Since the doors opened at Cevercería de MateVeza a year ago, partners Jim Woods and Matt Coelho have been creating a steady lineup of beers on their 20-gallon system. They’ve made over fifty batches to date and many are wildly creative. Their small system allows for affordable experimentation. If a beer doesn’t turn out as expected they don’t have to dump 300 gallons or more down the drain like most breweries who operate on a larger scale. On the other end of the spectrum, if a new beer becomes extremely popular, then they might think about scaling the recipe up and having it produced off-site, like their Yerba Mate IPA and Black Lager.
A few weeks ago they hatched a plan to create a series of five ales inspired by Girl Scout Cookies. Beloved by many, and sold nearly everywhere over the last few weeks, the cookies are delicious and the beers are highly anticipated by Cevercería de MateVeza fans. Here’s the five beers they decided to make: Peppermint Porter (Thin Mints), a Belgian Dubbel with Coconut & Cocoa Nibs (Samoas), Peanut Butter Cream Ale (Do-si-dos), Shortbread Golden Ale (Trefoils), and a Salted Chocolate Stout with Peanut Butter on Nitro (Peanut Butter Patties).
The beers will be available on Friday, March 15th, and each one will be served with the cookie that inspired it. Don’t hesitate to try them. The supply of beer and cookies won’t last long.
Jim Woods allowed me to sit in on his first Girl Scout Cookie brew day and we talked about how the beers, his brewing system, experimentation, and interest in collaborating with the local community.
So how did you come up with the idea for the Girl Scout Cookie Ales?
Someone brought some Somoas in here, and then later I was at Castro and 18th Street, and there was a giant display. I was just sitting here eating one and thinking that it would be really interesting to do all the Girl Scout Cookies as beers.
Jim Woods adding grain to the mash tun
Just so people know, you’re not actually using the cookies in the beer?
Yes, although, I was going to throw one cookie in the mash for each one, but I don’t have any left.
You mean you ate all of them? I saw five boxes the other day!
You know, I thought they would last the week and then I came in the next day and people had gone to town on them. Hopefully they’ll do the same thing with the beers.
Could you talk a little about how you designed the recipes and the challenges each cookie posed?
I think the Somoa is the most challenging because it has the coconut, chocolate and caramel, so we actually thought that one would go really well with the way we caramelize sugar here. I’m not adding any cocoa powder. Instead I’m adding cocoa nibs. I actually looked to see what Maui Brewing does with their coconut porter and I’m thinking about doing some similar additions, but we’re going to have to roast our own coconut.
For a lot of the recipes we do I look at homebrewing forums, because that’s what we’re doing here. For example, there are two beers that will need peanut butter. Some people get their own nuts, mill them, and then they have to get the oil out, otherwise it will kill the beer’s head retention. On one forum I saw a product called PB2, that’s peanut butter powder and it has all the oil removed, so I ordered that.
For the Thin Mint beer we’ll do a chocolate milk porter with mint. Another challenging one is the Trefoils, which is a shortbread butter cookie, because the only way you can get the butter flavor from the cookie in the beer is to have diacetyl present, which everyone hates, so we’re just making it really bready and adding some lactose to make the body pop. All of them won’t be super dry. They’ll be a little bit on the sweeter side, but not overly cloying.
You refer to your operation at Cevercería de MateVeza as homebrewing, but you only say that because you have what’s considered a large homebrewing system. You do have a lot of experience.
Totally, but you know, a lot of the methods that we can deploy are the same ones that homebrewers use. We’re able to do things that commercial brewers aren’t able to do, and they’re able to do things that we can’t, like we don’t have a filtration system. Often times we brew things that we would want to drink on tap, but often times will think of a funny concept or a name. We’re going to brew a Fernet and Coke beer. We’re going to use all the botanical herbs that are in both and have it be dark in color. That’s the official Argentine drink.
The brew system
You’ve done a lot of experimenting since you opened. How has it been perceived so far? Have their been big hits or flops, or has anything surprised you?
I think one of our biggest flops was when I tried to brew a quad and it didn’t ferment out. We called it premature flocculation and it was wildly popular. Everything we’ve brewed here has been super dry. We don’t do a lot of sweet beers. I wasn’t a big fan at all, but it was wildly popular. We sold out really quickly. I had another fifteen gallons of it and we actually aged it on Brett and then we poured it at Beerunch. It attenuated a little bit more and didn’t bother me any more.
You’ve been creating a lot of collaboration beers with individuals and businesses? Could you talk about the motivation behind these projects?
We really want to be involved with the community and what better way than to brew a beer with them and really educate people on the process. Our beer with Bi-Rite is perfect example. We got them all in here and we were able to brew a beer that didn’t taste exactly like their salted caramel ice cream. You wouldn’t want to it to taste like the ice cream necessarily. We caramelized our own sugar, which is actually what they do when they make the ice cream, and then we added the same salt they use, and it was a great way to get people excited about beer and what we’re doing here. There are a lot of other restaurants and organizations in the area that we’re reaching out to brew a beer with. We didn’t think it would be a good idea to collaborate with girl scouts, though.
Photos © Brian Stechschulte