The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is spectacular event that combines both beer tasting and a competition. On the competition side of things, GABF happens to be the largest commercial beer competition in the world. We we're excited just to have the opportunity to pour our beer at the festival, but thrilled when we found out that we won an award!
This year, Cosmic Dust was awarded a Gold Medal for American-Style Sour Ale (category 22) at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. As a brewery that focuses entirely on producing American sour beer, we couldn't be more proud to take home this award.
Cosmic Dust, the sour that was awarded a gold medal, is a golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with hibiscus. The base beer was fermented with Brettanomyces claussenii and Pediococcus damnosus. With a moderate acidity, this sour beer showcases subtle earthy and berry characteristics with a light Brett funk.
Our bottles of this beer have finished bottle conditioning, and we're excited to release Cosmic Dust as our 4th Founder's Club Exclusive Bottle Release! If you're a Founder, we've already emailed you the details for the release. If you aren't Founder, we'll have Cosmic Dust on draft in the Tasting Room for another week or so!
We are excited to announce that we are opening enrollment for Ambassadors of Sour, our 2015 beer club. Below is a summary of the club details, followed by a detailed description of benefits. We highly suggest you read all of these details prior to joining Ambassadors of Sour.
Ten 750 mL bottles of sour beer (our choice)
First right to purchase most bottle releases online
10% discount on all purchases in tasting room and online (excluding memberships)
One custom growler
Two pieces of custom glassware
Membership ID card
First right of acceptance for 2016 membership
Option to pick-up beer at brewery, ship within California (at an additional cost), or assign a trustee
Cost - $300 (+tax), non-refundable
Membership benefits, which are designed for one person, commence on January 1st, 2015 and conclude on December 31st, 2015. Here are more details about Ambassadors of Sour...
As an Ambassador of Sour, you will receive 10 bottles of sour beer that the blenders at The Rare Barrel will create specifically for you and the other members. Of the 10 bottles included in the membership, we anticipate that there will be two bottles each of five different brands. These beers will be blended specifically for the Ambassadors. In order to preserve quality, we do not commit to any specific releases or any release schedule. As such, your bottles may be released at any point in 2015. In the case of a slight overage in blending, The Rare Barrel plans to offer Ambassadors the opportunity to purchase additional bottles online or in person. We also plan to cellar some of these excess small-batch blends for the purpose of a vintage release at a later date or for serving at special events. Our intent is for these beers to be available just for the Ambassadors of Sour, but if we have an excess after 2015 we may offer them for special events or to the public for on-site consumption in the tasting room in 2016 and beyond.
In 2015, we plan to release other bottles that are not included in the Ambassadors of Sour membership. As an Ambassadors, you will have the first right to conveniently purchase a limited number of bottles of most bottled releases through the website (www.therarebarrel.com). Ambassadors will have access to purchase non-club releases online before the public has access to them in the tasting room, on our website, or other distribution channels. We may sell the draft version of a particular release before we sell the bottled version.
Ambassadors of Sour will receive a 10% discount on purchases made through the Tasting Room and website. This includes bottles, draft beer, growler fills, apparel, and food. Discounts do not apply to club enrollment.
Ambassadors of Sour are guaranteed a custom growler that is unique to the club. When the Tasting Room is open, Ambassadors will have access to fill their growler with the “Ambassadors Fill”. The Ambassadors Fill is one beer that we designate as the club’s growler fill for that week. Only Ambassadors will be able to fill their growler with the Ambassadors Fill. We also expect to start selling glass growlers through the Tasting Room in the near future. When this begins, we plan to have two options available for growler fills. Ambassadors will have access to both growler fills, while non-club members will only have access to one of the fills. Ambassador branded growlers can be filled by anyone in possession of the growler (i.e. you can have a friend fill your Ambassador growler with the Ambassadors Fill in your absence). Empty growlers can be picked-up in the tasting room or shipped at an additional charge. We do not ship full growlers, and do not recommend shipping any growlers with beer in them. In order to control our limited supply of sour beer, we will only fill growlers branded by The Rare Barrel.
Each member will receive two pieces of glassware that are specific to the Ambassadors of Sour. Glassware can be shipped (at additional charge) or picked-up in the tasting room.
Membership includes a personalized, non-transferrable, membership card. Members must present this card in the Tasting Room to receive the 10% discount. Founders Club members who join Ambassadors of Sour will receive a distinct membership ID card designating their Founders Club status.
Ambassadors of Sour will have the first right to re-enroll in the 2016 club. The number of memberships available for 2016 is currently undetermined, but will be based on production volumes and our ability to provide club members with limited release blends. Either way, each Ambassador will have the opportunity to re-enroll.
Ambassadors will have three options for fulfilling their orders placed online. As an Ambassador of Sour, you can either pick-up beer at brewery, ship beer to their house/business in California, or a designate a trustee to pick-up their beer from the Tasting Room for them.
Brewery Pick Up | Ambassadors have the convenience of placing orders online and picking them up in the Tasting Room, at no additional charge. Orders can only be picked-up from the Tasting Room during normal Tasting Room hours. Beer purchased through the membership may be stored at The Rare Barrel until March 31st, 2016. If you do live locally and visit the Tasting Room, we ask that you please pickup your bottles and do not use our brewery as a cellaring facility... we are running out of space surprisingly fast.
Shipping within California | Ambassadors have the opportunity to ship their beer to to any residential or business address in California at an additional cost. We currently fulfill orders once per week. When we ship beer in California, we usually ship orders on Tuesday and they usually arrive on Wednesday. Shipping costs in California for next-day delivery range from approximately $14 for one bottle to $25 for 12 bottles. If you would like to save on shipping costs, Ambassadors have the option to combine orders and ship multiple orders at once. The Rare Barrel is only legally allowed to ship to addresses within California, even if your state allows beer shipping. A signature and government issued ID proving that the person accepting the packing is 21+ years of age will be required upon delivery. We cannot ship beer to P.O. boxes.
Trustee | Ambassadors of Sour may designate a Trustee to pick-up their beers in the Tasting Room. This is a great option if you live outside of California and are not able to visit the Tasting Room or ship your beers in California. Ambassadors may also ship their beers to their trustee (or anyone else 21 years of age or older) if he or she lives in California. The 10% discount and other club benefits do not apply to Trustees.
Enrollment in Ambassadors of Sour is valid through December 31st, 2015. Beer purchased through the membership may be stored at The Rare Barrel until March 31st, 2016. All beer and merchandise must be picked up or shipped by March 3st, 2016.
Starting this Sunday, our Tasting Room will be open on Sundays from 12-6PM! We’ve decided to go big for our first Sunday, so here is a list of the festivities we have in store for you...
NEW DRAFT SOUR RELEASE | Map of the Sun – golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with apricots. Think juicy apricot and apricot jam with a moderate acidity. Available on draft and as Founder’s Fill!
BARREL SAMPLE RELEASE | Puppy Love - a barrel sample of our unreleased golden sour beer aged in an oak barrel with boysenberries, which will be served directly from a 5 gallon oak barrel, uncarbonated and at room temperature. 100% of the proceeds from Puppy Love will be donated to our neighbors at the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society for their annual block party and fundraiser, Bark (& Meow) Around The Block. Available this Sunday only.
CELLARD BOTTLES FOR IN-HOUSE CONSUMPTION | We’re pulling a few cases of our bottled beers available for consumption in the Tasting Room. Available at noon while supplies last...
Ensorcelled (Founders Club only) – dark sour aged in oak with raspberries, 2014 World Beer Cup Gold Medal Winner in the American Sour Ale category
Shadows Of Their Eyes – dark sour aged in oak barrels, 2014 World Beer Cup Bronze Medal winner in the Belgian-Style Flanders Oud Bruin or Oud Red Ale category
Proportional Response – amber sour aged in oak barrels, a blend of an assertively sour red with a faintly tart pale
BOTTLES TO TAKE HOME | Sourtooth Tiger, golden sour aged in oak with ginger. Limit 3 per person.
SELF-GUIDED TOUR | We’re expanding the Tasting Room area on Sunday to include access into the part of the production area.
GUEST TAPS | Our buddies at Societe Brewing in San Diego decided to make a special delivery to the Bay Area for our first Sunday being open (well, not really just for us… but their timing was perfect!). We’ll have
Societe Brewing Co. - The Pugilist (2014 World Beer Cup Silver Medal in the Irish-Dry Stout Category)
Societe Brewing Co. - The Pupil, an outstanding IPA
Cellarmaker Brewing Co. - Peach Killiah IPA (IPA w/150 lbs of peaches)
Looking forward to seeing you this Sunday!
We like to experiment here at The Rare Barrel, and sometimes, those results are not only worth tasting, but also worth writing about. This Friday, we will be releasing our first beer in a new draft series called “Echo Series”.
In short, Echo Series is an experiment where we let the yeast/bacteria/beer from one barrel, influence the fermentation and flavors of the next sour beer to fill up that barrel. In order to fully understand what we are talking about though, we’ll give you a little more back story.
When one of our sour beers has finished barrel aging and is ready to be bottled or kegged, we will empty that oak barrel and move the beer into a blending tank. When the barrel is empty, there is still very small amount of beer in the bottom 1-2 inches of the barrel. The small volume of beer remaining in the bottom of the barrel, and the moist wood on the surface of the inside of the barrel, still contains yeast and bacteria from that batch. Prior to refilling a barrel that has previously had sour beer in it, we will usually do one of two things: 1) rinse the barrel and purge with C02 if the barrel is going to be refilled immediately or 2) rinse the barrel and fill it with a storage solution if the barrel is not going to be filled immediately. Rising the barrels before refilling them helps us control our variables, and ultimately increase reproducability, which is one of the more challenging aspects of making sour beers. While we usually rinse our barrels after we empty them, we decided to see what happens when we don’t rinse the barrels prior to refilling them with another sour beer.
Hypnotized, the first beer we are releasing in the Echo Series, is a red sour that aged in barrels that were previously used to age Ensorcelled (dark sour beer with raspberries). With Hypnotized, we noticed a few significant differences between that beer and its counterpart aged in rinsed barrels. Firstly, we found that Hypnotized finished attenuating faster and had a cleaner character (free from off-flavors normally seen in sour beer making) than the same red sour beer aged in rinsed barrels. The more advanced yeast and bacteria that did a great job fermenting Ensorcelled seemed to really help give Hypnotized a terrifically balanced acidity while being clean and highly drinkable. Additionally, we noticed that it picked up a very subtle raspberry character from the un-rinsed barrel, which added another layer of complexity to the flavor profile.
Hypnotized (Echo Series) is our first draft release in this series. Needless to say, we’re pretty excited about our continued experimentation with re-using advanced yeast and bacteria from the oak. We have a few more Echo Series beers in the works, and look forward to sharing them on draft in the near future.
Sir Isaac Newton once wrote “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." As an all-sour beer company starting out in a thriving craft beer revolution, this quote has struck a chord in our hearts.
Take a moment to think about your favorite craft beer, your most memorable brewery visit, and the friends you’ve met through your shared interest in craft beer. The craft beer revolution that we enjoy today has grown and flourished through the hard work, passion, and dedication of the brewers and pioneers who paved the way for those of us who are starting breweries today. We have the utmost respect for those who have come before us and shaped the amazing craft beer industry that we have today.
In honor of those who have contributed immensely to the growth of craft beer, we are starting our first collaborative series of beers, called “On the Shoulders of Giants”. In this series, we will collaborate with a person (aka a “giant”); someone who has significantly and positively changed the landscape of beer. Once we have blended and released a beer with one of the “giants”, we will work with that person to select the “giant” for the next collaboration in the series. In our first installment of On the Shoulders of Giants, we collaborated with our personal “giant”, Pete Slosberg.
Pete Slosberg co-founded Pete’s Brewing Company in 1986. His flagship beer, Pete’s Wicked Ale, was an American Brown Ale that was made with an all-malt recipe and a focus on quality ingredients. In a time when craft beer awareness wasn’t nearly as prevalent as it is today, Pete understood that education about craft beer was paramount to understanding awareness about craft beer. In order to promote better understanding about beer, Pete created “Pete’s Landscape of Beers”, an educational tool that he used to “teach anyone to be expert in craft beer in 10 minutes”. When hiring a new employee, the offer letter included three books, and the new hire was required to take a beer test on their first day with the company. In a time when 6 packs were the norm, he was among the first package his beers in a 22 oz. bottle as a core strategy for the packaging (take a moment to think about how much of an impact that has had on how we try beer today!). And what about cans? Pete was among the first craft breweries to put his craft beer in cans, which eventually could be enjoyed on four different airlines. In a time when seasonal varieties were limited to just a Christmas or pumpkin beers, Pete was the first to offer four different seasonal beers. Pete's Brewing Company was the first to sponsor the Ninkasi Award through American Homebrewers Association, an award given to the most awarded homebrewer at the National Homebrewer's Conference. Part of the prize included being the first homebrewer to do a collaboration that was released nationally. When KQED hosted a beer fest in the early 1990’s and asked Pete for a donation, he auctioned off a dinner with himself, instead of the traditional case of beer or shirt. Greg Koch and Steve Wagner won the auction and joined Pete for dinner, a few years before they went on to found Stone Brewing Company. When Facebook and Twitter weren’t yet an option for communicating with his followers, he created an ad campaign in 1994 that the NY Times said was one of the top 10 nationally, across all companies. When Pete heard he was going to be a first time grandfather, he approached Drie Fonteinen about blending a special sour beer in honor of his grandson's birth, a beer that could be cellared for 20+ years for that generation. Armand and Lydie thought it was a crazy idea, but supported it. For the first time ever, Armand blended a beer from only his worts. This inspired Armand and Lydie to create their own unique offering from this blend, Armand 4, Spring. In a time when the options for craft beer were few and far between, Pete did things his own way. With 10 years of over 100% growth and making the Inc. 500 list for fastest growing private company, Pete’s Brewing Company was a force in craft beer that changed the idea of beer as we know it today.
In our first installment of “On the Shoulders of Giants”, we gave Pete the keys to our barrel house, and let him create his perfect sour. After tasting though countless barrels, Pete decided to create and blend a dark sour beer with sour cherries. Pete chose the barrels, blended the beer, added the sour cherries, bottled the beer, and visited often to check-in on his blend. With rich notes of dark chocolate and cherries, this beer is arguably one of our most sour beers yet. With the recent birth of his granddaughter McKayla, Pete created this beer with the intention of sharing these bottles with McKayla on her 21st birthday, in 2034 (we can’t guarantee this beer will age that long, but will definitely be tracking it’s progress over the years!).
Pete – Thank you for all you have done in craft beer to create an environment where a few guys with the crazy idea of starting an all-sour brewery have a chance to share our passion with the world. If we have seen further it is by standing on your shoulders.
Our bottles of sour beer are ready for consumption when we release them, however, aging bottles of sour beer can be a fun and exciting experience. Since sour beers are acidic (similar pH to wine) and have very little hops, they have the potential to age well over the years. A lot of our visitors enjoy cellaring sour beers, so we’re often asked, “How long should I cellar my bottle of your sour beer?” It’s a simple and great question, with one simple and one complicated answer.
The first, and simplest of the answers, is that we don’t know how long you should age them. Why don’t we know how long you should cellar your beers? Well, we don’t have many data points with our own bottles. We’ve only had beer in bottles since December of 2013, so we can’t say with 100% confidence that our beer will taste great/better in 1, 2, or 5 years. However, our bottles of sour beer should age well for years to come, if cellared properly (55F and in a dark place), which leads us to our second answer to this question.
The second answer, which is long and a little more complicated, is that we do everything we can to preserve the long term quality of the beer and pass on the cellarmanship of that bottle from us, to you. If you are interested in geeking out over the things we do to ensure our bottles of beer are best suited for cellaring, here are a few of the things we do to maintain the long-term quality of our sour beers...
Bottle Conditioning With Fresh Yeast – When we bottle a sour beer, we will add some fresh yeast and a very specific amount of sugar to the beer prior to packaging. Over the course of 1-3 months, the yeast will consume the sugar and create CO2, which will naturally carbonate each bottle of beer. One of the main benefits of bottle conditioning is that the fresh yeast will also absorb some residual oxygen, which can very damaging to beer flavors. Bottle conditioning with fresh yeast should reduce oxidation in the bottle.
Oxygen Scavenging Bottle Caps – Oxygen, a highly reactive molecule, is very damaging to flavors in beer. Picture oxygen as a wrecking ball, swinging around and demolishing the flavors that the yeast and bacteria have spent so long creating. We do everything we can to prevent oxygen from coming into contact with our beers when they are aging and in the package. It’s impossible to remove 100% of oxygen from beer, but our oxygen scavenging bottle caps will continue to absorb oxygen that is in the head space of the bottle after packaging.
Complete Fermentation Before Bottling – Have you ever opened a bottle of beer, only to find the contents gushing out so fast that when all is said and done, the bottle is half empty and you have a big mess on your ceiling? Lame. Over carbonated beer is most often a result of too much fermentable sugar still in the beer when it is bottled. If a beer is bottled and there are still fermentable sugars available for yeast to consume, then the yeast will ferment those sugars, produce CO2, and carbonate the beer further. In order to prevent over carbonation in our bottles, we take regular density measurements to ensure that the yeast has stopped attenuating the beer before the beer is packaged in bottles.
Very Thick Glass Bottles – It’s possible that a beer can over carbonate so much in a bottle that the pressure breaks the bottle. Not only do you lose all the beer you wanted to drink, but more importantly, this is very dangerous and could hurt someone. While we let our beers fully attenuate and do everything to prevent our beers from even getting close to this dangerous level of carbonation, we also use bottles that can withstand 15 Bar (over 200 psi). We don’t expect to have issues with over carbonation, but if we do that issue, we know we’re using the strongest bottles available.
Amber Glass and Oversized Labels – Light is another thing that can damage the flavors in beer and other foods. Specifically in beer, light will drive a photochemical reaction that converts iso-alpha-acids into 3-methly-2-butene-1-thiol, which has aromas that are reminiscent of a skunk. Not too appealing, right? Fortunately, iso-alpha-acids come from boiled hops, and most of our beers are under 10IBUs, so this shouldn’t be much of a problem with our sours. That being said, we use amber glass bottles and cover them with the largest label we can fit on the bottle to prevent as much light from reaching our beers as possible.
While we dont have a concrete answer as to how long you should cellar our beers, we are taking every step we can think of to ensure long-term qulaity in our beers. We’re currently cellaring bottles of each brand, and we’ll be performing sensory analysis on these bottles for years to come. We’ll update this blog post in 10 years, when we have some concrete data around how our bottles have been aging over the years.
We're almost ready to release bottles of Proportional Response, our amber sour beer aged in oak barrels. Here are a few details around the bottle release of Proportional Response:
WHEN | Doors open at 2PM on Saturday, May 17th
WHERE | The Rare Barrel, 940 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
WHAT | 750mL bottles of Proportional Response, our amber sour beer aged in oak barrels. Each bottle is priced at $20. There is a limit of 2 bottles per person for the first 100 visitors, and 1 bottle per person after that.
HOW | While supplies last, we will give each person a wristband that reserves them the ability to purchase 1 or 2 bottles of Proportional Response on Saturday, May 17th. The first 100 customers will have the option to purchase up to 2 bottles, and the remaining visitors will have the option to purchase 1 bottle. We had a similar number of bottles available at our last release, and ran out of wrist bands ~15 minutes after opening. Once you have a wrist band, you no longer need to wait in line, and may go to the bar and relax until the line for bottle purchases dwindles down. We will also have more people staffed at the bar this time around, so bar service should be faster this time around.
See you on Saturday!
Last month, we entered four of our beers into the 2014 World Beer Cup, a global beer competition that evaluates beers from around the world and occurs once every two years. The competition is steep. This year, 1,403 breweries from 58 countries competed. 219 judges from 31 countries spent three full days judging beers across 94 categories. When all was said and done, of the 253 breweries who won an award, just 27 breweries won more than one award. To our astonishment, we went home with two awards from the 2014 World Beer Cup!
We’d also like to give a big shout out to our friends at The Bruery, who took silver medal for Oude Tart in Category 59!
Well, that’s enough of us tooting our own horn. The barrels need tending to…
If you've had the chance to visit our tasting room in the last three weeks, you might have noticed something different about our beer: it's warmer. We are now serving our draft beer at 44°F, which is about 4°F warmer than we were serving our beer for the first two months of being open. Why are we serving our sours at a higher temperature? It tastes better.
We had casually talked about serving our beer at a warmer temperature for a little while, but it wasn’t until we had our Beer Week dinner at Mikkeller Bar SF that we realized we needed to serve our beer at a higher temperature. Throughout our five course beer pairing dinner at Mikkeller Bar SF, we tasted five of our sours that were served between 45-55°F, and decided that we needed to make this happen.
Why couldn’t we serve our beers warmer before? Originally, we were using straight CO2 to push beer through our lines. With our old set up, our serving temperature range was limited to 38-42°F. The closer we'd get to 42°F, the more problems we'd experience with foaming, because the CO2 would come out of solution. We could potentially have increased the CO2 pressure to keep CO2 in solution, but that would have resulted in us unintentionally carbonating our beers more, which we did not want to do.
How do we serve our beers at 44°F now? We needed to do the following four things to serve our beer at 44°F:
The last part of the puzzle is crucial to the new set up. We recently installed a nifty Green Air Supply, which extracts nitrogen from the atmosphere, then blends the nitrogen and CO2 in a ratio that is calculated for our system. The ratio of nitrogen and CO2 is specific to our serving temperature, draft line resistance, elevation above sea level, and a few other things. Since nitrogen is an inert gas, and doesn’t dissolve into our beer and “carbonate” the beer like CO2 does, we are able to apply more pressure to the whole system, which allows us to serve beer a few degrees warmer.
Sounds like a whole lot of work just to be serving our beer a few degrees warmer, right? We don’t think so. In our tasting room, the tulip glass is the final “package” of our product. Our sours take a very long time to make, and we take great pride in doing everything we can to maintain quality throughout the entire production process. When we find a better way of doing something, we’re going to adapt and improve our processes.
Next time you visit, feel free to leave the mittens at home and let us know what you think about the new serving temperature.
You have questions, and we have answers. Here are a few frequently asked questions that we have some answers for:
We currently don’t have enough draft beer to open up another day. We do intend to open the tasting room on Sunday and potentially Thursday when we have more beer, but until then, we’re going to have to stick with only Friday and Saturday.
Yes. We are installing an additional 20’ bar top that will seat 20 people. This communal table should be ready for the week of March, 28th.
You might have noticed that we currently only offer 10 oz pours of our sours, and do not offer sample sizes or flights. Why is that? Well, we believe the 10 oz pour combines the best of both worlds since it is a small enough size for you to try multiple beers without becoming over intoxicated, while at the same time it allows us to maintain timely service. Based on the number of visitors we have and the way our bar set up, we would sacrifice timely service in order to provide you with multiple smaller pours. We’d prefer to get a tulip in your hands in under 5 minutes than four samples in your hands after a 15-20 minute wait. We always have tasting flights in the back of our minds, but until we’re able to do it a manner that doesn’t sacrifice service, we hope that the 10 oz pour is a happy medium!
In order to continue keeping the tasting room open on Friday and Saturday, we’ve paused self-distribution around the Bay Area. For the short term, draft is only available in our tasting room.
Unfortunately, enrollment for the Founder’s Club closed last October. However, if you would like us to email you when the details for our 2015 beer club are ready, simply click here and submit your email address in the form at the top of the page. We’ll drop you an email sometime around fall with the details for the next club!
We are currently testing out a growler program with our Founder’s Club. Once we have enough beer to fill more growlers, we plan to offer more growlers in the Tasting Room. We don't have enough beer to fill a lot of growlers right now. In order to manage our supply of draft beer, we can only fill our growlers.
As of today, we do not have any bottles available for sale. However we do have a number of brands that are bottle conditioning and should be ready in the upcoming months. If you would like to know when our bottle releases are, follow us on Facebook, Instagram (@therarebarrel), Twitter (@therarebarrel), and our newsletter.
One of benefits included in the Founder’s Club is that we can ship your bottles of beer directly to your residence or business in California. We do plan on expanding our direct shipping program outside of the Founder’s Club at some point, but are not sure when that will be.
We hope that answered a number of the questions you may (or may not!) have had. If you have any other questions, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.