Tucker Brewing Crowdsources Beer Recipe with Bracket Challenge

Knox Bardeen
April 09, 2020 - 5:42 pm
Tucker Brewing Company Malt Madness 2020

Tucker Brewing Company

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What would you make using the following ingredients: pineapple, vanilla, Caramel 40 malt, and Citra hops?

This summer, with some help from Tucker Brewing Company, we’ll have an answer.

Breweries sometimes look to crowdsourcing for beer ideas. Maybe that’s letting fans pick the name for a new brew, or a style for an upcoming batch.

Less often, though, does a brewery look at crowdsourcing to create an ingredient list for an upcoming beer. And even fewer times will the brewery get creative with a knock-out, bracket challenge with ingredients from four categories.

But that’s what Tucker Brewing Company just did with their Malt Madness Bracket Challenge.

In an effort to stay connected with their customers while sheltered in place, Tucker Brewing created a 64-ingredient bracket competition with 16 different ideas in four pods: hops, malt, fruits, and spices. The original idea, says Eliana Barnard, who heads Marketing and Community Development for the brewery, was to have one ingredient emerge as winner. Instead, after speaking with Head Brewmaster Tucker Eagleson, the group decided to have four winners advance from the four categories. CEO Ashley Hubbard said the entire process has been a learning experience.

"In our process of doing this we learned a little bit too on our end,” said Hubbard. “When you have to sit down and think of 16 different malts and 16 different hops. We don't use that many in the batches that we brew, so it was kind of fun for us to learn along the way too.”

They embraces that learning process and took to social media to share with everyone.

After the early success with engagement the project enjoyed, Tucker Brewing started hosting live events on social media to help the public learn as they voted on ingredients. “Caramel 30 versus Caramel 40” was one such live event on Instagram. “#20Questions with CEO Ashley Hubbard” was another of Facebook.

The brewery used these videos to engage with their supporters and teach about the brewing process.

The four winning ingredients: Caramel 40 malt, Citra hops, pineapple, and vanilla. The results definitely surprised both Barnard and Hubbard.

"I was shocked that blueberry made it as far as it did,” said Barnard. “I thought raspberry or blackberry would have been stronger. You see so many sours that have raspberry or blackberry and I don't feel like I see blueberry as much. Maybe Sweetwater Blue is the beer I most think of with blueberry. I couldn't believe how far it made it and I was surprised that pineapple was the winning fruit.”

"I was kind of hoping that passion fruit would make it,” said Hubbard. “Just for the fact that it's so out there and you don't see a ton of it."

Now that the brewery knows what’s going into the batch, they have to design it and nail the taste. And they’re taking the challenge very seriously.

"The final four ingredients are not something people would necessarily see and be like 'That's going to be a good beer.' But it is exciting because it's a cool challenge,” said Barnard. “Our brewers said it makes them feel like they're on (the TV show) Chopped Challenge."

Tucker Brewery’s rules for the brew staff: Take the four ingredients and run with them; those are your beginning ingredients. You can do it how you wish, you add one or two in there. Whatever you feel, it’s your thing.

The brewing staff has already entered into brainstorming sessions. Early thought: Pineapple is a solid beer ingredient. Early question: How will they incorporate vanilla into the recipe? Early idea: Hubbard says the brewers say the four ingredients remind them of a pineapple upside down cake.

Whatever the team comes up with, we know it’s going to be a very limited release.

The brewers will test and create the new beer on Tucker Brewing’s 1-barrel pilot system. That makes the process and the outcome intriguing, says Hubbard.

“(The pilot system) doesn't produce a lot,” said the CEO. “It'll be interesting. They have to take the same amount of time to produce this beer as they would on our 30-barrel system. It's going to be very limited, so it'll be interesting to see what the public thinks after it's out in the tasting room.”

Expect to get that taste sometime this summer. They haven’t picked a specific date yet, but “summer 2020, for sure” is what’s on the calendar.