Rock Bottom College Park is taking National Blueberry Cheesecake Day on May 26 to a new sphere, pairing a hefty slice with a pint of blueberry beer newly brewed by Jason Cook, who is celebrating his fifth month as RB/CP head brewer.
“I’m infusing the One Hitter Pale with blueberry puree,” informs Jason, as if this easy drinking, fully flavored Ale needs more flavor, but Jason explains, “The One Hitter Pale is brewed with Mosaic hops, and I get a lot of blueberry aroma and flavor from that hop. I love making hoppy beer. One Hitter is one-malt—Golden Promise, and one-hop—Mosaic.
“We will be selling it for $3.25 all day, and the cheesecake is made in house and it will be $5.00. I think the pairing will go really well together, but if someone doesn't want the pairing they can just get the beer or cheesecake on its own.”
Indianapolis native and Hamilton Southeastern High School and Indiana Wesleyan College graduate Jason Cook joins Rock Bottom College Park as its fifth brewmaster after a seven-year stint at various Chicago Rock Bottom locations. His career path follows the trajectory of discovery to diploma.
“I really started to get into craft beer with Three Floyds before I moved to Chicago and shortly after started homebrewing. I homebrewed for four years before I decided I wanted to turn it into a career and attended Seibel Institute for their diploma course.”
I asked Jason what prompted the move to Chicago.
“My parents and most of my family live in the Indy area. I lived in Indiana for all of my life, and my wife has family in Chicago so we just wanted to change it up and try something new. My wife, son and I love Chicago, but after seven years we were ready to come home. The opportunity came up at College Park and I jumped at it. It’s amazing the transitions from when I left Indianapolis.” Jason ticked off a half dozen new breweries and even more brewers he has gotten to meet over the past few months, with a list of more he intends to visit to get to know his fellow brewers.
“For the first year I was brewing with Rock Bottom [in Chicago] I was the traveling assistant so I had the opportunity to brew on four different systems so that was a great learning experience. After a year of traveling I was full time downtown Chicago.”
Jason’s mentors include Hayley Shine, Rock Bottom Chicago Brewmaster; Ray Gonzalez, Rock Bottom Warrenville Brewmaster; and Iain Wilson, Rock Bottom Orland Park Brewmaster.
Iain Wilson is the RB regional brewer for Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Des Moines locations. Jason explained that every few months Iain visits each brewery to see how everything is going. This July he will be judging and participating in the Indiana Brewer's Cup.
Iain Wilson was RB-CP Brewmaster soon after it opened in 2005 until he moved to Chicago in 2006 when Liz Laughlin came; Nathan Scruggs followed Liz in 2014.
While food and beer pairing always has been part of the Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery customer service plan, RB-College Park recently debuted a special guide to its new menu of unique craft beer styles and food pairings to help guests explore beer styles and create the perfect food and beer pairings. One side of the placard illustrates five basic styles from hop centric to malt centric with the food categories best enjoyed in combination with beers with these profiles. The other side of the placard suggests a beer with a specific dish being featured until June 5. Expect a new lineup of features to follow.
While visiting on May 16, Jason paired some of his favorites. Layers of flavor from a variety of greens were both matched and amplified by a choice between two brews. The cleansing, light Kolsch at 4% ABV and 20 IBUs was perfect with the Chicken Salad. One Hitter Pale Ale at 5.5 % ABV and 40 IBU upped the taste bud ante for the Gorgonzola cheese and gave depth to the slices of apple chips—baked to a snap, crackle and crunch.
Indy Pale Ale at 6.7% ABV and 65 IBUs added its blend of Columbus, Mosaic, Centennial and Simcoe hops to the spicy Asian Pasta with shrimp and chicken.
The rich malt sweetness and citrus hop effervescence of Crossroads Red [5.1% ABV, 35 IBU] sparked RB’s unique Mac & Cheese that for me is an entree, while a side for most others.
A 3-spoon sharing dessert of brownies with coconut, macaroon and raspberry sauce, surrounded by vanilla ice cream was totally decadent with Nutshell Brown Ale wafting flavors of coffee, vanilla and cacao nibs. Its 6.8% ABV brings the sweetness to balance and the 25 IBU allows the swirl of tastes to linger before closing out clean.
“One thing I brought from my Chicago experience is really clean beer,” offered Jason. “And balance. Neither malt nor hops are in your face. Bt more than balance, no one thing announces itself.”
And then Jason surprised with a suggestion to finish off dessert with Poppin My Collar, an American Stout dry hopped with Chinook. At 6.8% ABV and 40 IBU its a hefty brew. I reacted with a “Wow” and Jason seized the moment.
“It’s so much fun to wake up in the morning and do something I love and people appreciate.”
The promotion states, “While the surging popularity of the craft beer industry has triggered an influx of supposed beer-centric restaurants, Rock Bottom is truly unique in that its beers are all made on-site and each restaurant has its own local on-site brewer. As a result, each beer that's brewed is continually high-quality and features an authentic local influence.”
Jason added, “We’re passionate about our beer, but passionate about our food also; we want each to enhance the other.”
Jason went back to Rock Bottom Chicago “to celebrate the World Cup Gold his mentor Hayley Shine earned “In the American Belgo category for their Snow Cat Belgian IPA.”
That reminded me to ask for a listing of RB-CP wins
2006 Indiana Brewer's Cup
- Circle City Light (Gold), Naughty Scot Scotch Ale (Bronze), Bottom's Up Kolsch (Bronze)
2007 Indiana Brewer's Cup
- Naughty Scot Scotch Ale (Gold), Bottom's Up Kolsch (Gold and Best of Show)
2008 Indiana Brewer's Cup
- Circle City Light (Gold) Trippel Trouble (Bronze
2009 Indiana Brewer's Cup
- Bottom's Up Kolsch (Gold), Naughty Scot Scotch Ale (Gold), Bourbon Conditioned Stout (Bronze), Circle City Light Lager (Bronze), Trippel Trouble (Bronze)
2010 Indiana Brewer's Cup
- Naked Oat Stout (Gold), Simcoe IPA (Gold and best of show), Trippel Trouble (Gold)
2010 Great American Beer Festival
- Naked Oat Stout (Silver)
2011 Great American Beer Festival
- Naughty Scot (Silver)
2011 Indiana Brewer's Cup
- Rock Bottom Kolsch (Bronze)
2012 World Beer Cup
- Naked Oat Stout (Gold)