Second Life Brewing Co. Debuts The AfterLife Series
Second Life Brewing Co. has created a new program to help send off your loved ones in a very special way. Jon Draugr, founder and owner of Second Life Brewing Co. said, “We were sitting around having drinks after my great-aunt died about eight months ago and we got to talking about different funeral traditions. You know, Viking burials at sea, Egyptian mummies, spreading ashes at sea, and that is when it hit us, almost all at once. What if we brewed a beer specially made for the family? This wouldn’t be any beer though, no! This would be a beer brewed with the deceased’s ashes sprinkled in.”
I know where your mind is going. But, think of standing on the edge of the cliffs in Ireland with your beloved great-grandfather’s ashes in an ornamental urn held close to your chest. He told you before he passed that he wanted nothing more than to have a part of him be carried off by that crisp ocean air near the town he grew up in. So, you made the journey to open his urn and take a pinch of him out and watched as it drifted from your chilled hands and you think of the smile he has on his face shining down on you from above. It is this same feeling that Second Life Brewing hopes to provide as a result of their unorthodox idea.
There was doubt about starting up something like this, though. They talked about it for a while, questioning whether or not they were crazy and if this was a stretch. It wasn’t until a bottle release of one of their more successful brews when assistant brewers Geoff Aaron and Ian Jackson glanced at the long line of eager fans (dismissing the whale hunters and day traders) and thought they might just have the market for this. “These are guys that would die to have their ashes spread into the boil of their favorite beer.” Fiona Allison, head brewer, Draugr and the rest of the brewing team held several meetings after that day to discuss logistics processes and layout for the program. “We were worried about how the beer would turn out and how much love the FDA would allow us to add to the beers.”
Project lead, Sadie Irene, met with officials from the FDA and state Health Department to discuss the program. Irene commented, “At first, they were very put off by the idea and I quickly became worried they were not going to take us seriously.” However, there are no state, county or city regulations that prohibited them from moving forward. She further explained that it was an abundance of legal technicalities that allowed them to progress. “It came down to burial rights, which overlapped with freedom of religious expression and the sobering fact that ashes are not considered to be human remains, but personal property,” Irene explained. With a reluctant stamp of approval from city and state officials, the breweries newest project was born, The AfterLife Series.
Now, they had a different problem. How in Hades were they going to make this work? The biggest question was what styles to use as the base for the series’ beers. Allison explained, “We were pretty sure that ‘the darker the better’ was likely to be a good rule to follow from a brewing perspective.” However, Draugr was concerned this would be too limiting, acknowledging “The most popular beers on the market right now are variants of IPAs and sours. To limit ourselves to ambers or darker could kill off interest. A majority of our market for this series are going to want to use their loved one’s favorite style or even a recipe from our core lineup.”
Draugr and “The Pallbearers” – the brewers specifically designated and trained to handle the loved one’s ashes, Allison included – understand most looking to participate in The AfterLife Series are not interested in consuming the beer. More than likely, it will be treated as a memento or commemoration to the deceased. However, there are others excited about the chance to write The AfterLife Series into their will. Patrick Summers is one such individual. Self-proclaimed “biggest fan” of and volunteer at Second Life Brewing Co. told PorchDrinking.com that there are two things he wants at his wake. He wants Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits – released October 1980 – to be played on repeat and Second Life Brewing’s Revenant pale ale brewed through The AfterLife Series.
It is Second Life Brewing’s commitment to quality and their fans, like Summers, that drove them to invest all the time and brain power into figuring out recipes for six styles to offer in the series. Allison and her Pallbearers worked hard making small batches of each style over and over again. They decided to use wood ashes to mimic burial ashes in the brewing process, adding more wood ash to each batch until reaching a threshold of intolerance in the flavor and SRM. As expected, the lighter styles tolerated less ash. In the end, Allison decided to stick to an undisclosed limit across all the styles. While the exact amount was not shared with us, she did say the team agreed it would be best to work with the amount settled on for the lightest of the six beers. The six styles chosen for the series after trials were IPA, stout, gose-style ale, unfiltered witbier, brown ale and barleywine.
The batches for this series will be brewed using a small 5-gallon pilot system to keep volume down to a manageable level. Not is each batch intended for a select group of people, but it is meant to embody the intimacies and traditions of a funeral and wake. Allison expressed, “This is not about volume or distribution, it’s about intimacy.” The small system is a lot like a really cool and more efficient homebrew kit, embracing the idea of brewing at home with family and friends. To be clear, there is no intention of allowing family and friends of the deceased to assist in the brewing of the beer beyond selecting the style for liability reasons.
Draugr emphasized that The AfterLife Series is not meant to be taken as a tongue-in-cheek view on death. He knows from personal experience how hard it is to survive loves ones. He also knows what kind of bonds beer can make between people, like a father and son or sisters. “Before I went pro, my father and I would meet up once a month to do a day of homebrewing. Now, we barely get enough time to do it a few times a year. When he does die, I will look back on those monthly meetings with fondness and, without a doubt, I will likely pull out our old homebrew supplies and start the boil.” It is that connection that Draugr hopes to facilitate through The AfterLife Series. A way to send off a daughter’s dad or the brother of a brother. “It is all about love and respect. Something family and brewing share for me.”