I pull up to New Glory Craft Brewery on a balmy Friday afternoon. Hidden away in an industrial park off Power Inn Road, New Glory is on every beer geek’s short list of best breweries in town. There’s a line that stretches from the door of the tasting room to the curb before they unlock the door at 2 p.m.
By the time I find a place to park on the street, the early birds are already walking out with armfuls of canned beer, including New Glory’s latest gem, an unfiltered India pale ale. I’m here for an imperial stout that has all the beer geeks buzzing, in part because of its complex flavors, intense drinking experience and an alcohol by volume that clocks in at an eye-popping 15.2 percent.
This stout, dubbed Infinite Void and packaged in 16-ounce cans, sells for $36 a four-pack, making it one of the most expensive beers in town. Yet, by the time you read this, those cans will likely be sold out (though the beer is still available on tap at the brewery).
New Glory’s Cory Meyer has proved to be one of the most exciting brewers in the region. Infinite Void might be his most daring effort to date.
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“Ever since I started here, we have tried to push out more and more diverse styles. A big stout was something I used to always enjoy brewing at home before I became a professional,” said Meyer. “It was something I proposed early on and it got the green light, but it kept getting pushed back and back because this type of beer requires a lot of time in the tank, a lot of ingredients, investment and so forth. We finally made it happen for Beer Week, and I’m really excited we were able to pull it off.”
When Meyer approached the brewery’s owner, Julien Lux, and told him what he wanted to do with this stout, Lux took a deep breath.
“It took me a minute to think about it. But ultimately, we had to try it,” Lux told me. “There’s no other way to see if we could do it. It’s been on the board for nine months.”
Meyer had to get all of the logistics and math worked out before he started brewing. This was going to be one high-maintenance, high-risk, high-cost beer to brew.
“Our normal brew house has a capacity of 15 barrels, which is roughly 500 gallons. For a normal batch, we will do one mash with one set of grains and then produce that volume of beer. With this beer, we actually did two mashes and condensed it all the way down to a 15-barrel volume. It’s essentially twice as much grain as a normal batch. To produce a beer like this, you have to start with a really high concentration of sugars,” Meyer said. “It’s a long process. This beer required almost constant attention. Every day I was checking in on it, monitoring how active it was and making adjustments.”
In modern craft beer, the best-selling style is the IPA. People want big hops – lots of citrusy/fruity aromas and flavors and, until the Northeast style took Sacramento by storm, a wallop of bitterness on the finish. Brewing a stout is a challenge, in part because it caters to a much smaller audience.
But Meyer has pulled it off. Infinite Void is both intense and refined, with a toasty malt flavor, notes resembling marshmallow from the addition of meadowfoam honey, chocolate and the kind of sweetness that doesn’t overwhelm the palate. The alcohol is so skillfully masked that one might be tempted to take a big gulp or two. But don’t.
Share it. Sip it. Let it warm up in the glass and see it evolve over time. This is a beer for folks with time to appreciate the nuance and richness of one very big stout.
“I see the Sacramento beer scene as really up and coming,” Meyer said. “Collectively, we are continuing to try to raise the bar to produce better and better beer, and we build off of each other to do that.”