Collaborating for a Cause | Westum Hjemmebryggeri
- Eric Griffin
- On December 28, 2023
Back in May, immediately after hearing the news of Alex Kidd’s cancer diagnosis, PorchDrinking helped to organize a razzle with the Barleywine is Life Facebook group to raise money for his recovery through donations to his GoFundMe. On the 19th we published an article outlining how breweries could get involved with rare bottle contributions for the razzle, and then on June 6th officially announced the packages up for grabs. For every $10 forwarded to his recovery fund (with emailed proof), donors would receive one entry. Submissions closed at Midnight EST on June 18, with winners selected live on the morning of Tuesday, June 20 by Stephen Loh and Michael Gabriel of Malt Couture on Instagram.
One brewery donation in particular came all the way from Norway, contributing two special iterations of home-brewed, high-gravity ales that were randomly added to three winning boxes from the PorchDrinking razzle. We had the privilege to talk with Espen Westum extensively about his passion project, Westum Hjemmebryggeri, as well as the inspirations provided by Alex Kidd and what’s led him to this point in his brewing journey. Additionally, we were able to review and share the very exclusive charity releases Westum sent stateside to support the Kidds.
The Westum Cause
In 2012, Westum Hjemmebryggeri took its initial form as a mere name and logo. A year later, Espen delved into brewing, his interest further sparked by an introduction into the processes. Just weeks after this introduction, Espen, accompanied by a homebrewer friend, brewed his first beer. Shortly thereafter, Westum Hjemmebryggeri became official when Espen acquired his first brewing rig.
Westum started out with a modest 8-gallon brewing machine but quickly outgrew it. After only a few batches, he upgraded to a 16-gallon setup. Now, nine years later, his operation boasts a 44-gallon Brewtools system equipped with conical tanks. 2020 marked Westum’s foray into barrel-aging, an interest that took hold immediately after his first experimentation with it. Since then, seven barrel projects have been undertaken, utilizing 10-15 gallon barrels. Currently, two Barleywines from these projects are still maturing in oak.
During a conversation with Espen, he attributed his newfound interest in Barleywine at the time to Alex Kidd after joining the fervently passionate Barleywine is Life group. Although Espen has never met Alex in person, he has consistently supported his passion for the evolving beer industry by sending rare regional beers over the years. Following Alex’s cancer diagnosis, Westum was eager to contribute his support. Despite being limited in resources as a homebrewer, he decided to repurpose two barrel-aged projects from 2022, creating custom labels for a limited run of cans and bottles for the PorchDrinking charity raffle.
Through the assistance and generosity from both Espen himself as well as members of the Barleywine is Life group, we were able to obtain one of each of these incredibly limited runs. We hope you enjoy the breakdown of these one-of-a-kind beers.
Stay Strong, Alex
This first release was originally branded under the name HEX in 2022. The beer is a big, bold, barrel-aged Wheatwine. It was brewed with huge amounts of Wheat Malt, Carawheat, Wheat LME, Golden Promise and a touch of demerara sugar. It had a starting gravity of 39.8°P/1.178. After 5 hours of aggressive boiling and subsequent fermentation, it was transferred to a freshly emptied, 10-gallon Reservoir Wheat Whiskey barrel for an 8-month slumber. Finishing ABV was 15.2%.
The pour is a deep, brooding amber color that quickly envelops into darkness as the liquid settles in the glass.
The nose presents a rich and sweet profile, opening with notes reminiscent of honey-drizzled bread pudding. As time and temperature work their magic, raisin aromas gradually emerge, adding depth to the experience. These fragrances beautifully complement the complex undertones of caramelized fruit and wheat toast. After allowing the beer to bloom undisturbed for approximately 20 minutes, a significant transformation unfolds. Suddenly, we are greeted with strong and familiar aromas reminiscent of Werther’s Vanilla Crème candies.
The palate mirrors many of the richer qualities as the nose. That said, the addition of mild bitterness and vanilla allows for a deeper, balanced complexity inherent to the style. Additionally, the Reservoir Wheat Whiskey barrel imparts more sweetness, a mild spice, and puts a huge emphasis on the vanilla and with its notable flavors of crème brûlée.
The finishing gravity on Stay Strong, Alex really ties everything together. Not too thick and heavy, but still with noticeable weight. The carbonation is fairly low but present enough to cut any potential for the beer to feel sticky or syrupy.
This Strong Ale, originally branded as Hodgepodge, is a blend of five different leftover Westum beers. The final blending percentages can be seen on the label above. Subsequently, the beer was transferred to a Distillery 291 Maple Rye Whiskey barrel for 9 months and 9 days. After aging, it was then conditioned on homemade maple syrup from Fat Boy’s Sugar Shack out of New Hampshire, and finished with just a dash of freshly brewed, long-boiled Barleywine. Finishing ABV was 14%.The idea for the exclusive labeling, as originally discussed in our installment with Voodoo Brewing, alludes to an internet troll who had accused Alex of wearing a notably expensive leather jacket acquired via grifted funds through his GoFundMe. The otter donning the jacket is an ode to the legendary British malt Maris Otter, a variety synonymous with the Barleywine style.
There is a deep coloration on the pour, an abyss of dark liquid in the glass. A soft ring of tight carbonation lingers around the perimeter of the liquid, beige in coloration. There’s a great visual contrast between the head of the beer and the brooding blackness of the liquid.
The nose exudes a cohesive complexity of dark fruit right away. Homemade caramel and Raisinet candies follow closely, complimenting the initial sweetness. With time, we get underlying smokiness and chocolate-covered cherries. To reference a throwback style, we get a strong Adambier influence (à la Längst or Adam from the Wood), with its strong, dark, hoppy and mildly smoky character.
The maple inclusion really showcases on the palate. Rich and sweet, but not cloying. There’s a subtle bitterness to cut through and bring balance. We get notes of maple raisin oatmeal, vanilla, whiskey-soaked oak and an increasing prominence of smoked malt that trails.
The palate finishes with strong gravity. The carbonation is good and not too heavy on the palate. The finish is long, oaky, warming and mildly dry, and lingers well into the next sip.
Supporting the Kidd Family
The razzle set up by PorchDrinking and Barleywine is Life was successful in raising thousands for Alex and his family. It was truly incredible to see such a surge in support to accompany so many other donations from different outlets in Craft Beer and beyond. Westum Hjemmebryggeri is a perfect example of just how far Alex’s reach and impact has been on the industry, and these special iterations that Espen contributed are perfect representations of the styles of beers that DDB loves and champions year after year.
The Kidd family GoFundMe continues to creep closer to 400k. Huge leaps forward in recent weeks have been thanks to benefits conducted by Revolution Brewing, Fox Farm Brewery and Schramm’s Mead. Keep an eye out early in the new year as Fox Farm and Schramm’s join the series and we are given the opportunity to highlight their unique fundraiser and products released in support.
Stay Strong, Alex!
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