Barrel-Aged Sour Program Starts Bearing Fruit!

We have brewed all types of beers in our (almost) 6 years of being a commercial brewery. Kettle sours, IPAs, Belgian styles, stouts, barrel aged stouts, lagers… In our first year open we brewed 70 different beers – and we haven’t let up since.

All this is consistent with what drove me when I started homebrewing a number of years ago. One of the big things that got me interested in brewing was the challenge. The challenge of creating something, the challenge of new processes, the challenge of managing living organisms to create the beverage that I was aiming for.

 Thor moving souring barrels into place

Thor moving souring barrels into place

That challenge is continually evolving and developing every day as we continue to improve our processes.  It changes every day as our palates evolve and as new styles come about (think hazy IPA and now Brut IPA).  I love to jump at the chance to brew these exciting beers which bring a real challenge to our production, often requiring new processes and techniques. 

The good example of this opportunity since opening the brewery was back in 2015 when we had yet to ever brew a kettle sour.  After brewing three kettle sour batches on my 5 gallon homebrew set up, as well as performing a lot of research, I scaled up the process to 6.5BBLs and we released our first ever kettle soured beer – our Gose – for our 3rd anniversary.  And the very first batch won Gold at GABF, which was pretty amazing! Since then we’ve brewed a number of beers using the kettle sour technique including Berliner Weisses, Gose variants, and our collaboration with Funkwerks – Hoppy Tart Saison.

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But one area we haven’t been able to focus on is barrel-aged sours, exploring the world of bacteria and brettanomyces.  The risk of cross contamination was always too high for us to have these beers in the same physical space as “clean” beers, so we had to wait until we had the ability to segregate the wild beers physically.  We managed to start doing this back in February 2017.

Since then, we have been building up our sour program slowly. We have made a lot of progress, but still have a lot more opportunity to further expand – and a lot of projects on the list! Currently we have a number of barrels and puncheons with various brett and bacteria blends aging in them, as we continue to experiment to search for unique flavor profiles.  We have two base beers in barrels – a darker rye beer, as well as a blonde. We have just added a 30 BBL foeder, a large oak fermenter, which will be used to expand our Brettania series of beers.  Also earlier this year we brewed our first spontaneously-fermented beer – which is currently fermenting and aging in oak barrels.

 The newest member of our sour family

The newest member of our sour family

We are also fortunate to have in our team some talented people focused on our new program. Thor has led the way, spending the most time on the project so far and a lot of the beers are a great testament to his hard work. James, Matt, Nigel and myself have also been actively involved in the beer and program development - I feel we have a very strong team in place to continue to take us forward.

We kick off our oak aged sour series on July 21 with Brettania - Boysenberry and Blackberry. We will have a limited number of 375ml bottles available on a first come-first served basis from 11am. Both Brettania and Tropical Funk will be available on tap too.

Brettania - Boysenberry and Blackberry - made a brief appearance during Seattle Beer Week, but now we're excited to announce its official release.  Brettania is a rustic saison aged in oak puncheons with our house mixed brettanomyces culture, and then rested on boysenberries and blackberries for six months before being bottle conditioned. A bright, dry and effervescent beer, full with jammy fruit character, makes this beer - the first release from our oak sour series - perfect for the hot summer days.  This first batch was sent to the North American Brewer Awards earlier this summer and picked up a medal – our first medal for our barrel-aged sour program!

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Brettania is the first in a new series for us - we expect a fresh version released every 3 to 4 months, each featuring a different fruit.  The next version is already bottle conditioning, and features guava.  We are working with local farmers to get fresh fruit for an upcoming batch too.

Brettania – the name of the series – takes Britannia (a term often referred to for Britain, I think it goes back to Latin roots) and merges it with brettanomyces – which is Greek for “British fungus.” This series will feature our house brett blend front and center.

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Tropical Funk is a Brett IPA. With a 100% Brettanomyces Drie primary ferment, this funky, hazy IPA is packed to the gills with tropical fruit notes. Bright tropical notes driven by the Citra and Mosaic hops are complemented by grapefruit from the brettanomyces, with a little background funk and white pepper from the brett adding complexity. A soft pillowy mouthfeel supports the fruit forward flavor profile.  Imagine one of our Crush beers fermented with brett and you get the idea for this beer!

We are also working on a number of other beers - some of which are already aging out in barrels. One - a Belgian Pale Ale refermented with brett in the bottle - will be released on our anniversary on August 4.  It will be a fun journey and we are looking forward to expanding this area of our brewery, and sharing the fruits of our labor with you.

Thank you for your support, and cheers!

Adam