Beer enthusiasts from around North Carolina prevented the tap room at Mother Earth Brewing Co. in Kinston, NC, from having a quiet evening last Thursday. The only Silent Night to be found quickly left the brewery in small tasting glasses and in groups of three 750-ml bottles to be enjoyed at home, cellared for next year, or traded for other limited seasonal releases. Those who attended the 2011 Silent Night bottle release, however, were given more than just the opportunity to purchase bottles. Mother Earth co-founders Stephen Hill and Trent Mooring, along with head brewer Josh Brewer, provided patrons with vertical tastings, special tap room offerings, and tours of one of the cleanest and most environmental friendly brewing facilities in the Southeast.
On December 1, 2011, less than twenty-four hours after an early “sneak peek” of the seasonal imperial coffee stout at Beasley’s Chicken + Honey in Raleigh, NC, the Mother Earth crew hosted a Silent Night bottle release party from 4:00 p.m. until the tap room closed around 10:00 p.m. Despite the early start time on a Thursday afternoon, the crowd started forming in the tap room before most people had a chance to leave work, and at 7:30 p.m., the brewery had already sold twenty-four of the thirty-six cases that it allocated for the event. By the next day, all of the bottles were gone.
The beer inside those bottles was slightly different from last year’s batch due to the blend and amount of coffee that Brewer used this year. He brewed the 2011 Silent Night with a “tweaked” version of Counter Culture Coffee‘s classic “1922 Mocha & Java” blend created “just for us to give Silent Night an even more pronounced note of rich dark chocolate,” writes Mooring on Mother Earth’s blog. Instead of using five pounds of coffee per 20-bbl batch as he did last year, Brewer used seven pounds to make the coffee notes even more prevalent in 2011.
He then aged the beer for two months in fourteen Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels. Because six of the barrels were on their third cycle of holding beer, Brewer created this year’s version of Silent Night by blending beer from the various barrels based on the amount of Bourbon present. Over the course of two days, he and his team bottled the imperial stout in 2,500 750-ml cork-and-cage bottles, a significant increase from the 1,200 bottles released in 2010.
In addition to the chance to purchase up to three of these bottles, Mother Earth offered 10-oz pours of both 2010 and 2011 Silent Night and 5-oz pours in smaller glasses of 2010 Silent Night alongside this year’s batch in a vertical tasting. Also offered on draft were some of the brewery’s tap room-only beers, including its Jebediah English Pale Ale, its Second Wind Pale on nitro, a casked version of its Sisters of the Moon IPA dry-hopped with Sorachi Ace and Cascade hops, and a double IPA. Mother Earth also poured another one of its fall and winter seasonal beers, its Old Neighborhood Oatmeal Porter, on Thursday night.
Fortunately, because every Mother Earth employee appeared to be present at the release, enthusiasts who visited the tap room on Thursday never had to wait in line to purchase Silent Night bottles or to order a beer at the bar despite the large crowd. The release was unlike that of Foothills‘ Sexual Chocolate, where attendees line up at the brewery in Winston-Salem, NC, with camping chairs, coolers, and equally rare beers to trade with others waiting. Instead, Hill, Mooring, and Brewer simply wanted to bring enthusiasts to their corner in downtown Kinston to show them a good time by providing casual tours of the tanks, the opportunity to slide down their metal playground slide, the chance to try two vintages of the seasonal stout side-by-side, and a place to catch up with others in the beer community across the state.