This year, patrons of Macon’s annual Bragg Jam Arts and Music Festival will be able to enjoy the music with their ears and their taste buds.
The Macon Beer Co. will release its newest brew, Macon Music, an India Pale Ale, at the Patrons’ Party on July 25, the night before the concert crawl begins.
Cory Smith, co-owner of the brewery, said India Pale Ales are essentially beers with an extra hoppy flavor.
“We don’t really brew to a style necessarily. But if we had to pick one, I would say it’s an American IPA,” Smith said. “It’s probably not quite as bitter as a typical American IPA, but that’s kind of what the people in this area are after. They’re easing into that bitterness, so we’re trying to help them along.”
The bitter flavor comes from plants called hops, which look like small, green pine cones that grow on vines. Smith said hops typically grow in the Northwest and are a cousin of marijuana.
“(Hops) smell amazing, and they taste terrible,” Smith said. “They’re very, very bitter. If you were to pick one and eat it, it would probably hurt your stomach.”
Nearly every beer contains some degree of hops, Smith said, and the buds are vital in the brewing process.
“Without hops you would have really, really, really sweet beer,” Smith said.
There are hundreds of varieties of hops, but with so many craft beer breweries booming across the country, Smith said there is more demand and less supply.
In the fall of 2013, as the company was getting ready to churn out its first brew of the year-round pale ale Macon Progress, Smith said he learned he couldn’t get any of the necessary hops for the recipes he had planned. So the company had to start from scratch and make the beer all over again. The recipe has been slightly tweaked several times since.
“The first batch of (Macon) Progress that came out was kind of experimental,” Smith said. “That’s part of the reason it’s named Progress ... We’re changing it all the time but getting closer to where we want it.”
Unlike Macon Progress, which was crafted with only one variety of hops, Macon Music is brewed with two. Smith said a mix of Millennial and El Dorado hops will add unique flavors, aromas and bittering characteristics to the 7 percent alcohol brew.
Though the beer company plans for Macon Music to be a seasonal beer, Smith said he doesn’t expect it to be as ephemeral as its springtime cherry ale, Macon Love.
“(Macon) Love is actually a very difficult beer (to make) because of the cherries,” Smith said. “We use sweet cherries from out West. They’re expensive, and it’s not a beer we can sustain for a long period of time.”
Smith said Macon Music is more feasible economically for the company. He said he plans to have the new brew stick around through the Macon Beer Festival in August, perhaps into October and maybe even longer.
“It really depends a lot on how it does,” Smith said. “If the demand for it is such that we can make sense of keeping it out, then we may do that.”
Wes Griffith, co-owner of The Rookery on Cherry Street, said his restaurant sells more Macon Progress than any other restaurant or bar that carries it.
“It’s high quality,” Griffith said of the beer. “It’s standing up to the other premier brewers in our market ... (such as Georgia-based) Sweetwater (or) Terrapin.”
Griffith said with the success of the company’s pale ale, it’s only logical that the next brew be an India Pale Ale.
“IPAs are really hot, and they’ve been really hot for a while now,” Griffith said. “Most people that get into craft beer, it’s one of the things they like. It’s more full-body flavored. That’s what the beer drinkers with the more seasoned palates and adventurous palates go for.”
Macon Music will be available to the general public at Macon bars and restaurants for the July 26 concert crawl.
To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4382.