Crafting a House Beer with RJ Rocker’s Brewing Company
In November 2014 the idea to craft a house beer was brewing – literally – at Tupelo. With the help of our responsibly-sourced partner, RJ Rocker’s Brewing Company, our Tupelo Honey Rye Ale came to life, and the beer continues to serve as a staple of our restaurants. We recently visited our friends at their Spartanburg, SC brewery to raise a glass to success and reflect on our partnership.
Partnering with the Right Team
We’re proud to be known for several signature dishes and cocktails, like our Goat Cheese Grits, Sweet Potato Pancake and Honeysuckle & Lavender Flip. We strive to create unique flavor profiles with responsibly-sourced ingredients, and we wanted to create a beer with this same goal in mind. We not only wanted to create a quality product that we could call our own, but we also wanted to create it with a company with similar values as ours.
RJ Rocker’s proved to be the best fit; they’re a small, local team with a lot of heart that uses responsibly-sourced ingredients to brew delicious beer. They take their work seriously, but have fun too…just like us! Take a tour of the brewery and you’ll learn that each brewing tank has a name and story behind it. (For example, “Abe,” “Rosy,” “TJ,” and “George” were the first four tanks installed were named as such because owner Mark Johnsen thought they looked like Mt. Rushmore.) You’ll also see playful pups Willie (“Brewer’s Assistant”) and Stout (“Head of Security and Hospitality”) roam the brewery for head scratches. Working with companies like RJ Rocker’s – companies who value their craft, their employees and their community – is what continues to fuel our passion for what we do.
Creating a Flavor Profile
Taylor White, RJ Rocker’s Head Brewer, was tasked with creating our first house beer. “We wanted to craft something with character, not just a plain draft beer,” he said. “The beer itself drinks like an amber, and has a malt body. We added rye to the body, which gives the beer that deep amber color and biscuit-like flavor. The rye adds a spicy element, but cuts the sweetness of honey in the beer as well.” And we didn’t skimp on the honey! During the boil, over two pounds of honey are added to each barrel in order to add sweetness to the malt body. “Lastly, we add only two American hop additions to the brew for balance, and all of those elements combined really bring out the overall flavor,” Taylor said. “We wanted the beer to be complex yet approachable – one that goes with any type of meal.”
Developing the Recipe
According to Taylor, it was pretty easy! “After a couple of beers and good conversation, everyone was on the same page with what we wanted. We were fairly confident in the recipe and made a decent-sized pilot batch, “he said. “We only had to tweak and taste it one time! It’s rare when you get multiple parties involved and you clique on all cylinders…both companies approached it supportive of each other.” He emphasized that what makes our partnership so unique is that it’s been such a smooth process. “Working with Tupelo brings a new element to our day-to-day work here at the brewery. It’s fun for me as a brewer because we’re able to experience recipe development from a different perspective. And it’s the first major partnership for the brewery, so it’s very special.” We’ll cheers to that with a Tupelo Honey Rye Ale any day!
Stop by your favorite Tupelo Honey location to taste our signature beer or any of our other delicious drinks!