15 Feet Polish Style Grodziskie
While studying brewing at the Doemens Academy, we returned with a couple of notes scribbled in the margin about a beer style we had never heard of before. The notes read, "100% wheat malt smoked beer w/apple-like flavor from 8 dP grät beer from eastern Germany." Intrigued, we followed up with the professor. He sent a mini dissertation about the style called grätzer beer with everything from how to germinate the wheat to how to store the final bottles. Obviously we were not talented enough to take on all that stuff, but we still wanted to try it out. First, we decided that we wanted to use applewood for smoking the wheat. Problem was that no one produces applewood smoked wheat. So we had to build a smoker ourselves. We went to Menards and spent like $50 and made a little smoker. One pilot batch later, we felt we pretty much nailed it. Not in historical accuracy, but definitely in flavor. It was so simple, sessionable, and interesting that it became the beer we made to drink while creating our other pilot brews. A year or two later 'Brewing with Wheat' by Stan Hieronymus released and spilled the beans about this style which we happened to stumble upon.
Now came the challenge of scaling this up for production. The first challenge was going from smoking like 10 pounds of wheat to smoking like 2,000 pounds. So we did what any socially ill-adjusted brewery would do and locked the door and picked up an angle grinder and built a double barrel smoker with modifications for malt smoking. After hours of smoking wheat (and drinking beer) we were ready to make the first production batch. We had a dozen homebrewers come in with their homebrew mills to help us mill the grain. They did it exceedingly well and fast. It definitely went better than when we did it the second time.
When you are trying to brew a 100% applewood smoked wheat beer and you have a new mill that you have no idea how to use, this is what happens...
So we launched the first batch of 15 Feet as a Grätzer style beer. Later that summer we ran into Stan Hieronymus at Perennial's first Midwest Belgian Beer Fest, and we got into talking about grätzer again. He recommended that we change the style description to grodziskie because it was originally a Polish style beer. The style name changed after the Nazis took issue with it. The problem was they liked the beer but did not particularly like Poles, so they changed the name to the more German grätzer from the Polish grodziskie. Since we do not particularly like the Nazis (especially Illinois Nazis), we took this suggestion to heart and rebranded the style the second time around. I bet when you started reading this you did not expect there to be anything about Nazis in it.