A complex, but easy-drinking Scottish export ale, with a copper hue and hints of caramel, was crowned the top beer at this year’s Iron Brew competition.
The contest is held every year with students in the practical malting and brewing course within the Department of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis. The students formulate a beer recipe and spend weeks brewing three batches of various styles of beer. The winning team that submitted the Scottish export ale was comprised of Moises Gomez, Arpa Boghozian and Abe Cooper, all viticulture and enology majors, and Cleopatra Constantin, a chemical engineering major. They weren’t expecting to get the top score, citing their inexperience in the beer-making world.
“I’m shocked; we didn’t think we had a chance,” Gomez said. “We study wine. All of this is new to us. At first when we were brewing, everybody knew what they were doing, and we were kind of lost half the time.”
Glen Fox, the Anheuser-Busch endowed professor of malting and brewing sciences, says he didn’t taste any of the beers as they were being developed. When he sampled the Scottish export ale on competition day, he was impressed with the execution of brewing this type of beer.
“It’s how I would expect that style to taste, so I was really pleased,” Fox said. “The students really did think through the style requirements and the brewing process to get there. They paid a lot of attention and did it very well.”
Boghozian believes her team’s ale, featuring a low hop rate so that it’s a malt-dominated beer with darker and more focused caramel and toffee flavors, won because of its overall taste.
“I think it was because it is less bitter,” Boghozian said. “A lot of breweries now are going for the more hoppy, bitter profile, so this is something different. It’s more approachable for people who don’t drink beer as much.”
Six student teams entered their beer creations. The five other entries were: Kölsch (German-style lager), Saison (farmhouse ale), Dunkles Weissbier (dark wheat beer), Witbier (Belgian-style ale) and an American pale ale. A panel of nine professionals from the beer industry judged the entries, assessing each beer on its appearance, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel and other attributes. Tom Stull, head brewer at Sudwerk Brewing Co. in Davis, was one of the judges and gave the Scottish export ale his highest score of the contest.
“It was executed well start to finish,” Stull said. “It was very true to style and very pleasant to drink.”
Stull says he’ll work with the winning group to commercially produce their recipe at the Davis brewery. Sudwerk’s operations manager Trent Yackzan was also a judge, and says he enjoys participating in this contest every year and giving students a crash course in the beer business.
“I love getting to introduce the students to the practical world of brewing for them to see if this is something they want to pursue,” Yackzan said. “My favorite part is trying to help them think of a vision of what’s the story behind this beer, outside of the flavor profile.”
Yackzan says the students will work with Sudwerk’s in-house artist to create a label for their beer, which will be sold at the brewery, the Gunrock restaurant on campus and other local spots. Yackzan says a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the university’s brewing program. The goal is to brew the beer early this spring, and Fox hopes to celebrate its release with events before summer arrives.
“We’re really hopeful that we’ll be able to have the Iron Brew winning beer available for everyone and at the Gunrock before the end of the spring quarter,” Fox said. “It would be a great time for the whole UC Davis community to get out and see the excellent brewing these students have done.”
Gomez and his team are excited that friends and family will soon get a taste of their hard work.
“It’s cool that we can tell people around Davis that we made that beer; that’s our recipe,” Gomez said.