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By 6 p.m. last night, the crowds at ChurchKey were three deep at the bar as people anxiously waited for Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s forthcoming Bluejacket brewery to debut its first collaboration beer. It was supposed to have arrived hours or days earlier. Luckily, the wait was worth it.
Although there were dozens of rare beers to taste, the most anticipated of the evening was Snack Attack—an odd but tasty peanutty confection created in partnership with Florida-based breweries Cigar City and Funky Buddha at Cigar City’s facility in Tampa. The limited-edition imperial porter flavored with dry-roasted peanuts, Key West sea salt, vanilla beans, cacao nibs, and lactose will still be available on draft as of ChurchKey’s 1 p.m. opening today.
Bluejacket head brewer Megan Parisi and Neighborhood Restaurant Group beer director Greg Engert developed the recipe in March during a lengthy email conversation with Wayne Wambles of Cigar City and Ryan Sentz of Funky Buddha. “We all love food and beer, so we wanted to do something that was either for pairing with food or inspired by it,” Engert says. “Ryan had just gotten home from vacationing in South Carolina, I think, and he was in love with salted chocolate.”
Wambles proposed layering the salt and chocolate flavors onto an imperial porter base; Sentz suggested adding truffle oil, an idea that was rejected due to the ingredient’s volatility. Eventually the beer evolved into a movie-snack-themed concoction with malts providing caramel and raisin notes to complement the peanuts, vanilla beans, and cacao added during secondary fermentation.
The result? Stick your nose into a snifter of Snack Attack and you’ll immediately get a whiff of peanuts with hints of chocolate, vanilla, and licorice. The peanuts, in fact, are a bit overpowering, and you might have to really search for other aromas. The beer is thick and candy-like—a meld of peanuts, raisins, and chocolate with noticeable salt. It hides its 10 percent alcohol content surprisingly well.
Expect more big beers from Bluejacket in the weeks to come. Future collaborations include a Belgian-style quadruple brewed with plums and rosemary and a smoked Scotch ale.
In the meantime, try to snag some Snack Attack while it lasts, although Engert anticipates saving a few kegs for later. It’s an unusual beer for sure, and probably not something you’d want to drink more than one of. Four ounces was enough for me. But it’s definitely worth trying, and it hints at the boundary-pushing brewing that Bluejacket will surely become known for when it opens next year.
Photo by Daniel Fromson