Rapscallion Head Brewer Shaun Radzuik is no stranger to beer recipes.
He worked his first brewing stint at a larger manufacturing brewery in New York before heading to Paper City in Holyoke, Mass. There he brewed Rapscallion recipes for three years. He eventually became the brewer for Pioneer Brewery, now owned by Rapscallion. He has been there for three years.
Let’s talk about the Rapscallion Honey. It’s your flagship beer. How was this idea born?
The honey ale recipe was first brewed at Concord Brewery (Rapscallion) when the company was operating in Lowell, Mass., in the early 2000s. The beer was made just for the pub on-site and it quickly became the No. 1 selling beer (of 20 taps) at the brewery/brewpub. At this time, honey ale was made exclusively outside the brewery for a restaurant on Cape Cod, and every summer this beer was their top seller. When Concord/Rapscallion was purchased by its current owners in 2008, it was decided that the first recipe to be sold in the market was the honey ale, because of its past success. The company marketed honey ale as a “transition” beer for beer drinkers. With its very drinkable low ABV of 4.5%, and hints of hops and honey, this beer helped drinkers slowly transition into more complex craft beers. Honey ale quickly became popular and was the only beer made for a few years until we started to make others for the market. It still is the No. 1 selling beer for Rapscallion and remains our flagship beer.
How did you decide to use wildflower honey? Did you experiment with other varieties?
We had been experimenting with other local honeys in the state. We will always use wildflower and continue to partner with local bee farmers.
Let’s talk about brewing with honey. Can you take us through the brewing process and when you use wildflower honey in the Rapscallion?
The process starts with two row malt as our base and uses Munich and Cara pilsner for our specialty grain. It then gets mixed in with 168 degree F water in our mash tun. After the grain and water is in the mash tun it sits for a short time. The next step is called vorlof, which recirculates the liquid over the top of the grain and uses the grain itself as a primary filtration. After that is complete, the liquid, which is now called wort, is transferred into our brew kettle. After we have the desired volume of wort in the brew kettle, we bring the liquid to a boil and add the various hop editions to the brew. It then boils for 90 minutes. During the last 15 minutes of the boil, the honey is added. Once the boil is complete, it rests for 20 minutes. When the 20 minutes are up, it is transferred to the fermenter through a heat-exchanger that cools the wort down to 68-70 degrees F. The fermenter is where the yeast is added and fermentation starts. Within 14 days, the wort is turned into beer, filtered and then ready for packaging.
How does the flavor of wildflower honey make the Rapscallion unique?
We find that honey adds a unique, mild yet distinct flavor at the finish of the beer. We love using wildflower honey in the Rapscallion Honey because we prefer to support using local ingredients and it was consistently available.
How much honey do you go through in a year?
We use about 5,000 pounds of wildflower honey annually.
Do you have plans for future brews that contain honey?
We may experiment with honey in beers we make for our own tap room.