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Double-barreled birthday

Trickster’s is tapping a pair of barrel-aged specialties for its fourth anniversary party Saturday.

One is the Vol. 2 version of Professor M’s Funkhouse. While last year’s Vol. 1 was a sour mixture of spiced winter ale and porter, the new take is straight Soul Warmer porter aged for nine months in cabernet sauvignon barrels with lactobacillus and Brettanomyces.

“There’s just kind of a tinge of sour to it,” says Trickster’s owner Matt Morrow.

There’s also a bigger Daedric Druid imperial stout that was aged in bourbon barrels, conditioned with whiskey-soaked coffee beans and blended with fresh porter to cut its intense bourbon flavor. “I enjoyed drinking it (unblended), but I’m not sure anybody else would,” Morrow says.  

That was naturally carbonated in the keg and will be served through a smoother nitro tap.

Also pouring for the party from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Coeur d’Alene taproom will be the hoppy new WILbrr winter India lager (5.8 percent alcohol by volume, 60 International Bitterness Units) with a touch of chocolate malt.

Food will be available from the Iverson’s Smokin Pig BBQ truck from 1 to 6, and there will be merchandise giveaways including some of the new “Juice Box Hero” T-shirts.

For Trickster’s, 2016 was the year of Juice Box, its fruity flagship IPA hopped with Simcoe, Mosaic and Chinook (7, 85).

The brewery began bottling both that and the imperial Hops on Parade IPA in 22-ounce bombers in April, but now is focusing on the faster-selling Juice Box, which accounts for 70 percent of production.

While sales have been booming in Central Washington, the goal for 2017 is increasing Trickster’s presence in Spokane, Morrow said. A series of Juice Box promotional nights at watering holes here is underway.

Juice Box also gained some national attention, reaching the Sweet 16 round of the Brewing News’ National IPA Championships in March before falling to Barley Brown’s Pallet Jack, the 2013 winner.

“We were going up against some pretty stellar beers,” says Morrow. “We’re excited that we got as far as we did.”

It will be back in next year’s competition, he says, improved by a series of small tweaks along the way.

“That’s the way brewers like to do it, in small steps so the average drinker won’t even notice,” Morrow says. “If you change the beer ever so slightly, it keeps their palate fresh.”

Powder to the people

When it comes to hops, brewers are beginning to get left in the dust – and they’re loving it.

Lupulin powder – a purified concentration of the resin compounds and aromatic oils in whole hop flowers – is being test-marketed by Yakima-based YCH Hops (Yakima Chief-Hopunion).

The first area breweries to receive the new product are Perry Street and Trickster’s. Both are using it along with newly harvested whole hops in this season’s fresh-hop beers, and Perry has made it the focus of a just-released, revamped Citra Dust double IPA.

“We decided, let’s change the ABV, make it a big beer and dust it,” owner/brewer Ben Lukes says. “People are going insane over it.”

Lukes took his previous Citra DIPA recipe, bumped the alcohol by volume from 8 to 9 percent and dry-hopped with Citra powder after regular hop pellet additions. The result is hugely aromatic with a distinct, intense, non-vegetal hop flavor.

For his first fresh-hop beer of the season – just released today – Lukes used both Citra powder and pellets, and sandwiched some Mosaic powder in between a 300-pound layer of fresh Simcoe.

He plans to brew an all-powder beer sometime later this fall, “just to see how it reacts at every stage.” But in the long run, Lukes says, “I think what we’re going to find is that it’s best used in combination with pellets, to make the aroma and flavor pop.

“Overall, it’s an awesome product,” he says. “I think it has a lot of potential. I’m pretty excited about it.”

Trickster’s head brewer Evan Ruud – whose brother, Blaze, is YCH’s Northwest regional sales manager – was the first to use lupulin powder locally, in a collaboration Cascadian dark ale with Twelve String for May’s Spokane Craft Beer Week. That featured Simcoe in four forms: whole leaf, pellets, extract and powder.

Ruud added both Simcoe and Mosaic powder to his new fresh-hop ale, to be tapped Monday, which he calls a step up from last year’s. Like Lukes, he used 20 pounds of fresh Simcoe hops per barrel, or 10 pounds per keg – “enough to fill the keg all the way to the brim,” he says.     

“I was going so big with the fresh hops that I wanted to cut out the grassy flavors in any other spot that I could,” Ruud says, which is why he used powder for the other hop additions. That also allowed him to get some Mosaic flavor without the oniony and catty notes that can come from the whole hop, he says.

Along with cleaner flavors, Ruud says, lupulin powder also contributes a more complex mouthfeel and reduces perceived bitterness. "It’s just another tool in the bag for making good beer,” he says.

As well as boosting quality, lupulin powder can increase efficiency by reducing the amount of liquid that gets trapped in hop pellet sediment, called trub. Breweries so far have been reporting gains of 3 to 10 percent, with most falling in the middle range, Blaze Ruud says.

“It’s more sustainable, with less environmental impacts going down the drain,” he says. “That’s particularly attractive to larger brewers.”

YCH uses a proprietary cryogenic process to separate the powder from the leafy part of the hop cone. That’s also being sold separately as debittered hop leaf, to provide pure aroma along the lines of European noble hops.

Three’s the trick

Tricksters has done some growing up, and out, in its third year of operation.

Since signing with major regional distributor Odom in August, the Coeur d’Alene brewery has increasingly focused on beer sales outside its cozy taproom.

The place will likely be packed when Tricksters celebrates its third anniversary on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The star of the show will be a bourbon barrel-aged oatmeal stout, blended with some of the brewery’s big Daedric Druid stout and served on nitro.

“We’re excited about it,” says owner Matt Morrow. “It’s pretty bourbon-y.”

Some of last year’s seasonal Naughty Nick – a cookie-inspired version of the oatmeal stout brewed with cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon and brown sugar – also is likely to make an appearance, along with a tap featuring nearby Summit Cider.

Like last year, customers will receive raffle tickets with every pint purchased for prize drawings throughout the day.

Over the past year, Tricksters also released a new flagship IPA, the fruity Juice Box, and continued to fine-tune its original Hipster Juice pale, which was repositioned as a session IPA.

And it issued its first bottled beers – limited-release bombers of the Druid and a Professor Funkhouse spiced sour stout – and won its first major competition medal, a bronze for Bear Trap Brown at the North American Beer Awards in Idaho Falls. (Hipster Juice also made it to the final judging round, but didn’t place, at both NABA and the Great American Beer Festival.)

Plans for the coming year call for building on all of that. Marketing efforts will continue to expand, with Morrow and a brewery rep making a sales trip to Central Washington on Friday.

“We’re just trying to get the beer out there,” he says.    

Spring will see the release of Juice Box and the Hops on Parade imperial IPA, and possibly the Druid again, in 22-ounce bottles. Morrow plans to enter the top-selling Juice Box in several competitions this summer.

And more barrel-aged beers are on the way, including a sour porter that will be bottled when the time is right.

“The aroma is excellent, but the flavor isn’t there yet,” Morrow says. “We really want that one to pop. We’re going to keep adding sugars and let it do its thing.”

More beer dinners at area restaurants, including Spokane, also are on the agenda as Morrow works to build the brewery’s reputation.

He recently passed the professional exam to become a Certified Cicerone – the beer version of wine’s sommelier – becoming the sixth area resident to achieve that honor.  

“I really just hope to show that I’ve got the knowledge to take care of our customers,” he says.

Don’t forget the straw

Trickster’s is tweaking its IPA lineup again.

The Coeur d’Alene brewery today tapped Juice Box (6.7 percent alcohol by volume, 65 International Bitterness Units), full of fruity hoppiness from Mosaic, Simcoe and Chinook.

It replaces the previous pinier, earthier Shape Shifter in the standard IPA slot.

“It’s totally different,” owner Matt Morrow says. “The perceived bitterness is a lot higher, and the hop flavors really come out at the end.

“The Mosaic is just delicious. That’s why we call it Juice Box, it’s really juicy.”

How often it will be brewed depends on the demand from accounts through Odom, which began distributing Trickster’s beers around the region this month.

The star of the show is Hipster Juice session IPA (5, 55), which has gone through several variations since its introduction last August. The final Version 5.1 is fruity in its own right with a combination of Citra, Simcoe, El Dorado and Cascade hops.   

It accounts for about half of his current sales, Morrow says, followed by the Cougar Bay Blonde and Inspector Stonewall’s Amber.

And hopheads, stay tuned: Trickster’s is brewing another IPA next week that Morrow will only say is “going to be special.”

Blast-off of flavor

Trickster’s has launched a little project to take the taste of its beers to new heights.

Using a device called the HopRocket, the Coeur d’Alene brewery is infusing a different beer with various flavorings each day this week.

Monday debuted with the Hipster Juice pale through pineapple, starfruit and jalapeno. Today, it’s the XP extra pale with grapefruit, pineapple and starfruit.

Slated for tomorrow is a Mexican mole version of the Soul Warmer Porter, with Anaheim and ancho chiles, cinnamon sticks and oak.

Like the Randall – used regularly by River City and Ramblin’ Road in Spokane – the HopRocket can be filled with a wide range of ingredients and connected to tap lines to infuse finished beer with flavors on its way to the glass.

Trickster’s owner/brewer Matt Morrow previously used it with his home system before the bottom piece went missing in his garage for a year and a half. Now he plans to offer infused beers at least one day each week after this week’s initial introduction.

“Our head brewer (Evan Ruud) came up with the fruit yesterday, and I thought, that sounds great,” Morrow says.

The flavor intensified as more pints were poured, he says: “Once the fruit gets saturated, it starts leaching out flavor.”

And the leftover fruit was a little treat at the end of the night. “It came out like carbonated pineapple,” says Morrow.

On a more traditional note, Trickster’s plans to tap its new double IPA a week from Thursday (March 5). “It’s going to knock some socks off,” Morrow says. “It has an extremely pungent aroma and flavor.”

That same day also could see the release of the brewery’s first bottled beer, Professor Funkhouse, if labels arrive in time.

That’s a blend of naturally soured Naughty Nick – Trickster’s holiday seasonal “chocolate chip cookie” oatmeal stout – and unfermented porter, aged in a cabernet sauvignon barrel. The 22-ounce limited release will only be sold out of the tasting room.

Day of the Druid

Tomorrow will be one of the darkest days in Trickster’s history.

The Coeur d’Alene brewery is debuting its Daedric Druid strong American stout (8.1 percent alcohol by volume, 43 International Bitterness Units).

While most of it will end up in 22-ounce bottles, scheduled for release next month – making it Trickster’s first packaged beer – a limited amount will be poured in the tasting room on Friday (pints only, no growlers).

Brewery owner Matt Morrow says the name, which comes from a character in an online fantasy role-playing game, suggests “the darkest of the dark – a nefarious sort of thing.”

The “really meaty” beer has a big caramel character from an extended boil that caramelized sugars in the malts, he adds, along with dark fruit flavors.

Coming later in 22-ounce bombers is a more limited release of Trickster’s first barrel-aged beer, a combination of two winter seasonals – year-old, naturally soured Naughty Nick Chocolate Chip Cookie Oatmeal Stout and unfermented Soul Warmer Porter – aged in a wine barrel, which Morrow says “smells like candy.”

Along with the bottled specialties, some of the brewery’s regular lineup also could show up in cans down the road.

Turning two Trickster’s

Start getting that liver in shape for the holiday party season with Trickster's second anniversary celebration on Saturday.

From 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., beer and fun will be flowing in the newly painted taproom in north Coeur d'Alene's Commerce Park business park.

Look for seven selections on tap - Hipster Juice Vol. 2 pale ale, Tricky Dick Kolsch, Inspector Stonewall Amber, Soul Warmer Porter, Bear Trap Brown, XP Extra Pale Ale and Shape Shifter IPA - for $3 a pint, or $7 a growler.

There also will be free snacks, an assortment of board games (from checkers and chess to Cards Against Humanity) and a series of raffles. All week, Trickster's has been handing out raffle tickets with every pint and growler purchase, which will continue through Saturday afternoon. From 2 to 5 p.m., there will be drawings every half-hour, ending with two "golden ticket" grand prizes: a free pint a day until the third anniversary rolls around (must be present to win).

  

It’s Tripster, er, Hickster, er …

Hey, hipsters – your beer is back.

Trickster’s today is releasing Hipster Juice Volume 2, the second in an ongoing series of one-off pale ales.

Volume 1, which arrived in August, was a crisp, seasonally sessionable offering (only 4.5 percent alcohol by volume, 43 International Bitterness Units) with a pleasantly dank aroma and herbal, spicy flavors from single-hopping with Zeus.

As befits our current climate, Volume 2 is a bit beefier, at 5.6 percent ABV, with some waffle-like notes from bready Munich malt, according to Trickster’s owner Matt Morrow.

And while the IBUs are roughly the same, more bitterness comes through from Chinook hops, Morrow says, which were used this time along with Zeus and Northern Brewer.

You won’t have to wait long for Volume 3, which will again be a different recipe. That’s being brewed in time for release at Trickster’s second anniversary party on Nov. 29, with some of Volume 2 also expected to stick around for comparison purposes. 

For my next trick …

To say that Trickster’s has a few new ones up its sleeve would be an understatement.

As it prepares to celebrate its second anniversary, the Coeur d’Alene brewery is launching a weekly cask series, beginning a barrel-aging program and preparing to can its beers, all with a new head brewer on board:

– Trickster’s cask beers are a bit of a hybrid, naturally carbonated in the keg with added flavorings, but served through a regular carbon dioxide tap. The slightly creamier result is somewhere between a typical beer and a traditional cask ale served through a hand pump.

Currently pouring is a pineapple-juiced version of The Hoppit fresh hop ale (made with Simcoe, Citra, Chinook and Mosaic), which owner Matt Morrow says restores some of the brightness the Hoppit had when it was brand-new.

Both that and the regular Hoppit will be gone soon. A new cask ale will be tapped most Fridays from now on, starting next week with another fresh hop offering – Feel the Love CDA, a Cascadian dark ale – flavored with coffee and oak chips.

– Feel the Love, made with the same four hops as the Hoppit (though much heavier on the Simcoe) plus the lesser-seen Sorachi Ace, is a malty, opaque brown beer with coconut notes up front and a bit of bubblegum-like fruitness in the finish (a Sorachi hallmark).

It’s the first recipe developed entirely by new head brewer Evan Ruud, whose family owns Old Schoolhouse Brewing in Winthrop. After starting out there, he worked at Ska Brewing in Durango, Colorado – like Morrow, though they weren’t at Ska at the same time – before returning to the Northwest.

 

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