The Beer that Wouldn't Die
How Resurrection Ale came back from the dead
Here's a story about a beer that came about its name the right way.
Resurrection Ale wasn't supposed to be the marquee beer at Baltimore's Brewer's Art. In fact, there was a time when restaurant owner Volker Stewart didn't even think the beer would make it.
"The yeast stopped working," he explains 15 years later of sweet, smooth Resurrection, which is made from five different types of barley and, as the restaurant's website will attest, "lots of sugar." "Yeast is a living creature. It eats malt sugars and produces alcohol and CO2. This particular yeast that we used to use — we don't use it anymore for this particular reason — got halfway done and then just sort of froze."
At the time it wasn't that big of a deal. Brewer's Art — which, also true to its name, brews all of its house beers in the back of the house — had their two presumed go-to’s in their Pale Ale and the Ozzie (a dry, Belgian-style beer) and were planning on this then-defunct brew being the runt of the group anyway.
One of the brewers, Chris Cashell, decided to give the yeast a second chance. He massaged it and circulated it through the brew a few times, and, as Stewart remembers, "all of a sudden it just came to life." Resurrected.
Cashell and his fellow brewers found a new, comparable yeast to replace the faulty breed shortly thereafter, settling on the type they use now back in 2002.
Today, the beer that almost never was is now one of the most popular brews in the greater Baltimore area. "It's sort of a beer that works for everybody," says Stewart. "I think a lot of people who say they don't like beer actually don't like hops, and Resurrection's a pretty malt-forward beer. For a seven-percent [alcohol by volume] beer, it's pretty easy drinkin'.
“Beer aficionados aren’t crazy about it. Like the hardcore beer geeks will come in and be like, ‘Ahh, this isn’t... it’s not this enough.’ And they’re right. It’s not a colossal beer. It’s not going to knock your taste buds out. It’s actually pretty subtle.”
But, boy, is it popular. In addition to being the beer of choice at Brewer’s Art, Stewart and his fellow owners also sell the Resurrection to four dozen other restaurants and bars around town, making Resurrection the micro-brew stepbrother to Natty Boh in terms of local popularity.
“The locavore thing is making that popularity snowball even more,” Stewart says. “People are very loyal to Baltimore here, and we’ve had a lot of demand for the beer, both here and in restaurants around the town. We’ve had to set up an informal waiting list. The brew house is pretty small and there’s only so much that you can brew in a year.”
Stewart smiles at the thought.
“Resurrection is my retirement plan.”