At a school where a Big Red Marching Band cheers on Big Red sports teams, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to make a Big Red beer. Ezra Red, a red ale developed by two Cornell students, made its on-campus debut at The Bear’s Den on Saturday night.
According to Chris Ryan ’12, one of the new brew’s creators, the beer will be regularly sold at the pub once the Bear’s Den acquires a liquor license. Saturday’s event was the last of three “soft” events held this year in the Bear’s Den, located in the Ivy Room of Willard Straight Hall. While the pub was originally slated to open in spring 2012, because of delays in obtaining a permanent liquor license it will now officially open in fall 2012, The Sun reported in January.
Lars Mudrak, head brewer at Bandwagon Brewpub — a local microbrewery based in the Ithaca Commons — worked with Ryan and Nelson Crosby ’12 to make Ezra Red. He described the beer as “drinkable ... without being overbearing.”
“Ezra Red is an American red ale, with a nice balance between malt and hop flavor,” Mudrak said. “It’s relatively light in alcohol and body for smooth drinking. It’s an approachable beer.”
Allison Jagoe ’12, who tried the beer at The Bear’s Den on Saturday, said it was flavorful and lacked the aftertaste of some beers.
“It’s not too light or too dark. I think it would be appealing to a lot of people,” including both males and females, Jagoe said.
Alex Lalos ’12 said she enjoyed the beer so much she went back for a second serving. Lalos praised the way Ezra Red’s creators took advantage of opportunities in Ithaca.
“We live in an area really culturally rich in winemaking and brewing, and it’s really cool to have those resources around us,” Lalos said.
Ryan and Crosby first came up with the idea for a Big Red ale last fall, while drinking a house beer in Boston that had been brewed specifically for the bar they were visiting.
“We wanted a red ale with a full taste to it, so people can sit down and converse over it, but not so heavy that you can’t have more than one beer,” Ryan said.
Ryan said the ale was also inspired by a beverage Ezra Cornell described in his manuscripts. According to Ryan, both the name of the beer and its logo, which will mimic Ezra Cornell’s signature, are a nod to Cornell’s founder.
Ryan and Crosby proposed their idea to several breweries and ended up working with Bandwagon Brew Pub. One of Bandwagon’s founders, Michael Johnson ’10, was also a Cornellian.
Mudrak said that he created four different versions of the beer and used taste testers to choose the winning recipe.
According to Mudrak, Bandwagon is very small compared to other breweries, and currently can serve Ezra Red from a keg, but can not yet produce bottles of the ale.
Still, Mudrak said that Bandwagon’s small size was an asset in the process of developing Ezra Red.
“Other breweries wouldn’t be able to brew four batches of beer back-to-back-to-back; they wouldn’t want to dedicate the space to beer they might not end up selling,” Mudrak said. “We were able to tweak the final product and get something we were happy with.”
Mudrak said the beer has been selling well at Bandwagon, especially late at night and on weekends.
As for Ryan and Crosby, they said they were motivated by Big Red pride and not financial gain — neither will receive any portion of Bandwagon’s profits on the beer.Mudrak said, however, that the pair got something out of the experience.
“We did give them some free pints of Ezra Red,” Mudrak said. “Strictly for research purposes only.”