The following is a guest post from Kip Barnes of Los Angeles Ale Works. Please join us and the LA Ale Works team as we celebrate the launch of Karma Kolsch at Beer Belly on July 15th. On July 15th, we’re excited to be joining the LA-based craft beer bar, Beer Belly, in the tapping of one of our very few (38) kegs of Karma Kolsch, a Thai tea-infused German Kolsch style ale. Jimmy and the Beer Belly family have been incredible supporters of Los Angeles Ale Works as we’ve made the slow, methodical jump from humble homebrewers to professional brewers, and as such, have tasted every homebrewed version of this beer we’ve made. Although we still have a long way to go before we have our own location, it’s been exciting to not only build our brand, but our friendship with LA-based craft beer fans. This beer is the first one we’ve released since our successful Kickstarter campaign, fueled entirely by local beer fans and friends.
Karma Kolsch is an interesting beer to say the least. It’s both complex and simple at the same time. The concept came about during our home brewing of classic styles. One of our favorite beers is a Roggenbier, which was actually our first commercial release, Gams-bart. The easiest way to describe a Roggenbier to anyone that hasn’t had it: it’s a German hefeweizen that uses rye instead of wheat. In addition to this classic German style is one of John’s favorite styles, the German Kolsch. We aren’t living in Cologne, Germany, so like with Trappist Style Ales, we can’t officially call our Kolsch a Kolsch, but it’s Kolsch Style. The Kolsch that we brew is light, crisp, full of light German maltiness, and finished with a nice crisp hop bite. I noticed that the yeast had a really delicate spice-driven creaminess and started to think of what we could pair it with. John previously brewed a Kolsch with coffee in it, and I had just gotten back from Thailand. Bam! Thai Tea Kolsch. We’ve been wildly successful with our Ketsara - Thai Tea Soda, and so we decided to brew a cold steeped Thai red tea and add it to our Kolsch, and Karma Kolsch was born.
Taking this whole story one step further, we weren’t satisfied with the restaurant style tea. It has ingredients that are unknown, unlisted, and also includes a red food dye, which we want to avoid. For the last year I’ve been experimenting with different versions of Thai tea from local tea vendors and was excited to find that my favorite blend resided in my own city of LA, Bird Pick Teas. We met up with the founder of Bird Pick Tea, entrepreneur and tea epicurian Lan Ong, and decided that we wanted to go forward with using her tea in our beer. Like brewers using local coffee, we wanted to use local tea, and so we devised a custom blend to add to Karma Kolsch. Lan’s Bird Pick Tea is a vibrant symphony of cinnamon, rooibos, roasted barley, and Indian assam. We also added whole organic Indian vanilla beans to the mix.
So how exactly do you get 10 lbs of tea into 250 gallons of beer? On a home brew scale we make a cold brew, but in our current situation, that wouldn’t work. Brainstorming with Ohana’s Head Brewer, Chris Walowski, he suggested using a modified hop back to infuse the beer directly. The result is a wonderful kaleidoscope of Southeast Asian flavors which marry perfectly with the creamy textures stemming from the German Kolsch. The final product is a 5.0% session of spice and quaffability. At its very core, it’s a deconstructed, reconstructed Thai Iced Tea in beer form.
This is the first iteration of Karma Kolsch, but it definitely won't be our last. We’re excited to continue experimenting with balance, aging, and new spicing methods with both Bird Pick and Ohana. And when our new fermentor from Practical Fusion arrives, we’ll be able to make twice as much at a time. What’s 38x2? More! Thanks, LA for your support! We honestly can’t do it without you. Thanks also go to our hosts Beer Belly and the other great beer bars and LA-based brewers that have believed in us through our never ending beer quest. #FollowtheLAAW
Cheers! John & Kip Los Angeles Ale Works