Mash Brewing is a gem amongst West Australian breweries for their ability to put out approachable, easy-drinking beers amongst complex and exciting seasonals all from a brewery small enough to be tucked behind the bar of their Swan Valley brewpub. Today marks the release of Sarcasm, their annually brewed and oxymoronically labelled Session Imperial India Pale Ale. At once both easy-drinking and intensely alcoholic, the 9.5% beer is a bitter, boozy, citrusy and piney two-batch release. We spoke to Mash’s new head brewer, Damien Bussemaker about the challenges involved in the latest iteration of Sarcasm Session IIPA.
Coming from a brewing position as Elmar’s, Damien joined Mash as Head Brewer just four months ago, and relishes the chance to work with a new range of styles. “It’s very different from Elmar’s here.” Says Damien, "Down there everything is brewed to German Purity Law, and it’s restricted to German styles. It was a good opportunity to nail all of those styles, but Mash is great because nothing is off limits, and you can use way more hops.”
The German Purity Law refers to a real law passed in Germany in the early sixteenth century which dictated that beer should be made out of only four ingredients: Water, hops, barley and yeast. The law was intended to maintain quality and avoid dodgy additives, but modern brewers, Mash included, have begun to use the law more as a guideline than a rule, “There’s not much deviation here, most of the beers do use just those four ingredients. But we will occasionally a bit of extra dextrose and sugar to boost the alcohol when needed.”
Sarcasm, is a beer made by taking many such aspects of beer brewing to their extremes, using much more hops, barley and yeast compared to their standard releases, the result is a much bigger and more powerful beer. Brewing to 9.5% alcohol means enough barley to completely fill their Mash tun, which Damien says makes the necessary stirring particularly difficult. Once mashed, Sarcasm takes about a week longer than their standard releases to ferment, during which additional hops are added in a process called ‘dry hopping'. “Sarcasm is designed to be just super hoppy,” says Damien, “You’ve got 30+ kilos of dry hops between the two batches, which makes it a challenge for the accountant to cost it, too.”
“All of the old Sarcasm releases have been really good, it’s not just another IIPA,” says Damien, noting that this year’s release will show his particular brewer’s thumbprint with an update of last year’s recipe including some new hops and malts, "This year there are a few different malts and a few different hops. There are a few new-age hops which we didn’t have last year, a bit of vic secret and a couple of traditional American hops.” These new decisions are informed by Mash’s other seasonal runs, and from brewing test batches in their smaller sample sized equipment, “We can run a test batch of 20 litres and see what each new hop brings to the table, and we made a double ipa last year which we’ve based a portion of the Sarcasm recipe off, more for volume than for types of hops.” says Damien, “Some of the American hops are piney, citrusy and resiny, some are fruity, giving pineapple, melon, mango flavours, but using just one runs the risk of being quite one-note.”
The popularity of Sarcasm, plus the decision to can it, further adds to the production process. Mash put out roughly one seasonal release each month and in most cases these require “One brewing day, one kegging day, and just a bit of nurturing in-between.” However, the canning process and multiple batches of Sarcasm further slow down the release process.
All of the work involved has resulted in a uniquely delicious beer with a load of hoppy character. Due to the large amount of hops, Sarcasm greatly benefits from being drunk fresh, and its seasonal nature and propensity for being snapped up by beer enthusiasts, only serves to ensure it is shown off at it’s best. Sarcasm is now canned, kegged and shipping to bars and bottle shops throughout WA. Check out Mash’s social channels for where to get yours.