Beer Diary: Blank Slate Brewing Company is in the ‘Hood!
There are lots of exciting things going on right now here at LBLF. I can hardly stand it! This weekend I had the honor of touring Blank Slate Brewing Company, a relative new-comer to the Cincinnati craft beer scene. Scott Lafollette, brewer owner, and I chatted about all things brewing for almost two hours. We had a blast as he showed me around the brewery, discussing what BSBC was all about, and tasting a beer, or three.
I ALSO had the pleasure (please-ure?) of meeting up with my new friend, Ryan Santos, chef of the outstanding haute cuisine style pop-up dinner series “Please to Eat You.” He’s graciously sharing a beer&food hybrid with LBLF: how-to make vinegar out of BEER. Me=freaking.out.about.this. Then we’ll be collaborating on a subsequent recipe using the vinegar that can’t be missed. I just love a little DIY in the kitchen. You’ll have to wait for my upcoming Monday food musings for more about the how to, I just couldn’t help but give you a little teaser.
But on to Blank Slate! Unfortunately tours are not currently open to the public, but Scott, the one man show who owns and operates the brewery, was kind enough to give me a personal tour, which was super duper awesome (BIG thanks Scott!).
I first heard about Blank Slate through social media, and as with all local beer news, was very intrigued. I was especially excited about BSBC because they happen to be located about half a mile from our house in the Columbia Tusculum/ East End of Cincinnati. Scott pain-stakingly sought out a brewery location that was physically within city limits; he prides himself on producing truly local, Cincinnati beer. My first actual experience drinking their beer was on Super Bowl Sunday. I remember it well: due to our lack of television, hubby and I hunkered down at one of our local watering holes (Cock’n’Bull Hyde Park) to watch some of the game. They always have a huge selection of beer on tap and some relatively decent food (go during Happy Hour, get a beer and the Bavarian Pretzels with beer cheese, deelish). We eyed the tap list and saw that Blank Slate’s beer, Fork in the Road, an aptly named beer at the intersection of amber and IPA, was on the menu. Without hesitation I ordered a big ol’ English pint, and man was I glad I did. The beer was malty like a traditional amber, but well-hopped at 70 IBUs, and very tasty (IBU stands for International Bittering Unit, a measurement of beer’s hop bitterness).
In my mind, Blank Slate was off to a good start. The brewery was incorporated in 2011, and hit the ground running in 2012. Demand was strong, and pretty soon after production started, extra equipment was needed. Currently, Scott produces 200 gallons, or about 7 barrels at a time, making them a true microbrewery. He has four fermenters, three old wine fermenters he not so lovingly calls “Larry,” “Moe,” and “Curly” because of their stooge like antics, and “Iggy Pop,” a sleek and beautiful stainless steel conical fermenter which is better behaved than it’s brothers. The name, and general idea behind “Blank Slate” is two fold, #1 the location of the brewery was truly a blank slate of a space before Scott got his hands on it, #2 Blank Slate Brewing aims to make beer with a fresh, new perspective. BSBC is producing beers out of the ordinary German styles which are typical of the local beer landscape. You can tell they are succeeding in this goal already with beers like the Shroominous Ale, a slighly boozy brown ale, brewed with shiitake mushrooms. Lucky me I got to try some fresh from the source. I’ll get to the beer in a minute.
The other somewhat unique philosophy of BSBC is they are only producing seasonal beers, aka, no flagship beer. There aren’t a whole lot of breweries that do that, but Scott’s rationale is a simple one, “I don’t want to drink a creamy stout in the middle of summer.”
So, the beer. The most important thing. Scott graciously let me try three styles on my visit:
Movin’ On, an American style bitter session ale was the first. A lovely session ale with a noticeable but not overwhelming hop bitterness right at the end (45 IBUs). It was incredibly smooth with a nice biscuity malt character and quite drinkable. At 4.2%, you could easily see yourself drinking a few of these in a day, perhaps while home-brewing your very own beer. Seriously, just do it.
Shroominous Ale, was second, an incredibly unique brown ale clocking in at 8% ABV. I’m usually a little leery of brown ales, but was really pleasantly surprised with this one. It does not taste like mushrooms, but it does have a very umami flavor to the beer. You get a tiny whiff of it on your nose, but mostly the flavor here is a very complex, and flavorful (practically imperial) brown. Maybe that is why I like it so much, the slight booziness and rich flavor add the perfect balance to this lovely brown ale. You get even more of the flavor as the beer warms up, which is nice. This beer is intended to be paired with savory, hearty foods like steak or risotto.
Finally, I got to try a very exciting new collaboration beer Scott is doing with the Quaff Brother’s of the Party Source, the
Sauvignon BLANK ***Savage BLANK. This beer is a Belgian golden strong ale, hitting 9.5% ABV, which is fermented with sauvignon blanc grape juice. The flavor is mostly beer, but you definitely get a wine/beer hybrid vibe. It is sweet, but very well balanced. I was sort of blown away by this one. As a beer and wine lover, and for sure a Sauv blanc lover, this beer is just so fun. The beer is not yet available, but will be soon, in 22 oz bombers and on tap. Keep an eye out for this one and act fast, I might single handedly buy Party Source out.
***After press, the name of the beer had to be changed because of regulatory issues. Apparently there was fear that people would confuse the beer for wine. Bummer.
One of the things I like most about Scott, is he isn’t afraid to push the envelope, but he also isn’t afraid to accept defeat. This year for Bockfest, BSBC was slated to contribute a beer. When Scott tasted it, it just didn’t end up being what he expected. He battled with what to do, but in the end, the whole batch was dumped and he had to pull out of the festival at the last minute. Heartbreaking stuff. As a consumer, I really appreciate this kind of thinking. If you’re not 100% behind your product, you shouldn’t put it out for the world. Scott gets that, and I think that will get him far.
In the future, Scott is planning on more expansion, and hopes to have a tap room where guests can come right down to the brewery and have a pint. Little did I know, having a tap room just became legal within the past year. The absolute most optimistic time-frame for the completion of that project is in the fall. In the very near term, BSBC will start bottle operations in April, so you can buy bottled beer in local stores, which is fantastic. I’m excited to see more of Blank Slates progress and am very excited to have them as a neighbor. Check out their website, blankslatebeer.com for more info.
Go find yourselves some Blank Slate beer – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Cheers!