A honey beer from Fifty Fifty Brewing Co. in Truckee, Calif. placed third in the Honey category of this year’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colo. We caught up with head brewer Alyssa Shook to talk about Spring Fever and learn about her award-winning inspiration.
“I was inspired by the warm weather just before springtime,” Shook said. “I wanted something light and refreshing, but with more depth and flavor than a traditional golden ale.”
Nontraditional brews were at the heart of the mission when owners Andy and Alicia Barr ditched their engineering jobs to start Fifty Fifty. Years later, the brewpub is home to dozens of house beers, including one international favorite.
“Our most notable beer is our barrel-aged imperial stout, called Eclipse,” Shook said. “It’s sold in 40 states and multiple countries, including Japan and Sweden.”
As head brewer, Shook works to perfect the current house beers and develop new ones as well. Spring Fever started out as an experimental beer, fueled by Shook’s curiosity for developing new flavors.
“Orange peel and lemongrass seemed like fun ingredients to play around with,” Shook said. “My honey supplier sent me buckets of cotton honey so I thought it might make a great addition as well.”
When Shook first started at Fifty Fifty, honey wasn’t in her recipe book. It was her mentor that encouraged her to incorporate the ingredient into the brews.
“The brewmaster when I started here had me try a variety of honeys and it really opened my eyes to using it as an ingredient in beer,” Shook said. “At the time, I was only familiar with honey that came in a bear-shaped container.”
Spring Fever combines cotton honey with orange peel to create a light ale that’s brimming with bright, spring flavors. Shook adds her honey before fermentation, which captures the unique honey sweetness, as well as balances the spice blend used in the kettle.
Shook incorporates honey in several beers at Fifty Fifty, though she says the Spring Fever is the most honey-forward beer she’s developed. Totality, an imperial stout, and Trifecta, a Belgian Tripel, both utilize a honey base developed by Shook.
With Spring Fever gaining national success and recognition, Shook says the future looks bright for Fifty Fifty Brewing.
“We have a production facility in the works so that’s exciting for us all,” Shook says. “Moving the majority of brewing there will allow me to use the smaller pub brewhouse for experimentation. The sky’s the limit.”