted. LOL

We’ve revamped all of our 6-pack packaging and it’s turned out to be very cool – we will finally be in a strong box that doesn’t fall apart if you pick it up wrong. Our labels also have been revamped and we are adding 12 packs of Third Stone and Burning Skye – all of this will hit the shelves in late April.
This is cool too, be on the look out for new labeling and packaging, 12 packs. Now if we can just get some cans so I can take them on the river. HA!

We have quit filtering all of our beers. Our yeast handling has improved dramatically over the years and with careful fermentation monitoring we have been able to get our beers to drop very bright. This has changed the character of our beer in a very subtle way - it’s a little fuller and our hop aromas are better (especially on beers like the Gold and ESB). The ESB is the most noticeable as the Marris Otter throws a lot of protein haze that filtering used to remove. It looks cloudy as hell now until it warms up to about 45 or 50 (perfect drinking temp in my mind). We are very excited to have our beers be more in a natural state and to be done working with filter media which was expensive, bad for the environment and contributed to our waste stream.

Now this is what I am talking about. I am really excited about this and I imagine a lot of beer geeks will be too. I will be interested to see the difference in the beers as well as the taste. I applaud this move very much. It could be risky in a crystal beer world but it looks like they have really tried to take that into account and except for the ESB, shouldn't notice a clarity issue.

Lastly we have a new 6-head Meheen bottle filler being built for us – they’ve improved this machine greatly in the 10 years since we bought our current filler. The new filler should drive our bottle airs down to near nothing and will greatly improve our shelf stability – particularly with unfiltered beer. We’ll be doing our first run on this machine toward the end of March.

Ever growing and evolving, this is a good sign for beer in our state and I hope the good fortune that Empyrean has had through the years will trickle down to all the other great craft brewers in our state.

Thanks again to Jim and his forthrightness regarding these issues. We are very lucky the brewers in this state are so great to work with and are willing to give up this information before they intended.

So what do you all think about these changes?


Brendan said...

I love it.

Empyrean is the Best BREWERY to work for. Not only is the ESB one of nebraska's best beers, it tastes even better after moving 2300lb pallets of Marris to the brewhouse for an upcoming brew.
The Wit is a fantastic beer. Crisp. Delicious and with a moderate starting gravity I can have a few an not be a blubbering idiot.
My personal quest is to go to bars, and ask for it on tap, buy it and enjoy it.

yeah BEER!

Nate B. said...

I did not realize you had starting working there. That is great, a shorter commute after the BOP thing failed in Omaha huh? Congrats man and I can't wait to try the wit.

Brent @ Beertopia said...

Does anybody know what freshness dating I should be looking for to try the new non-filtered beers or has then been happening for awhile now?

Nate B. said...

Brent, I forwarded your question onto Jim at Empyrean. He may post here or may just send me an email and then I will post the answer.

CJ said...

I think all these changes are great for the beer market in Nebraska!! Go Empyrean!! Rich is a stand up guy and a hell of a good brewer!!! I like the fact that Empyrean has decided to cease filtering. That is very cool IMHO. I for one are very fond of ESB.

Peace out

Brendan said...

Brent, I'd look for beer with dates later than 4/2008. Beer with best by dates of 6/2008 are a sure thing.

Nate, Being able to ride my bike 8 blocks to work is a welcome change from the hour and a half commute back and forth from Aksarben. I'm not brewing, but now I have more time to brew at home!