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Revisiting the back catalogue – The Marble Beers Retro CollectionPosted: 2020-07-21 By magda
It’s been years in the (re)making for the return of some of our highly praised classic recipes from days gone by. We managed to get Head Brewer Joe to sit down and put into words what we’re doing with the Retro Collection and why we’ve waited until now to bring these beers back.
“But old is old right?”
Although the remake of these beers may seem long overdue, its something I’ve been fairly apprehensive about. Now don’t get me wrong, they all individually and collectively are very special to me and to the brewery. Old is old, and we should be moving forward with new… but what if old is new?
I’m well aware of what these beers mean to so many people and the nostalgia and love that surrounds them, it is a matter of great pride within Marble. Whether Ginger was your first foray into craft beer, cask Chocolate by a warm fire, the balance of sweet, bitter and deliciousness in Dobber, or Tawny displaying what happens when malt, hops, and yeast work in wonderful harmony.
It’s from this that I’ve always looked at these beers as something we want the challenge of remaking but always held at arms reach, often making the excuse to myself of not quite being ready, the time not being right, or the building of a new brewery. It wasn’t until a Whatsapp conversation with Matt from Zapato Brewery in the midst of lock down, and him pushing a possible collaboration re-brew of Tawny. He’s the straw that broke the camel’s back (or mash paddle in this case). If we were going to make one then we should make four, and what if we timed it so they all came out together, wouldn’t that be fun?
The beers selected for this range are our favourites from the pretty extensive Marble back catalogue. They are also the ones I’d spent the most time mulling over, not with the idea to ever do it, but of a thought exercise of how we’d brew them now.
Remake, Remaster, Re-imagine
Anyone that knows me well will know I’m a great video game enthusiast, and not just games but more so the business and industry that surrounds them. So with this project in mind we wanted to mirror how that industry approaches reworking and “remastering” and apply it to ours.
Remake – Closely adhere to the original design and narrative. Redone with modern tools and techniques.
Remaster – A port of the original to a modern platform, usually up ressd (improving the original resolution) for HD.
Re-imagine – Similar to a remake, only with far more liberties taken with respect to the design and narrative. In extreme cases, it can have attributes of both a remake and a reboot.
Knowing all beers needed to be treated equally but from different angles, we didn’t want to just blanket remaster them, and a complete re-imagining of all four would be disingenuous to the spirit of the project, so why not take an approach with mixed ideas suited to each beer?
From thereon it was less a thought of “when” or “if” to a very excitedly ‘how?’. So much and so little has changed at Marble since these beers had first been released, in some cases the beers had grown up and matured since they initially came out. So the idea of simply following an older recipe and re-brewing it was out of the question. The next approach was to look at these beers individually and really look at what made them work, why did they gain such a fervent following, how do you brew positive nostalgia into a beer, we needed to pay respect to the path that had been laid before us but also cut our own trail.
As Matt had really asked to collaborate with us on this beer, what I really wanted to do was tap into his memory of Tawny and brew around that. From speaking to Matt and other trusted sources the information we gleaned was that the beer was an almost Anglo-Belgique top fermented ale, with a hop presence but a balanced one.
From this we created a malt base that was derived from some of our earlier ales with hints from the writings of Randy Mosher and Michael Jackson. Through this we layered a heavy whirlpool hop charge, giving a depth of flavour that matches the malt bill and leaving space for the beautiful Marble yeast characteristics.
Were so often asked about Ginger in the brewery and The Marble Arch, it’s a beer we are acutely aware means so much, to so many. Our approach was to really look at what made Ginger, Ginger. We recounted how it used to be made for cask, what would hold through as we were looking to can it this time, and what would not. A very early idea was to offer no cask and brew it very dry, almost a complete reinvention erring very much on the side of a ginger ale not ginger beer (think Brut IPA but with ginger instead of hops).
Although a great idea and something we’d like to play with in the future we decided it would be remiss to brew this beer and it not be suitable for cask.
The holistic approach to the original beer was one of the things we thought most important when looking at re-brewing Ginger. Although we dropped the Cloves and Cardomom that were used in some of Ginger’s earlier iterations we knew we couldn’t just rely on ginger alone. Instead we substituted those previous additions for Sichuan peppercorn and long pepper, never wanting them to be at the forefront but instead as NPCs to help the ginger shine through and bring a balanced beer with incredible depth. We also decided on a new ABV of 6.2 as a nod to all the history of the Gingers gone before.
For Chocolate the first major change was to increase the ABV to 5.5% to 8.5% as we currently have Marble Stout residing in the mid range ABV. We really wanted Chocolate to stand on its own and occupy it’s own space, this reworking also meant we could incorporate a little bit of Double Chocolate, another fond memory of mine, from the Marble back catalogue.
Chocolate was originally named after its namesake in the chocolate malts used in it, which is a beautiful and complex kilned and roasted dark malt. The original always sung of chocolate and liquorice to me, without ever using either as an ingredient. I definitely don’t have the technical brewing process to do that especially not in an 8.5% beauty, so we decided to use cocoa nibs to really give you the chocolate hit its name deserves, whilst keeping the balance and essence of the original alive. We worked with Willie’s Cocoa to get incredible fresh (roasted that week) single estate Rio Caribe cocoa nibs.
How do you make an IPA that tastes as good as nostalgia? I’d always personally loved Dobber and knew it was a great beer, but it wasn’t till a chat with Ryan Witter and him asking for a few cans of the 2017 re-brew and Matthew Curtis eulogising it, that I really grasped that this is a well loved and immensely respected beer.
Our approach for Dobber was the simplest and also the most difficult, in the end it was very personal one, Dobber for me has summed up my approach to Marble as a whole since taking the reigns at the brewery. A brewery that creates simple and elegant beers in its own way, with its own identity and with balance at the forefront of everything else.
So was born a malt base that blends the original and the 2017 re-brew, NZ and US hops giving an appealing and deserving bitterness, a dry hop delivered almost reserved in modern g/L amount but given with care, love and balance. Everything in its place and working together.
We hope you enjoy drinking them as much as the team enjoyed brewing them.
Cans of the Retro Collection will be available from the Marble Beers online shop from Thursday 23rd July from 8:30AM.