Serendipity, a bold and assertive Double IPA that's the current seasonal brew from Red Eye Brewing, began as the homebrew recipe of Joel Berduin of Wausau. He won the coveted "Golden Growler" from the local Bull Falls Homebrew Club in 2009. That honor allowed Berduin to fulfill a dream many homebrewers have -- to see their beer made on a commercial scale. His recipe is now being made by Red Eye Brewing's Kevin Eichelberger. It's that twist of fate in a winning brew that gives real meaning to its name.
What is it? Serendipity from Red Eye Brewing Company of Wausau, Wisconsin.
Style: The Imperial India Pale Ale is also called a Double IPA. It's a relatively recent beer style to emerge from the hands of American brewers; a signature of this beer is the use of American hops in its recipe. It offers golden copper to reddish amber color, medium- to full-bodied mouthfeel, and a strong hop profile featuring resiny and citrus tones. Despite a bitterness that can be intense, there's a solid maltiness that gives Double IPAs a toasted and spicy complexity. The finish will have some alcoholic warmth. The style can be quite strong, ranging from 7.5% to 10% ABV.
Background: Serendipity usually makes its annual appearance at the Wausau brewpub around Fat Tuesday. This year, Red Eye owner and brewmaster Kevin Eichelberger made enough to send several kegs to the Old Fashioned, where it's being served for a limited time on draught.
Serendipity is made with three malts. Eichelberger uses a German melanoidin malt for its unique aromatics, adding sweetness and body to the beer's mouthfeel. However, the beer's signature is its bitterness, coming from five different hops: Cascade, Columbus, Centennial, Simcoe and Amarillo.
Eichelberger says he's been so busy this winter that he wasn't sure he was going to make Serendipity, but fans of the beer and his brewery gave him so much grief he found a way to squeeze it into his limited fermenters. He even was a little short on the hops, and had to put out a call for help on an online brewers' forum. He quickly received a response from an Oregon brewery, which offered him some much needed Amarillo hops.
When Eichelberger gets ready to make Serendipity, he checks for suggestions from Joel Berduin, the homebrewer who developed the original recipe. "But overall, we like it as it is, and we just kind of leave it alone," says Eichelberger.
Serendipity takes about a month to make and finishes at 7.2% ABV. It sells at the Old Fashioned for $3/pint.
For fans of Red Eye, Eichelberger's next beer that's expected to find its way to Madison will be "Smolder." It's a smoky Märzen-style beer that is made with cherry wood-roasted malt.
- Aroma: Light but firm maltiness in the beginning. However, the hops really dominate the overall aroma.
- Appearance: Clear golden to copper color with a medium-soft and marbled tan head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied, with round mouthfeel.
- Taste: Lots of citrus and grapefruit bitterness.
- Finish/Aftertaste: A citrus bitterness that is sharp and dry.
Glassware: Serendipity has enough aromatics and vibrant golden-copper color that its holds up well in the standard bar pint.
Pairs well with: One of my favorite lunch dishes at the Old Fashioned is the "No.38," the grilled summer sausage on rye, and Serendipity is the perfect match. The bitterness of the beer and the rye bread really complement each other.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: One can't help but be curious about a beer that's emerged from the best of the best in a homebrew competition. Kevin Eichelberger and Joel Berdiun have combined their talents to make a very nice hoppy beer with its own bitter personality. Serendipity has an assertive hoppiness that lingers throughout, eventually ending with a grapefruity tone and dryness. All of the components for a wonderful India Pale Ale are in this beer, but it's just a little light in intensity and strength for the Double IPA style. The use of melanoidin malt adds a complexity to the flavor, but I didn't find the more intricate firm underpinnings that are characteristic of more aggressive Double IPAs. Having said that, hoppy beers enthusiasts will still enjoy Serendipity for its sharp bitterness.