It was my first time in Norway, and I wanted to brew something kind of crazy. So my friend Mike and I decided to add pizza and money to our next batch of beer ... literally.
Mike Murphy is an American guy who lives in Norway and brews at Lervig Aktiebryggeri in Stavanger. Before he moved to Norway five years ago, he lived in Denmark and helped open up a brewery there, and that was where we met and became good friends. He's good at renewing himself and being a part of what's going on in the current beer scene with an old-school approach. I consider him one of the pioneers in European craft beer.
Since I'd never been to Norway, I finally realized, Alright, now's the time to go. So I told Mike that I wanted to make a beer when I came up. Since we've known each other for so long, I wanted to make a beer on the crazier side—something really stupid. We could've done an IPA, but it made more sense to go over the top, as a testament to our long-time friendship.
I wanted to make a beer with a Norwegian twist, so I asked Mike if there was anything that Norway was known for that we could add into it. In Mexico, I added coffee, and in Taiwan, I added Szechuan peppers, so I wanted to take something from the local environment in Norway. I knew Iceland had rotten shark. I asked Mike if Norway had anything like that.
But he suggested frozen pizza—Grandiosa, to be specific. The company sells over 40 million frozen pizzas a year, and I think there are about 5 million people in Norway.
That's a lot of frozen pizza for so few people.
Naturally, we wanted to add this pizza to our beer, which is so high in alcohol percentages that the pizza won't affect the flavor.
I felt like the beer needed something besides pizza. "Is there anything else?" I asked him, to which he emailed back and mentioned that Norwegians are known for their money. It's the richest country in the world.
Immediately, I thought to myself, Alright, let's make a beer with pizza and money.
But, first things first: Money doesn't taste like anything (I guess). We would make 6,000 liters of beer, so it's not like we would be adding a ton of money to the batch. Sometimes, making beer is also about having fun, and that's exactly what we wanted to have. We were planning on making the strongest beer ever made in Norway. We would try to go up to 20 percent, which is pretty difficult—my highest beer I had made thus far was 17.2 percent.
Lervig was built to be a pilsner brewery to brew lagers for the local community, and it's a crazy big system—the biggest I've ever brewed in. It's a 250 HL system, which is 25,000 liters, and the biggest one I had ever used before that was like 12,000. We only made 6,000 liters out of 25,000 liters, so we only used a very small volume of the actual brewing system. It allowed us to be able to add more malt, get more sugars, and ferment it higher.
In the end, it made sense to make a stout. You've got to add sugar, because it's fermentable; you can only add a certain amount of malt, because at some point there's going to be too high of a malt-to-water ratio, and the mash will become too dry. Mike then brought up the idea of adding enzymes, which helps to ferment the beer at a lower rate and increase the alcohol content. When you ferment beer, the yeast "converts" the sugars into alcohol. By adding enzymes, you allow the yeast to ferment the sugars better, and in that way produce more alcohol.
We threw in a frozen ham-and-peppers pizza during the boil. Money was added after fermentation; you could say wedry-monied it, like how you would normally dry hop a beer. You put hops in after fermentation to get a really fresh hops flavor. We were wondering if this then would give us a fresh money flavor.
I gave Mike about $100. He's going to throw some Norwegian money in there too, so there'll be a couple hundred dollars in there. The high ABV—hopefully 20 percent—will pretty much sanitize it. After the process is finished, we suggested that Mike rinse the money, and go buy some pizza with them.
This Big Ass Money Stout, as we're calling it, is going to be over the top. I want them to be balanced and complex, but sometimes it's also fun to challenge yourself with something more silly. This is one of those beers that's like, How far can we take the recipe in terms of alcohol percentage? If you don't test it out from time to time, you'll never know.
We still don't know if it'll be 20 percent, but that's what we're aiming for. It's a stout, so it's crazy big—lots of coffee and chocolate flavor. It'll have a very thick mouth feel—just like Norwegian oil. With such a big beer, you're going to have a lot of residual sugar because you can't ferment it all out. No yeast is capable of doing that. I don't want to say it's undrinkable, because I don't think any beer is undrinkable, but it's going to turn a lot of people off. It's a beer that you would let sit for a year or two while it balances itself out. If you drank a whole bottle by yourself, you'd be wasted.
It's like drinking five Budweisers in one bottle.
We're going to export the Big Ass Money Stout to the US, mainly because Mike fears it's going to piss off Norwegians because we added money to it. I know it's crazy and stupid. Some people are going to hate it, but there will also be people who realize that we're not always trying to take ourselves too seriously.
We'll send the beer out in a couple months when it's done fermenting. Some people may drink it. Some might enjoy it at that caliber of being fresh, while others might want to drink it a few years from now.
Who am I to tell someone when to drink it, especially when money's involved?