If the Cinnamon Toast Crunch chef decided to enter a homebrew beer competition in Austin, Hazelnut Crunch is what he’d probably make. Seriously, it’s got actual Cinnamon Toast Crunch in it, though to hear the beer’s real-life creators tell it, that part was sort of improvised. “We were sitting around eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch as we made it, so we just decided to dump some in,” says homebrewer Nathan Beels, who dreamed up Hazelnut Crunch with girlfriend Bonnie Evans. “It was only half a box, so I’m not sure how much flavor it imparted to the beer. It was just one of those, ‘Why nots?’”
“Why not?” pretty much sums up the philosophy behind Loose Tie Brewing Company, the group that has given Beels, Evans and their friends, Jacob Guinn and Josh Thigpen, an outlet for their, shall we say, fanciful notions about beer. “We basically do what people say you’re not supposed to do and kind of go that route,” says Beels.
Looking to enter North by Northwest Restaurant and Brewery’s second annual Wort War II Homebrew Competition last November, the group dreamed up a pastry stout using non-fermenting lactose sugar, cinnamon and hazelnuts—so, basically it was already Cinnamon Toast Crunch in liquid form even before they added the cereal. Staying true to the Hazelnut Crunch’s casual origins, they signed up late for the competition, bottled the brew the day before the due date and dropped it off with an hour to spare. It’s little wonder the Loose Tie crew didn’t have high hopes; they started leaving the Wort War awards ceremony before the final winners were even announced. “We figured we lost,” Beels says. “Then, just as we got to the exit, they announced we’d won.”
As the winners of Wort War II, Beels and company have a shot at greater glory on a national scale. Come summertime, North by Northwest will work with Loose Tie to brew up another batch of Hazelnut Crunch for the pro-amateur competition at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver this September. In the meantime, Beels and his friends have no shortage of other beer creations they plan to pursue, with or without breakfast cereal.
By Steve Wilson • Photography courtesy of Loose Tie Brewing Company
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