The Legend of Sleepy Holler… and why we will never brew it again!
In the first year of Persimmon Hollow Brewing Company, we brewed a beer called Sleepy Holler, and it has become a sort of legend. It was an ale brewed with locally grown Seminole pumpkins and fall spices. We have never brewed it again. We tried a pumpkin beer the next fall, gave it the same name, but it was never the same thing. That was our last pumpkin beer. As we are in the grips of pumpkin beer season, the cries for Sleepy Holler from our long-time regulars have started up again. After all, it may be 93 degrees outside, but it is time for all of the basic people out there to have their national holiday, Pumpkin Spice Time.
As we approach our 5 year anniversary, we are pulling back the curtain and sharing this story that few know from the history of Persimmon Hollow. So, here it is, the real story of Sleepy Holler.
The native Seminole pumpkins were, it turns out, something of a holy grail. We had a friend, Ben, who was a farmer at the time, and he grew them for us. They needed to be laid out in a barn to cure for over a month, and required an incredible amount of space. Ben was wonderful, and gladly gave up the space and made it happen, but was very clear with us that he might not keep his farming operation going. That turned out to be the case, and although we know some folks who grow a few, finding a farmer who can grow enough of them for an entire batch of beer and has the space to cure them has proven to be problematic.
Clandestine Midnight Roasting
The pumpkins had to be split and roasted in order to develop the caramelized flavor that we needed in the beer. This isn’t an amount of cooking that could be done in someone’s home kitchen in less than a week. We needed an industrial-sized kitchen. It just happened that we had a key to a local church kitchen. How did we come by such a key (and alarm code)? Well, we can’t divulge everything. We can, however, divulge that between the hours of 11pm and 4 am, we were the only people using that kitchen, and, under cover of darkness, we are pretty sure we cleaned up behind ourselves.
The Chiller Is Broken
We had been open less than a month when we brewed this beer, and there were still a lot of bugs in the system. Our Glycol Chiller, the machine that controls the temperature on all of our fermentation tanks, decided to break… the day after we brewed the beer with the Holy Grail, Clandestine Midnight Roasted pumpkins. For three days, the beer fermented about 20 degrees warmer than it should have. We had also dumped a ton of Belgian Candi-sugar in the beer, and the yeast had a lot of work to do in a not-so-conducive environment. This resulted in a beer that had lots of fruity flavors from the warm temperatures, was very sweet, and was probably under-attenuated (didn’t ferment all the way). As home brewers recently turned professional, however, we were quite proud of our creation, because we were, well, stupid.
Your Memory Is Bad
Each year as fall approaches, our regulars and mug-club members begin reminiscing about how wonderful Sleepy Holler was. They talk about how much they loved it, and how we should bring it back. We politely smile and join the reminiscing, but we know the truth. The truth is that most people didn’t want more than one glass. The other truth is that no one wants pumpkin beer after Thanksgiving, and we had a LOT of pumpkin beer left after that first Thanksgiving. We gave final thanks for Sleepy Holler that February as we poured the last of it down the drain to make room in our kegs for other beer.
Legends Are Legends For A Reason
We love Sleepy Holler, but we love the legend more. The truth is that it will never be recreated, and honestly, never should. It is better as a story than it ever was as a beer. Today, we have an incredible professional staff, and could never recreate the conditions to make that beer happen again. We also don’t want to get arrested for using a church kitchen without permission!
So, we hope that you have enjoyed learning the real story behind this beer, and now we can all enjoy a laugh together at the comedy of errors and midnight clandestine activity that brought us the Legend of Sleepy Holler!
P.S. We have been making pumpkin spice blonde this fall, so calm down, basic people!