By this evening or perhaps tomorrow, it should be pouring at the Public House and Pizzeria, too. As an added bonus, we recently were asked to provide beer for one tap at Madison's Ribberfest celebration this weekend, and you'll find Bob's on tap both by the river in Madison on Friday and Saturday, and at the Kentuckiana Celtic Fest concert in New Albany on Saturday.
The development of this beer goes back to the beginnings of NABC’s original garage brewery off Grant Line Road, and I thought it appropriate for a history lesson as we prepare to enjoy 15-B's new era.
In 2003, it was agreed that NABC would brew a 4-barrel batch of the winning entry in the annual Homebrewed Porter competition sponsored by the Fermenters of Special Southern Indiana Libations Society (FOSSILS).
The first time out, NABC’s founding brewer Michael Borchers rendered David and Beth Howard’s victorious recipe into The Black Hand, which remains one of my favorite of all NABC beer names, and one we might well revive in the future.
The Black Foot, anyone?
After winning the 2004 contest, Bob Capshew’s Robust Porter was brewed in the garage brewhouse, also by Borchers, and it was a hit from the start, so much so that we decided to brew it all the time. The inspiration for the recipe came from a Porter made by longtime Louisville Area Grain and Extract Research Society (LAGERS) member and beer researcher member Conrad Selle, and was named 15-B after the AHA’s Robust Porter style category/subcategory (15 B).
At the time, this numbering decision reflected a compromise after Bob rejected my suggestion that we call his creation Bob Capshew's Craic (pronounced "crack") House Porter, from the Irish Gaelic term that signifies convivial ambience. I thought it was a natural, but sometimes not everyone sees it that way, and the final choice was 15-B.
A year passed, and in 2005 the official numbering scheme for style and sub-style categories changed. When the dust settled, 15-B referred to German Dunkel Weizen (dark wheat), about as far removed from English/American Porter as can be imagined without resorting to wild yeast and aging in a used Sake barrel.
We decided to leave the name unchanged, both as a nod to our own NABC tradition, and to observe the vital dictates of remaining contrarian at all times with respect to style.
Another FOSSILS stalwart, Ed Tash, wrote at the time with a solid rationale for leaving the name alone, but prefacing it with a modifier:
I've been giving some thought to your dilemma, caused by the BJCP changing robust porter from 15 B to 12 B. I suggest you call your Porter "Bob's Old 15 B.”
Here's why. There is book about Jack Daniels whisky published about a year ago that attempts to explain the origin of Jack Daniels Old Number 7. According to the author, the number 7 was the license number of the Jack Daniels distillery. The borders of the county the distillery was located in changed, and the distillery changed counties (without moving), which caused the distillery to be given a new license number. Jack Daniels had established “7” as a brand name and didn't want to start over with a new name, so he put "Old Number 7" on the barrels, bottles, etc.
I have not read the book, but I heard the author interviewed on WFPL-FM 89.3 when the book came out.
Now you know more about Jack Daniels than you ever wanted to know, but bottom line is that I think you should keep 15 B in the name; your customers already know the name and what to expect from the beer.
Besides, only a handful of geeks know that Robust Porter is now 12 B.
Solid reasoning all around, and the issue largely having been decided, I once again approached Bob Capshew with a suggestion: How about “Old Bob’s 15-B
For some reason, he wasn’t happy with this one, either.
Old 15-B it was, and Old 15-B it remains. I try as often as possible to preface it with an explanation of Bob’s Capshew’s identity as an outstanding brewer (and mead and cider maker), so we give pride of place to the originator, even if the crack house idea never flew.
Here are the specs, as brewed in the current time by the NABC brew crew of Jesse Williams, Jared Williamson and David Pierce:
Malts: Special Pale, Simpsons Medium and dark Crystal, Simpsons Chocolate and Black, Castle Aromatic, and Briess CaraPils
Hops: Double hopped with Northern Brewer pellets, finished through hop-back with whole cone East Kent Goldings
Yeast: House London
OG: 1.061 or 15.25 degree Plato
Color: 34.2 degree Lovibond SRM