On Thursday, March 15, at 5:00 p.m. Goat Patch Brewing Company releases Pappy Legba, an imperial saison that Darren Baze, co-owner and head brewer, originated during his time at TRiNiTY Brewing. Jason Yester, owner and head brewer at TRiNiTY Brewing & Evoke Fermentations, opts to grant the unusual and generous act of bequeathing the recipe to Baze so that he may continue the tradition of the warming, fruity beer inspired by Papa Legba, the gatekeeper in voodoo folklore.
RMFR catches up with Goat Patch and TRiNiTY to discuss the history and flavors of the popular cherry-laden beer and why it’s appropriate for the soulful seasonal to live on inside of Lincoln Center, the repurposed elementary school where Goat Patch resides.
The wine-comparable beer weighs in at 13.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) with a heaping 526 pounds of sweet and tart black and red cherries added. The entirety of the fruit (minus the pits) becomes a puree which when mixed with the beer creates a potent, pink-hued end result, that originally was slated to tap on Valentine’s Day, Cate Baze’s birthday, Darren’s wife, fellow co-owner and community outreach coordinator at Goat Patch.
“I think she’s probably a big part of the reason why he gave us that beer,” says Baze. “We actually met at TRiNiTY and her and Jason were good friends. I think he knew that she always loved that beer.”
In late January, Baze pulls a sample pour of the golden-colored, Pappy base (sans cherries) straight from the fermenter for us to draw some initial tasting notes of what’s to come.
“It’s real high alcohol but real smooth,” says Baze. “It’s kind of dangerous because it’ll sneak up on you.”
The wintry beer creates some heat that slowly travels down the back of our throat and we notice the sensation gradually spreads through our chest and into our belly. It emits a creamy essence from the oats as well as a slight peppery-ness that derives it’s spiciness from the grains of paradise leading into notes of cloves from the esters in the Belgian yeast.
The complexity of Pappy mirrors Baze’s migration into brewing, starting by happenstance in 2004 at Bristol Brewing Company where he admits he “just kind of stumbled into it” while cooking pizzas at Il Vicino. Yester, head brewer at Bristol at the time, was seeking out some assistance on the bottling line and Baze volunteered. His helpful status progressed quickly from arranging glass on a conveyer belt into “learning to do everything there.” Baze would spend the next five years working his way up before moving to TRiNiTY and then joining Colorado Mountain Brewery to open their Westside location. From there, Baze’s expertise became an integral piece of the tribe that emerged to conceptualize Goat Patch Brewing Co. in 2016.
The name and the label are also indicative of his serendipitous career path with a comical deviation in the nomenclature. “Papa Legba” who is likened to the gate-kepper of the underworld, similar to Hades in Greek mythology, became “Pappy” due to Baze’s email address at the time, “Big Pimp Pappy.”
Since both art and music are pivotal components of TRiNiTY’s beers the original label transmits the tale of Robert Johnson, acclaimed musician, who met Papa Legba (“the devil”) at crossroads in the South, where he sold his soul to play the blues. Goat Patch reinvents the image with a nod to TRiNiTY “but more with our personality,” says Baze.
“The original artwork tells that story and I feel like when it came over here it was an interesting crossroads coming from TRiNiTY and opening Goat Patch,” says Johannah Murphy, general manager at Goat Patch Brewing Co. (also a former employee at TRiNiTY). “So we wanted to kind of incorporate some of that but bring in the spin of what we’re doing now and Darren’s journey.”
Pappy Legba is the first packaged beer to be sold at Goat Patch with one pallet of champagne bottles (750 mL) available in addition to the 15 barrels brewed that appears on tap, equivalent to 30 kegs or 500 gallons. Due to the expensive ingredients the beer also warrants a higher price point at $8.00 served in smaller 10-ounce glasses to protect consumers from over-consumption.
To see the evolution of the Pappy Legba we compare older vintages with Yester that yields distinct differences and illustrates slight deviations in the recipe over the years. Darren assures us that he takes it back to his original protocol to keep Pappy consistent going forward but we taste 2012, 2013 and 2014 to garner a reference point.
Each batch offers delicate nuances, with certain years producing a creamier mouthfeel full of coconut, “big Brett,” rum-barrel insinuations or a distinct bright or tart taste. Miraculously the aged beer seems to cling to very fruit forward flavors whereas typically cellar-aged beers have the opposite effect.
“People always say is ‘fruit is fleeting’ because the yeast will keep working on it so that flavor will keep going away the longer you age it,” says Yester. “What’s weird though is some of these old vintages are fruitier.”
We kid with Yester that the transference of the trademark, which can be valued at up to $20,000.00, exhibits a sweeter side of his personality and although he digresses quickly, arguing that he really doesn’t have one, he acquiesces that he is “very loyal to friends and that it’s the right thing to do.”
“There’s a lot of sentiment behind this beer,” says Yester. “It was always an honor to brew it and it’s one of my favorite beers that I’ve ever been a part of, but it’s always been Darren’s beer.”
We reflect on the blush color brought forth from the vibrancy that the cherries push into the beer, like a wine extracting antioxidants from grape skins that fully meld into and transform the liquid.
“When we brewed this here it was completely blonde like a pilsner in color,” says Yester. “So that light ruby is straight up from the fruit. It really was amazing when we were washing out the cherries the very first time they were coming out bleach white. I picked one up and ate it and there really wasn’t any flavor left so that all soaks into the beer.”
Yester agrees with Baze’s inclination that the decision is due in large part to Cate’s affinity for Pappy and shares that he has gifted her a bottle of her “spirit water” every year for Christmas since they began brewing it in 2009.
“She always loved Pappy,” smiles Yester. “I mean it’s a 13 percent beer, strong as wine, and that girl could put some Pappy down. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who can drink Pappy like her.”
He also indicates that Pappy tends to be a temporary nectar in the taproom as it would sell out at TRiNiTY after it’s release in approximately two weeks. “Probably because Cate was drinking it all,” jokes Yester.
“There’s a huge amount of story as far as the relationship between me and Darren and everybody else behind this beer,” says Yester. “Putting her in the middle of the picture and those two being together now was the tip of the iceberg. It wasn’t easy to say goodbye to Pappy because I love drinking it but it’s in very good hands.”
Cate is also responsible for inventing “Slap your Pappy,” a combination of half Pappy Legba and half Slap your Mammy, a double IPA at TRiNiTY. Yester says that he hopes Goat Patch uses their double IPA, that was recently re-released on March 1, to keep the concept alive. “They’ll have to maybe call it Punch your Pappy or something instead,” laughs Yester.
The nostalgia and emotion that surrounds Pappy is palpable and it pours out of all the people who are engaged in it’s creation and it’s consumption. It earns a reputable spot at two of Colorado Spring’s breweries as a coveted beer but it also serves as a vessel that encapsulates the camaraderie and companionship dignified throughout Colorado’s craft beer culture.
“What I think is really important to have an echo on is that this industry is not about cash, it’s about relationships and friendships,” says Yester. “You’ve got to have something that carries. If you’re just in it for money, you’re hardly going to make hardly any. To get drunk? You might do that. I really feel like making craft beer as an American brewer we’re in a nice little pocket where we can make our own decisions on the directions that we go and Darren would’ve done the same thing for me.”