Podcast Episode 179: Chris Davison of Wolf’s Ridge Still Tinkers Like a Homebrewer

Ohio’s Wolf’s Ridge Brewing took home GABF medals two years in a row, then its Double Chocolate Rum Barrel Dire Wolf made our Best 20 Beers in 2020. In this episode, head brewer Chris Davison digs into barrel-aging, unusual coffee beer, and much more.

Jamie Bogner Mar 19, 2021 - 6 min read

Podcast Episode 179: Chris Davison of Wolf’s Ridge Still Tinkers Like a Homebrewer Primary Image

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Wolf’s Ridge Brewing started as a cramped basement brewpub setup below one of the best-regarded restaurants in Columbus, Ohio. On Chris Davison’s watch since 2014, the brewery grew to add a 30-barrel production brewhouse. Wolf’s Ridge notched its first Great American Beer Festival medal in 2019 with a silver medal for Daybreak, a cream ale with coffee and vanilla—its golden appearance failing to prepare the drinker for an aromatic hit that’s like walking into a roastery. It also happens to be their bestselling beer, outselling their IPA by a sizeable margin.

That same beer, Daybreak, returned to GABF last year and won gold, while their smoked beer Buchenrauch won bronze. Meanwhile, several Wolf’s Ridge beers impressed our Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine® blind panel reviewers last year, none more than cocoa-laden Double Chocolate Rum Barrel Dire Wolf—which also thrilled our editors and became one of our Best 20 Beers in 2020. That’s all besides a few Festival of Barrel-Aged Beers (FoBAB) medals over the past four years.

In this episode, Davison talks about how early experiments with infusing corny kegs with different flavors—just to help fill out the restaurant’s many taps—led to a lot of learning and ulimately some their most successful beers—including Daybreak.

Among other things, Davison discusses:

  • The benefits of steeping with whole-bean coffee instead of grounds, plus quantities and steeping times
  • Adding vanilla for just the perception of sweetness, while using cream ale as a canvas for many other flavors, including Vietnamese cinnamon, strawberries, basil, lemons, and more
  • Brewing their Dire Wolf imperial stout for balance and drinkability before barrel-aging, and experimenting with different spirit barrels
  • Evaluating many different malts, intentionally layering these into their imperial stouts
  • Various adjuncts and flavors for those imperial stouts
  • Growing their barrel program on both the clean and mixed-fermentation sides
  • Focusing on the best ingredients for the beers they want to brew, and implementing sensory training for staff on hedonistic evaluation
  • And much more.

This episode is brought to you by:

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“ABS Commercial is excited to be a part of today’s Podcast! ABS is a full brewery outfitter offering brewhouses, tanks, keg washers and small parts. As a part of ABS Commercials on going give back campaign, they will be giving away an ABS Keg Viking Keg Washer in June, so make sure to periodically check the ABS Commercial Facebook page to find out when the contest opens up and how you can enter to win a Keg Viking!"

Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].