By Aaron Swaney Herald Writer
Have you met Randall?
He’s a wee little fellow that loves beer and comes up to about the average beer drinker’s knee. But watch out, he can pack quite a punch.
In the craft beer world, Randall isn’t a who but a what. Created in 2003 by legendary East Coast brewery Dogfish Head, Randall — or fully Randall the Enamel Animal — is a organoleptic hop transducer module. In layman’s terms, it’s a chamber filled with flavor-enhancing ingredients such as hops, fruit, coffee, etc., that beer pours through, directly infusing the beer with the flavor of whatever is in the chamber.
Often times, especially with hops, those flavors are heightened exponentially. Instead of a rounded flavor profile a casked beer may display, Randalled beers provide a bright, sharp drinking experience.
“When you drink a beer Randallized by hops those characteristics are raw and in your face,” said Ajen Birmingham, who works for Mukilteo’s Diamond Knot Craft Brewing.
The theme of this Saturday’s Everett Craft Beer Fest is Randalls. For more information on the festival, see the box at right.
Dogfish Head created their Randall to house hops. The thought was that giving beer direct contact with the lupulin glands — lupulin is the active ingredient in hops — on the hop cones would infuse the beer with hops’ three major essential oils (myrcene, humulene, and caryophyllene). Instead of evaporating during the boiling process, the essential oils would be in the beer.
“Alcohol works as a solvent and strips those essential oils off the lupulin and into the beer,” Birmingham said of the Randall process. “A lot of times you’ll get this little oil slick on the top of the beer. That’s the essential oils.”
Birmingham said he’s even heard of a “lupulin buzz” that affects certain people after drinking beer Randalled through hops. “I’ve heard it calms people down and even helps them with their voice,” Birmingham said, laughing.
Diamond Knot plans to pour its signature IPA through a Randall full of Sorachi Ace hops at the beer fest. Sorachi Ace hops are a rare, sought-after Japanese hop that has grapefruit characteristics with lemon and cotton candy flavors, said Birmingham.
“Sorachi Ace hops are really high in essential oils; really dank and sticky,” Birmingham said.
Hops are far from the only thing brewers put in Randalls. It has become a competition at festivals to see who can put the craziest combination together. Gummi bears, Baby Ruth candy bars, candied bacon bits, the list goes on. At this year’s beer fest, Bellingham’s Boundary Bay is bringing a Randall full of cedar chips.
Geoff Middleton, owner and head brewer at Everett’s Middleton Brewing, is no stranger to using far-out flavors like pecans, peanut butter and tangerines in his beers. Middleton pours a beer through his homemade Randall every Friday. Last Friday he Randalled Snipes Mountain’s Blueberry Berliner Weisse through Sour Patch Kids and berry gum.
Middleton said some of his experiments have been hits while others not so much. He pointed out a Randalled version of his peanut butter oatmeal stout through bananas as one of the hits. The miss he remembers most? A pecan porter through toffee.
“It was way too overpowering,” said Middleton, who is looking forward to soon Randalling Highwater Brewing’s Campfire Stout through marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate.
Middleton made the single-chamber Randall he uses at the brewery for $30, but he said he’s considering purchasing a Randall from Dogfish Head that has two chambers to cut down on foam.
Not everyone is a fan of Randalls. Sean Wallner, who, along with Aaron Wight, owns Marysville’s Whitewall Brewing, said he understands the appeal of Randalls but doesn’t have a particular fondness for them.
Despite that, he and Wight spent this week building a double-chamber Randall to bring to the beer fest. Whitewall will be pouring their Truck Nuts porter through a mixture of coffee, chocolate and cherries.
“It does bring in new clientele,” Wallner said. “It can be a gateway for people who are curious about beer.”
The genesis of ideas for Randall beers come from anywhere. Wallner received a sample of roasted coffee beans from Camano Island Coffee Roaster a few weeks ago. They then added local chocolate from St. Rita Chocolates in Marysville and Washington-grown cherries to the mix.
“We knew we had to do something,” Wallner said. “I’m a big fan of chocolate-covered cherries, so this seemed like a good fit.”
Randall beers at Everett Craft Beer Fest
Saturday’s Everett Craft Beer Fest will feature more than 100 beers from 30 Washington breweries. Many of those beers will be poured through Randalls. Here’s a list of the Randall beers on tap:
- Shed Light pilsner Randalled through fruit and herbs, 192 Brewing Company
- IPA Randalled through kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, Anacortes Brewing
- Water Your Lawn Cream Ale Randalled through watermelon, At Large Brewing
- Cedar Dust IPA Randalled through Centennial hops and freshly cut cedar chips, Boundary Bay Brewing
- IPA Randalled through full-cone Sorachi Ace hops, Diamond Knot Brewing
- Parachute Porter Randalled through chai spices, Flycaster Brewing
- Bourbon Barrel-aged Dark Star Randalled through coffee beans, Fremont Brewing
- Orange is the New White Belgian Wit Randalled through candied ginger and orange peel, Hellbent Brewing.
- Grapefruit Summer Kölsch Randalled through grapefruit zest and toasted coconut, Postdoc Brewing
- Saint Florian IPA Randalled through tropical fruit, Silver City Brewing
- Truck Nuts Porter Randalled through coffee, cocoa nibs and cherries, Whitewall Brewing
If you go
The fourth annual Everett Craft Beer Festival is noon to 7 p.m. Aug. 15 on Hoyt Avenue between Hewitt and Everett avenues in downtown Everett.
Beer: Breweries at the festival include 192 Brewing, Anacortes Brewery, At Large Brewing, Bainbridge Island Brewing, Black Raven Brewing, Boundary Bay Brewery, Counterbalance Brewing, Diamond Knot Brew, Elysian Brewing, Flycaster Brewing, Fremont Brewing, Gallagher’s Where-U-Brew, Harmon Brewing, Hellbent Brewing Company, Hilliard’s Beer, In The Shadow Brewing, Island Hoppin’ Brewery, Kulshan Brewery, Lazy Boy Brewing, No-Li Brewhouse, Pike Brewing, Postdoc Brewing, Schooner Exact Brewing, Scuttlebutt Brewing, Silver City Brewery and Taproom, Sound to Summit Brewing, Twelve Bar Brews, Two Beers Brewing, Whiskey Ridge Brewing, Whitewall Brewing. For a lineup of the beers at this year’s festival, visit www.heraldnet.com/hopsandsips.
Music Preacher’s Wife (1 p.m.), Lonely Mountain Lovers (3 p.m.) and Born of Ghosts (5 p.m.)
Food: Food trucks include Big Dogs, Bread &Circuses, Gips Down Home BBQ, Lumpia World, My Sweet Lil Cakes.
Tickets: $20 in advance or $25 at the door ($15 for military). Admission includes a commemorative tasting glass and six 5-ounce tasters. Additional tokens may be purchased at $2 each or four for $5, and Washington Beer Lovers members receive two bonus tokens if they present their passports. Designated driver admission is $5 and available at the door only.
For more information, visit washingtonbeer.com/festivals.