HANNIBAL — Mark Twain Brewing Company brewers received a bronze award during the invitational Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer in Chicago, Ill., marking a successful chapter after years of hard work crafting the Scottish ale “A Wee Bit Foggy.”

Brewers Dave Alley and Cat Golden explored styles to expand their palettes several years ago, and they “fell in love with” Scottish ales and “wee heavy” beers — which earn their name from their higher sugar content and resulting alcohol level, prompting the comment that it’s “a wee heavy.” Alley and Golden began crafting the beer with fellow brewer Logan Lanier, who is now working at a brewery in Wyoming. Alley remembers fondly the moment the special beer got its name.

“That was one of our favorites. Early on when we were developing the recipe that we have now — our first test brew of our recipe — we got up really early one morning to do it and had the garage bay open. It was just super foggy outside; you couldn’t even see. We were joking around, and Cat said, ‘It’s a wee bit foggy outside,’ playing on the “a wee heavy,” Alley said. “And I said, ‘that’s the perfect name for this beer.’”

Alley immediately knew he wanted to connect the name to Mark Twain and include imagery evoking life on the river. Each bottle’s label features artwork of a riverboat plying the Mighty Mississippi through rolling fog, created by Jonathan Norman, owner of Two Fathoms Tattoo. Golden wrote a stirring story referencing the river and navigating through life’s foggy moments, channeling Twain with each flowing sentence.

“The Mississippi is a wise, though sometimes harsh and impatient, schoolmaster. As a young man navigating the river, I quickly learned the necessity of respecting this teacher and heeding its warnings. An approaching fog rising from the water’s surface appears seductive and beautiful, the faint, spectral trees dimly glimpsing through the blanket of smoky white. But the astute pilot realizes the perils of its allure. He approaches slowly and courageously, cautiously inching his way through the dense covering, drinking in the ever-changing complexity of the tranquil riverscape, yet preventing his own destruction. Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear. May we all recognize the beauty in life’s uncertainties, and master the fears that hold us back.”

Alley said “wee heavy” Scottish ales have a complex flavor, and “A Wee Bit Foggy” is true to the tradition. The beer has a malty, mellow flavor with hints of caramel. The aging process begins with 12 months inside a Templeton Rye Whiskey barrel, which lends notes of oak, char and whiskey to the ale. Next, the beer is conditioned in bottles for nine months.

Alley commended Golden and Lanier for the teamwork which resulted in an award-winner. Since the process was almost two years to completion, Lanier was part of the beginning stages. He didn’t get to be there for the final steps of the process, but Alley stressed how he deserved accolades for his role in the beer’s creation.

“I want him to get that recognition, because we all worked really hard on this. This is not just a ‘Dave Alley thing,’” he said.

Mark Twain Brewing Company had been invited to the national competition for the past four or five years, and the 2021 competition in Chicago was the first time they won a medal at the event. They received third place in the barrel-aged dark beer category.

“Everybody there is a winner, but that being said, they do have a competition,” Alley said. “So, to win a medal at the Festival of Barrel-Aged Beer is really something, and it stands out across the country.”

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