Jason Oliver is headed Down Under.
The brewmaster for Devils Backbone Brewing in Roseland, Va., isn't merely fleeing the cold weather, even though his sojourn in Australia, from Jan. 7 to about Feb. 18, will coincide with that land’s warm season.
Rather, he’s taking part in an exchange program that will have him brewing a variety of hoppy pale ales, as well as other styles, at Thunder Road Brewing in Brunswick, near Melbourne. A former brewmaster of Budweiser Budvar in the Czech Republic is expected to be there as well.
“I like the R&D part of it. I know I’ll be bringing a huge amount of knowledge back with me,” says Oliver, who hopes to familiarize himself with new brewing techniques as well as new hop varieties being cultivated in Australia and New Zealand.
In Oliver’s absence, fellow brewer Nate Olewine will oversee the release of several new bottled and kegged beers from the Devils Backbone packaging brewery, the Outpost, in Lexington, Va.
Dark Abby, the latest release in Devils Backbone’s “Trailblazer” series of seasonal brews, is set to debut in mid-January. The Belgian-style dubbel, clocking in at 7.5 percent alcohol by volume, will be seasoned with black pepper, coriander and a third “secret spice” that Oliver declines to specify. It will also contain sorghum molasses for a ”rummy” note.
Looking ahead, Devils Backbone plans to offer a dark beer year-around for its District and Virginia markets. Schwartz Bier (a roasty, dark lager more properly spelled “Schwarzbier” in German) will be available February through September, while Danzig, a Baltic porter, will be offered the rest of the year.
Finally, 16 Point IPA, an imperial India pale ale, will kick off Devils Backbone’s new “Peak” series in the spring.
According to Oliver, the Outpost turned out an impressive 10,000 barrels during 2012, its first full year of operation. “And we only started bottling there in late February or early March,” he says.
Kitsock’s Beer column appears monthly in Food.