Piney River Brewing Company

Posts Tagged ‘Grindstone Studio’

Raccoons, Hops, Craft Beer & Good Times in the Ozarks

In The Beer on February 3, 2014 at 10:38 pm

As a brewer, there’s that moment when you send that first case of a new beer out to the distributor or when you hand the first new pint over to a customer.  You feel like a parent.  You want the best because, after all, you created this beer.  You want the beer to stand on its own.  You want the beer to be a great representative of you.

If you’ve followed Piney River Brewing for any time, you know that we’ve had a few proud parent moments…the consumer demand for Black Walnut Wheat, the GABF Gold medal for Old Tom Porter, the packaging option we came up with to brew and package seasonal beers–Float Trip Ale, Sweet Potato Ale, Hot Date Ale and most recently, Masked Bandit India Pale Ale.

Masked Bandit India Pale Ale is another one of those beers that we began developing over a year ago.  Brian and I are admitted India Pale Ale fans, but we also love black IPAs like Wookey Jack and Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.  Marshall Brewing in Tulsa makes a special release Black IPA, El CuCuy, that you need to try if you ever have a chance.  There’s something wonderful about a roasty, dark beer with a thick tan head that reeks of hop aroma and has a wonderful balance of roasted malt and hop flavor.

As we began playing with roasted malt and hops in search of our own black IPA, I thought of a way to pay homage to one of my favorite Ozark animals–the raccoon.  Thinking of animals that thrive in the dark of the Ozarks, my mind turned to the raccoon.


Raccoons and the Ozarks go hand in hand.  They rob the corn patch.  They steal the perfect watermelon the night before you plan to pick it.  We even caught a mama raccoon and her six babies stealing peaches from our tree in broad daylight.  If you frequent Ozark river banks, you’ll find empty mussel shells and crawdad carcasses littering the gravel bar where a raccoon or two enjoyed a little midnight dining.  Those glowing eyes on the edge of the yard or on your porch eating cat food at 2 am?  Hello Mr. Masked Bandit.

Little known fact–I was named after coon hunters.


Joel & Aileen Hatch on my first coon hunt.

My dad got college credit for raccoon hunting, and yes, he wrote a paper about it.  The first dogs I ever knew were coon hounds.  And some of my earliest memories involve sitting in the back of Aileen Hatch’s blazer while she and my dad listened to coon hounds howl in the Texas County hollows on cold, clear nights.  I thought, “This is what all four-year olds do on a weeknight.”  Right?


Me, my dad, a big ol’ raccoon and a coon hound in the yard behind us. The good life for a young girl in the Ozarks.

And just like the black mask that makes a raccoon face so distinctive, our Masked Bandit IPA is an IPA that doesn’t look like an IPA until it reaches your nose–a trickster of sorts, but a delicious one.  In addition to dark malts we’ve added some rye for a nice spice punch, and the Citra and Amarillo hops shine providing flavor and aroma for Masked Bandit.

Masked Bandit IPA

Masked Bandit IPA

Due to the limited availability of the hops we use for Masked Bandit, it will not be produced after February of this year.  We will have to wait to brew more Masked Bandit until next year when our new hop contracts become available.  Meanwhile, Masked Bandit can be found in draft and Piney pints throughout our distribution area until it’s gone.  Masked Bandit has been a featured beer at every tap takeover, tasting and beer dinner that we’ve done in the past few weeks, and it seems to be well loved.

Masked Bandit IPA is our newest offering to the craft beer world.  We hope you enjoy it as much as we’ve enjoyed crafting it, brewing it and naming it.  (And, as always, special thanks to Brooke Hamilton at Grindstone Studio for capturing our vision of the Ozarks with her graphic designs.)

In the Ozarks, the masked bandit is notorious for raiding the corn patch. Or, for finding—and eating—the perfectly ripe watermelon in the garden just before it’s picked. Our handcrafted Masked Bandit India Pale Ale is a black rye IPA that is raccoon proof…as long as the raccoon in your neck of the woods isn’t a hop head.



Another Piney River Craft Beer Story–Hot Date Ale

In The Beer on January 5, 2014 at 10:33 pm

hot date ale cans in the snow“Are you trying to incite a riot?”  Brian asked.

I had posted the graphic for our upcoming “Hot Date Ale” on the brewery’s Facebook page.  Folks went a little crazy over it.


Yes, I was trying to gauge the interest.  No, I didn’t want to start a riot.

Either way, Hot Date Ale is out there.  And yes, there’s a bra on the can graphic.  First time that’s ever happened?  Quite possibly.

The question that we are constantly asked is, “How do you come up with stuff like this?”

So here’s the story of Hot Date Ale….

Rewind to our very first tasting event at Homegrown Foods in Springfield, MO.  The day before Thanksgiving in 2012, Brian gave out samples of beer alongside “The Date Lady” who was giving out samples of her date syrup.

Brian brought home some jars of date syrup.  “I’m going to brew something with this,” he said.

A few weeks later Brian and I were doing a tasting event at one of the “Barrels” stores attached to a Price Cutter in Springfield.  The store manager said with conviction, “You should brew something with peppers.  I can’t keep pepper beers in stock.”

Around that time we were planning for our very first beer dinner with Jason Miller at Instant Karma in Joplin.   Jason requested something like 9 different beers for the dinner.  Brian was working on getting creative.  Meanwhile I was loving some Cocoa Mole from New Belgium and Mole Stout from Ska.  “We should make a pepper beer,” I agreed.

“Hot Date! We will call it Hot Date!” Brian said.  He dreamed up an idea of an amber base beer with date syrup and pepper.  What kind of pepper?  Well, we have a fondness for chipotle.  How much to add?  Not so much to hurt, but enough to warm.

We dragged out the Sabco Brew Magic and brewed a 10-gallon batch—the first of which was destined for the Instant Karma beer dinner.

The second batch of Hot Date Ale was served at the 2nd Aleiversary last March.

Sometime this summer we began discussing the idea of canning Hot Date Ale and slapping a label on the can as a seasonal offering during the winter months.  We brewed a batch that was served at beer festivals around the Ozarks during Oktoberfest, and we received very positive feedback about Hot Date Ale.

But what does Hot Date Ale have to do with the Ozarks?  We needed a label to put on a blank can.

It took less than an hour for Brooke Hamilton at Grindstone Studio to shoot back sketches of clothing hanging on a tree branch over the Big Piney River.

“It’s perfect,” I told Brooke.   “How did you come up with this?”

“A lady never reveals her secrets,” Brooke replied.

Of course not.

However, Brian and I have lived in the Ozarks long enough to know that a bra hanging on a tree branch was truly the Ozark way.  Because if you throw the bra on the ground it could end up with spider or tick in it.  And who wants to worry about something like that on a Hot Date?

Hot Date is our handcrafted amber ale brewed with a touch of sweet dates and a hint of chipotle pepper heat. We know that a little sweet heat can pair well with a secluded bend in the river or a remote spot on the trail. It may be your first time with a Hot Date in the Ozarks, but it won’t be your last.

Hot Date Label

Craft Beer Shoot at the BARn*

In The Beer on February 9, 2012 at 8:56 pm

*There were no beers injured in the making of this blog post.

There comes a time in every beer’s life where a professional must be called in.  In this case, the professional was once again Brooke Hamilton of Grindstone Studio.

This time, Brooke brought her camera, a whole carload of “stuff”, and her mentor and teacher and our friend, Marian McKinney.  Here’s how it went down:

The Star:  Piney River Beer

The Professional:  Brooke Hamilton, Grindstone Studio

The Assistant:  Marian McKinney, McKinney Forge & Design Studio

The Beer Runner & Other Assistant:  Me (Joleen)

The Beer Pourer :  Brian (while cleaning the brite tank)

There were extension cords and tripods and umbrellas and a big white box and papers of different colors and a metallic cloth and REALLY HOT lights and I was thinking, “Thank God we’re just dealing with a beer model here and not a human model!”  I couldn’t imagine what all we would need.

Brooke arranged.   Marian assisted.  Brian poured.  I ran with full pints.  Brooke photographed.

Then we would drink the beer model.  (I know, we should have called you and told you what was going on in our efforts to leave no beer behind…we’ll try to let you know the next time we do this.)

Brooke ended up taking photos of pours of all of our beers.  She took photos of cans.  We used an old mule shoe and Charlie’s anvil.  It was fun.  And Marian had the extreme pleasure of being the assistant to her student.

Marian & Brooke

Remember how I said there were no beers injured?  I can’t say the same for our beer signs.

John McCarty of McCarty Signs made us some very cool signs to hang from our fermentation vessels.  They were hanging on the wall behind the box that Brooke was shooting our pint photos in.  Brooke had positioned a tungsten light behind the box, and it came into contact with one of John’s Missouri Mule India Pale Ale signs.

Brooke, Marian and I all noticed this slight burning smell, but we thought it had to do with something Brian was doing while cleaning the brite tank.  Then smoke started curling up from behind the box.


So a custom made sign got a little charred on one side one night in the BARn.  It’s just another great story to tell in this chapter at Piney River Brewing Company.

And we’re not letting John repaint that sign!