Every idea counts
When it comes to innovating new beer, we rely on every single person that works at Allagash. Doesn’t matter if they’ve been at the company for ten days or ten years. That’s how our pilot system works: anyone at our brewery with an idea can propose the next big Allagash beer.
Savvy readers will see that we said “propose” an idea. Not every beer idea gets brewed, it’s true. But quite a few do. In fact, a majority of the new beers coming out of our brewery start on our pilot system. Here’s just a short list of beers that started on our pilot system.
“Instead of getting ideas from our seventeen brewers, we’re actually able to draw from all 140 people who work at Allagash.”
Our Brewmaster, Jason
To show how it works, we’ll follow Mariah’s beer’s path from idea to reality. Her beer is called Two Lights. It’s a lager with sauvignon blanc must (the unfermented juice of the grape) added during brewing, making it a subtle balance between lager and a wine spritzer.
First, she submitted her idea. We have an internal form where employees lay out the broad strokes of what they want their beer to be. For Mariah, her idea was boiled down to her love of refreshing wine spritzers. So why not try to brew a lager with a hint of spritz?
Our Pilot Team received that submission and gave it a look. The Pilot Team itself is made up of a group of talented brewers from across our brewery—some who work in our lab, some who work on our canning and bottling lines, and some who brew our beer. The team meets once weekly to talk about newly submitted beer ideas. And during that meeting, Mariah’s beer sounded like something they also would love to drink, so they assigned Mariah a brewer to work with.
Mariah then met up with that brewer to work out ingredients and the nitty gritty of her beer. What ABV should it be? How much carbonation? What sort of mouth feel and aroma? What grain bill and yeast, exactly? How would they get that wine-like flavor into the beer?
Time to Brew
Once they worked out all of the details, the final recipe went back in front of the whole pilot team for final sign-off. After they got the thumbs up, they scheduled the brew day. On that brew day, Mariah got to take the time off to brew her beer with her brewer mentor. She brewed it on our ten-gallon pilot system, which we had custom-designed to scale up to our larger brewing system.
After Mariah’s beer was brewed and fermented, it then went on tap in our employee break room. Whenever a new pilot beer goes on tap, employees are encouraged to taste and rate them. On top of more detailed ratings (aroma, mouthfeel, flavor, etc.), the ultimate test tends to be what we call the “keg test.” If you pick up that keg after it has been on tap for a couple days and it’s already light, that’s good beer.
Mariah’s beer was one of the very good ones. Luckily for us, our internal enthusiasm for her beer translated into enthusiasm from Allagash fans. We released a batch in our tasting room, and the year after released the beer to our full distribution footprint.
And that’s how it all works! From idea to delicious beer in your hand. Everyone at Allagash will tell you, it is as fun as it looks to be a part of the process that results in the creation of so many well-loved Allagash beers.