The Rare Barrel
 
April 13, 2017 | The Rare Barrel

Balancing Act | Approaching Barrel Cellar Balance at The Rare Barrel

It is important to have a diversity of beer in our cellar to blend beers from. This diversity comes into play in different ways: when blending 3 - 4 oak barrels together for draft-only experiments a single barrel can have a significant impact on the final beer; yet, when we blend some of our larger releases we take a wider viewpoint to examine batch specific attributes (a “batch” is a single brew session, and typically results in about 14-15 oak barrels). Over the last year, cellar diversification has become a focal point amongst our production team. My intention with this blog post is to  give a glimpse of what variables we are currently taking into account when designing our sour blending beer, and where you can expect us to go in the future.
 

“Cellar Balance”

We talk a lot about “cellar balance” at The Rare Barrel, but what that means can be a bit elusive. On the most basic level, “cellar balance” means that we have groups of barrels with different characteristics, allowing us to blend for new as well as previously released brands. For example, if we are making a stone-fruit beer like Map of the Sun (our golden sour with apricots), we will blend toward a drier base beer that can reinforce or accentuate the apricot; but if we are making a beer like Home Sour Home (our golden sour with peaches, cinnamon and vanilla bean) we will seek out a beer that will have a pie-crust character. Both beers will use gold stock as their base, but because we have over 700 oak barrels of gold beer to choose from, we can play up certain attributes through barrel selection.
 
To conceptualize cellar balance, we tend to think of our barreled beers in loose, informal categories. Perhaps the most basic category is beer color. Since opening, The Rare Barrel has made four core “colors” of wort -- gold, red, dark, and black -- that are associated with four of our “core” brands -- Forces Unseen, Another World, Shadows of Their Eyes, and Ensorcelled. The majority of our beers use our gold base malt recipe, so 85% of what we brew is gold wort; we do, however,  brew our red, dark, and black base malt recipes throughout the year to have beer of different ages on hand for blending.
 
A few of the other prominent categories we consider when discussing cellar balance are acidity level, aromatics, age, dryness, and bitterness, all will be discussed further below.
 

Diversifying the Cellar

So, how do we create “cellar balance”? Let’s go through some of the variables that we use to diversify our barrel cellar.
 
Microbes: Perhaps no variable is more impactful on our beers than the microbes we use. Many of our early beers were fermented with a blend of Brettanomyces var. Drei and Lactobacillus Delbrueckii, but as we have continued to seek out new and different fermentation profiles we have vastly expanded our yeast and bacteria catalogue.  Currently we use yeast from many of the major brewing traditions (Belgian, French, American, British), and are continuing to explore the range of Brettanomyces available to commercial breweries. Oftentimes we will split our gold base wort into two fermenters, each with different yeast and bacteria. (Right now we have our gold recipe in one fermenter with a DuPont & Brett Blend and the other with Omega C2C Yeast.) If you’re interested in reading more on how we select and use yeast and bacteria at The Rare Barrel, check out our blog post (An Overview of Fermentation at The Rare Barrel).
 
Inoculation Timing: In addition to selecting different inoculants, another variable we tweak is the timing of when a beer might see either Brettanomyces and/or souring bacteria. Phenolic expressive (POF+) strains of Saccharomyces will leave compounds in the beer that some strains of Brettanomyces can later transform into some really delicious and unique flavors and aromas (one commonly discussed pathway is the transformation of the clovey 4-vinyl guaiacol found in hefeweizen to the funky or “horsey” 4-ethyl guaiacol). If the beer is inoculated with Brettanomyces alongside Saccharomyces, less of these compounds will be available for transformation, and the result is typically cleaner. Bacteria tends to grow at a faster rate than yeast, and can also diminish some of the flavors and aromatics created by yeast. Adding bacteria early in fermentation (when sugar is still available) will result in accelerated acid development at the expense of depth and complexity; adding it after both Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces have taken their turns results in less acidity, a generally longer timeline, but a more complex and nuanced beer. (Note too that most brewing bacteria are inhibited to varying degrees by hops, so that is another variable to attend to.)
 
Hops: We joke that hops were once a four letter word at The Rare Barrel, but through experimentation they’ve made their importance known and are now included in every batch we brew. Hops inhibit the growth of gram-positive bacteria (like Lactobacillus and Pediococcus), so they are a powerful tool in tempering acidity. We’ve found that even with a fairly robust hot-side hopping rate (~25 IBU), our house-adapted bacteria cultures will still produce acidity. Hops have aided our attempts to create more nuanced blends of sour beer, and we are excited to expand our exploration to include a wider range of varietals.
 
Malt Bill: Responding to patterns that we notice across numerous batches, at times we have tweaked our base recipes by swapping out or adjusting the percentages of particular grains. In recent batches of our black wort recipe, for example, we’ve subbed out American crystal malt for British crystal malt -- we’ve found that in our beers the British crystal results in a richer maltiness, while American crystal tends to be drier, grainy, and has a single-note sweetness. Right now we are in the process of updating our red recipe with the goal of drawing out more intense berry flavors.
 
Barrel History and Preparation: Oak is a porous material, and as all of our beers rest for 4 - 16 months in barrels, microbes penetrate and find a home in the wood of the barrel. When barreling down fresh beer, we consider what the previous tenant of that barrel might bring to the table. If we think that the resident microbes will be a good fit for the beer going in, we will either rack directly atop of the yeast and bacteria slurry, or we will lightly rinse the barrel with cold water and then rack in. If we wish to temper the impact of the previous beer on the new batch, we will use a high pressure gamma-jet to rinse the barrel with ozonated water, and then steam the barrel. Steaming will knock back the microbes for a while, but we’ve found that there is no way to entirely obliterate the impact of previous barrel residents.
 
Non-Sour Beer: Although we have been “All Sour Since 2012,” we do have beer in our cellar that is *gasp* not sour. Typically these are Saccharomyces / Brettanomyces beers that have gone into ozonated barrels. These beers have been a great tool as we look to draw back the acidity of some of our beers and to layer in a wider range of flavor and aromatics. These non-sour beers are created just as blending components and continue to impact the range of sour beer that we are able to blend--we have no intentions to release them on their own.
 
Although we talk of the goal of a having a “balanced” cellar, the effects of our efforts can take from 4 - 12 months to fully develop. Balancing really is a continual and reactive process.
 
Post up any questions and I’ll do my best to respond in a timely fashion.
 
Aaron Wittman
Research & Development Coordinator

 

Time Posted: Apr 13, 2017 at 9:00 AM
The Rare Barrel
 
March 22, 2017 | The Rare Barrel

Solidarity Forever | Collaboration Draft Release with The Pink Boots Society

Release Party - Friday, March 31st at The Rare Barrel

Much like the old saying goes “it takes a village to raise a baby”, it takes a variety of people in a community to realize a common vision. The Rare Barrel and the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Pink Boots Society, organizations that have strong focuses on education, creativity, engagement, and equality, wanted to work together to actualize these common values. To promote solidarity in a community (comprised of brewers, sales representatives, bartenders, lab analysts, writers, etc.) through a creative process that inspires a desire to learn, active participation, and encourages communication.
 
On March 2nd, The Rare Barrel hosted over 20 members of the Pink Boots Society, from various backgrounds in the SF Bay Area craft beer industry, for a collaborative blending day. By working directly with The Rare Barrel production team and sampling suggested base beer blends, participants were able to have an open dialogue surrounding the differences in the samples as well as The Rare Barrel’s practices in wort production, fermentation, and blending in sour beer production. After tasting the 2 suggested samples, each woman recorded notes on the differences between the two blends and then submitted a ballot for which one they preferred. After ballots were collected and a base beer was finalized, the Boots then broke up into 5 small groups and worked together to mix various tinctures into a carbonated sample of the selected base beer.
 
(photo credit : Gail Ann Williams)
 
An open exchange of ideas was hosted online prior to the blending day with suggestions from both Pink Boots Society members as well as The Rare Barrel on ingredients that would be interesting to trial. All 5 teams had access to trial ingredients such as papaya, tamarind, lemongrass, ginger, and rose petals in their carbonated samples. Each team’s potential blend was presented to the entire group. Every individual then tasted and ranked each sample from 1 - 5 (5 being the most favorable). Below is the recipe that resulted in this collaborative blending day.
 
YEAST BACTERIA ADDITIONS ABV pH

Barrel 1: English Ale Yeast, Gigayeast French Saison, The Yeast Bay Saison Blend, Brettanomyces lambicus

Barrel 2: Gigayeast Saison Blend, Brettanomyces bruxellensis,

Barrel 3: English Ale Yeast, Brettanomyces claussenii, Brettanomyces bruxellensis

Barrel 4: The Yeast Bay Dry Belgian, Wallonian Farmhouse, NE Abbey Ale, Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. Drei

Barrel 1: Lactobacillus buchneri, Pediococcus damnosus

Barrel 2: Belgian mixed culture

Barrel 3 Belgian mixed culture

Barrel 4: Lactobacillus delbrueckii, Pediococcus damnosus

Coriander - 2.5 lbs / oak brl

Chamomile - 3 lbs. / oak brl

Rose Buds & Petals - 3 lbs / oak brl

 

6.1% 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.29

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oldest Beer in blend:12/21/2015
Youngest Beer in blend: 5/10/2016
 
  
(photo credit: Brittany Hobbs - Alvarado St Brewing Company, Assistant Brewer)
 
The result wasn’t just a new sour beer blend, but an exchange of information, ideas, and perspectives among not only the women involved but also between the Pink Boots Society and The Rare Barrel. It was an open space that empowered each individual to ask questions as well as provide input. It was a democratic process of working together to accomplish a common goal. It was a unifying experience, an experience of solidarity forever.
 
On Friday, March 31st at 4PM in the The Rare Barrel Tasting Room, we will be releasing on draft Solidarity Forever, a golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with rose petals, chamomile, and coriander. We will also be serving some guest beers from 8 breweries (shown below) that also have SF Bay Area Pink Boots members. Join us in the Tasting Room to raise a glass in solidarity, celebrate this collaborative release, and support the importance of education, creativity, engagement, and equality.
 
Alvarado St Brewing (Monterey, CA) | Mai Thai PA - IPA
Drake’s Brewing Company (San Leandro, CA) | Hopocalypse - Triple IPA
Fieldwork Brewing Company (Berkeley, CA) | Eastside Motel - Double IPA
Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA) | Hoppy Pilsner
Seabright Brewery (Santa Cruz, CA) | Nectar of Ishtar (PBS Big Boots Brew) - Honey Wheat Ale
Shanty Shack Brewing (Santa Cruz, CA) | Liquid Luck - IPA
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (Chico, CA) | Narwhal - Imperial Stout
21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco, CA) | Hell or High Watermelon - Wheat Beer w/Watermelon
 
What is even more special about this event is that for 1 day only we will be filling any clean 32oz and 64oz growler brought in with Solidarity Forever. There are just a few requests we need to ask prior to bringing in your growlers to this collaboration release event.
 
  • Growlers must be a marked 32oz or 64oz growlers with a lid
  • Please tape over any logo that is not The Rare Barrel logo
  • Please clean your growler prior to attending this event
* The Pink Boots Society is a non-profit organization that assists to advance careers for women beer industry professionals by raising money for educational scholarships. They provide scholarship opportunities to members for conferences, seminars, and courses put on by the MBAA, Seibel Institute, American Brewer’s Guild, and many more. To further support the Pink Boots Society, The Rare Barrel will donate all proceeds from every glass of draft sold for this release event on March 31st, and $1 from every glass sold through the Tasting Room after the release, back to the organization to promote the importance of furthering beer education.
The Rare Barrel
 
March 15, 2017 | The Rare Barrel

For the love of Saison!

Allagash Saison Day at The Rare Barrel | Saturday, April 8th @ 1PM

Get ready to raise a glass of saison with us. We are more than honored to be hosting Allagash’s Fourth Annual Saison Day on Saturday, April 8th in our Tasting Room! Starting at 1PM, Jason Perkins, Brewmaster at Allagash Brewing, and Jay Goodwin from The Rare Barrel, will be hanging out and celebrating their love for saison. Join in on the fun, we will have 18 different saisons on draft from 11 breweries listed below.
 
 

Allagash Brewing Company

Saison | a Maine interpretation of a classic Belgian Farmhouse-style ale.
2016 Interlude | ale aged in red wine barrels with Brettanomyces
Astrid | ale aged in Aquavit barrels
Dawnlander | amber saison ale
 

Cellarmaker Brewing Company

Lost Wisdom | old world style saison
 

Fieldwork Brewing Company

Calypso | farmhouse ale
Textbook | modern farmhouse ale
 

Gilman Brewing Company

Maison de Campagne | rustic French-style saison
 

Half Moon Bay Brewing

HMB Saison | Chardonnay barrel-aged saison
 

HenHouse Brewing

Mandarina on My Mind | Single Hop saison
Fowl Play 4: Live Fowl or Die Hard | Barrel-aged Biere de Garde
 

Libertine Brewing Company

Halter Saison | collaboration with Halter Ranch Vineyards, wine barrel-aged saison co-fermented with Picpoul Blanc grapes
Edna | dry-hopped table saison
 

Marin Brewing Company

Trois Fleurs | Hoppy Farmhouse-style ale
 

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales

Lucybelle | saison with Brettanomyces
 

Temescal Brewing

Little by Little | saison
 

The Rare Barrel

Bygone | tart saison aged in oak barrels
Roads Diverge | tart saison aged in oak barrels
 
Tacos El Rey will also be celebrating with us and dishing up some tacos, burritos, and quesadillas to fill your bellies.
 
For the love of saison… come thirsty, and hungry, and ready to cheers to this time-honored style of beer.
 
We will be updating this blog with more details as Saison Day approaches.
The Rare Barrel
 
January 10, 2017 | The Rare Barrel

SFBW 2017 | Events at The Rare Barrel

SF Beer Week is right around the corner! Here is a look at our schedule of events that we’re hosting...

The Reunion | The Bruery, Societe Brewing Co. & The Rare Barrel

Saturday, February 11th, 1PM - 10PM @ The Rare Barrel

The Bruery, Societe Brewing Company, and The Rare Barrel will all be under the same roof for our 3rd reunion event. Patrick from The Bruery, Doug from Societe, and Jay from The Rare Barrel all use to work at The Bruery together and they will be hanging out for a few hours with some friends during this epic event. Each brewery will be serving 5 beers for you to try at the Tasting Room starting at 1PM. We’ll have 3 bars set up inside of the brewery to ensure the best experience for ya!
 
Real Smoked BBQ is bringing a massive smoker to our parking lot again and will dishing up some amazing BBQ for this weekend. Come hungry and thirsty!
 

Cellarmaker + The Rare Barrel = Collaboration Release Party

Sunday, February 12th, 1PM - 8PM @ The Rare Barrel

The brains of sour and dank put their heads together to release not 1, not 2, but 3 collaboration beers this year. What is even more special about this release party is that for 1 day only we will be filling any clean 32oz and 64oz growler brought in for all 3 collaboration beers. There are just a few requests we need to ask prior to bringing in your growlers to this Cellarmaker + The Rare Barrel event.
 
  • Growlers must be a marked 32oz or 64oz growlers with a lid
  • Please tape over any logo that is not The Rare Barrel logo
  • Please clean your growler prior to attending this event
So what are these collaboration beers? Check them out below!
 
Tangerang! - golden sour beer aged in oak barrels and dry-hopped with Citra and Motueka
Smashin’ Fruit - a blend of a hoppy pale ale and a golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with passion fruit
Wagon Trix - a blend of Cellarmaker porter with The Rare Barrel golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with blackberries
 
Looking for grub? Real Smoked BBQ will be hanging out Sunday as well to fill bellies with tasty BBQ dishes!
 

Jester King Brewery Guest Tap Takeover

Wednesday, February 15th, 7:30PM - 10PM @ The Rare Barrel

Looking for some some amazing beers from an authentic farmhouse brewery based in Austin, Texas? Jester King Brewery will be in house for a guest tap takeover! Jeffrey Stuffings and Averie Swanson will also be hanging out for a bit to chat about their philosophy behind producing mixed culture and spontaneous beer. Below are a few of the beers that will be available for this event.
 
SPON - Methode Gueuze, 100% spontaneously fermented beer (limited amount available)
Atrial Rubicite - Barrel-Aged Sour Beer Refermented w/ Raspberries
Buddha’s Brew - Barrel-Fermented Sour Wheat Beer w/ Kombucha
Figlet - Farmhouse Ale Fermented w/ Smoked Texas Figs
Super Ultramega Hyperforce - Intergalactic Farmhouse Ale Brewed w/ Ginger, Salt, & Tarragon & Refermented w/ Cantaloupe
 
If you are hungry… Javi’s Cooking will be on site serving tasty Argentine empanadas baked fresh daily with local ingredients.
 

Trillium Brewing Guest Tap Takeover

Thursday, February 16th, 4PM - 10PM @ The Rare Barrel

Mark your calendars! We are excited to announce that we will be hosting a guest tap takeover with Trillium Brewing Company. We will have 6 different Trillium beers on our guest taps. Check out some of what we will have on draft below.  
 
Congress Street - IPA
Dialed In w/ Chardonnay & Gewürztraminer Juice - DIPA
Fort Point - Pale Ale
And more...
 
We will also have The Lumpia Company on site if you you all get hungry.
 

Wicked Weed Brewing + The Rare Barrel Collaboration Release | Happy Blending

Friday, February 17th, 4PM - 10PM @ The Rare Barrel

Wicked Weed Brewing and The Rare Barrel combined forces of sour and funk to bottle and release Happy Blending, a barrel-aged American sour ale fermented with plum and nectarine.
 
The blenders from both Wicked Weed and The Rare Barrel traveled to each others breweries to select from each other's barrel collection. The combination of these beers were then fermented with nectarines and plums to create a sour beer representative of each barrel house.
 
Enjoy Happy Blending on draft as well as in bottle for on-site consumption only. We will also have various Wicked Weed beers available on our guest taps too! Here is a look at some of what will be offered. 
 
Happy Blending - Barrel-Aged American Sour Ale Fermented w/ Plum & Nectarine
White Angel - Barrel-Aged American Sour Ale Fermented w/ Muscadine Grapes
Permeo - Barrel-Aged American Sour Ale Fermented w/ Passion fruit & Lychee
Lunatic Lager - Belgian Blonde
French Toast - Imperial Stout Brewed w/ Cinnamon, Vanilla, and Maple Syrup
And more ...
 
Tacos El Rey food truck will also be on site from 5 - 9PM dishing up tacos, burritos, and tortas!
 

The Rare Barrel Cellar Day

Saturday, February 18th, 1 - 10PM @ The Rare Barrel

We are bringing back a few of our past releases for you to try in our Tasting Room for one day only! We will have over 18 sours on tap and 7 bottles to try in house. Below is the list of what will be available on premise in bottles and on draft.
 
Bottles (On premise consumption)
SKUs Me ‘13 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels
Cosmic Dust ‘14  - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Hibiscus
Feed The Monster ‘15 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Blueberries
Impossible Soul ‘15 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Tart Cherries & Sweet Cherries
Map of the Moon ‘ 16 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Tons of Apricots
No Salt ‘16 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Tequila Barrels
Quite Something ‘16 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Bordeaux Wine Barrels
Wise Guise ‘16 - Red Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Raspberries
 
On Draft
Across the Sea ‘14 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Coriander & Sea Salt
Dubious Nights ‘15 - Dark Sour Beer Aged in Tequila Barrels
Map of the Sun ‘15 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Apricots
3rd Anniversary ‘16 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Gin Barrels w/ Lemon Peel & Lavender
Afterlight ‘16 - Dark Sour Beer Aged in Bordeaux Wine Barrels
Barrel P9T (2016 The Rare Barrel) - Single barrel of golden sour beer
Forces Unseen ‘16 - Blend of Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels
Gifted Branch ‘16 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Peaches & Apricots
Pricklish ‘16 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Prickly Pear
Shadows of Their Eyes ‘16 - Dark Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels
Soliloquy ‘16 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Rose Hips & Orange Peel
Sourtooth Tiger ‘16 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Ginger
Apropos of Nothing ‘17 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Elderberries & Lavender
Roads Diverge ‘17 - Blended Tart Saison Aged in Oak Barrels
Happy Blending ‘17 (Collaboration w/ Wicked Weed Brewing) - Barrel-Aged American Sour Ale Fermented w/ Plum & Nectarine
And More...
 
Bottles To Go
Soliloquy '16 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Rose Hips & Orange Peel (limit 12) 
Sourtooth Tiger '16 - Golden Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Ginger (limit 12) 
Shadows of Their Eyes '16 -  Dark Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels (limit 12) 
Wise Guise '16 - Red Sour Beer Aged in Oak Barrels w/ Raspberreis limit 12
 
Interested in what our sour beer tastes like before we package it? We will have a limited amount of  flights of 3 barrel samples available in the Tasting Room for this event. These barrel samples will showcase the variety of beer that we are aging in our barrel cellar. Each barrel sample is served uncarbonated and at room temperature, just like how our blenders taste through barrels in production.  A tasting glass and poster are included with each barrel sample flight.
 
Curveball Sliders will also be on site to dish up some tasty burgers.
    

The Afterparty

Sunday, February, 1 - 8PM @ The Rare Barrel

Were you not able to try any of the beer from our events during the week? Or, do you want to get another chance to grab a glass of something the we offered during one of these events? Stop by the Tasting Room for our SFBW Afterparty. We will be serving beers from throughout the week all day. We’re not sure what amazing beers will be on tap yet, but our draft list will be updated on site throughout the day!   
 

Sours from The Rare Barrel can also be enjoyed at the following events: SFBW Opening Gala (2/10), United Sours of America at Monk’s Kettle (2/11), Sour Sunday at Jupiter (2/12), Cellarmaker Presents: A Night of Metal and Beer at Amnesia Beer & Music Hall (2/12), and Save The Whales Almanac Sour Fest (2/16).
 
Enjoy an epic Beer Week and see y’all in the Tasting Room!
The Rare Barrel
 
December 20, 2016 | The Rare Barrel

An Overview on Fermentation at The Rare Barrel

Hello internet! As the Research & Development Coordinator at The Rare Barrel, my role is to track our beer from the day it is brewed until it is packaged, ensuring that barrels are harvested at the correct point and that we always have beer to blend, fruit, or package. I also aid in blending, and work to develop new approaches and procure different yeast, bacteria, and secondary additions for our sour beers. I’ll provide a brief intro to what fermentation is, how we procure the yeast and bacteria to make our sour beer, how we attend to the different stages of sour beer fermentation, and how we use fermentation to carbonate our beers.
 

What is fermentation?

Beer fermentation is all about yeast and bacteria converting grain-derived starches and sugars into alcohol, CO2, and other flavorful and aromatic compounds, including acids. Different yeast and bacteria perform this task uniquely, and the species and health of the organisms greatly affect the end product. A primary difference between sour beer and clean beer is the use of bacteria in this fermentation process. Bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Pediococcus are able to convert starches that yeast cannot, and a byproduct of these conversions are a bulk of the acids that make our beer sour.
 

Yeast and bacteria and where we get them

 

The Rare Barrel is unique in the number of different yeast and bacteria that we use. In addition to using single strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae from many diverse brewing traditions (Belgian, French, English, American, etc.), we also use a wide variety of Brettanomyces yeast (claussenii, brux drei, lambicus, anomala, brux, etc.), Lactobacillus (brevis, delbrueckii), and Pediococcus (damnosus). Like most commercial breweries, we procure most of our microbes from commercial yeast labs (we work with several). At times we will pull barrels we like from our cellar and use those as inoculants. Occasionally we will get a pitch of yeast from another local brewery (yeast can get pretty expensive, and swapping yeast is a relatively common practice in the brewing industry). We also have a few cultures that have been grown up from the dregs at the bottom of some of our favorite commercial bottles. Propagation from bottles is done in a very homebrew fashion, where we carefully “decant” (and drink) the beer sitting atop the dregs, and add a small amount of sterile wort to the bottle. We then gradually step this up into a 5 gallon carboy, then a 15 gallon brink, our 5 BBL project fermenter, and then into a 30 BBL batch.
 
There are a number of different ways that we approve microbes for production, and there are no hard-and-fast rules here. Jay draws on his experience at The Bruery, and his four years guiding the program at The Rare Barrel. A number of us in production are avid homebrewers, and have extensive experience with many different strains and conditions, so we definitely have opinions. Additionally, we have a “menagerie” of about twenty different microbe blends at The Rare Barrel, kept in flasks and carboys with our wort. Tasting and evaluating these samples in a democratic fashion drives some of our decisions as to what should be trialed at a larger scale.
 

Scaling up! Stages of fermentation at The Rare Barrel

 

While we have done a few experiments with primary fermentation in barrels, we start nearly all of our fermentations in our stainless conical tanks. It varies whether primary fermentation will be performed by a single strain of Saccharomyces, multiple Saccharomyces strains, a blend of Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces, or a full mixed culture with numerous strains of Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces and bacterias. Our wort is produced off-site, transported in stainless totes to our facility, and then pumped into our fermenters past an oxygenation stone. Active fermentation produces a fair amount of heat, and depending on the yeast we may decide to control fermentation temperature with the glycol jackets, or to simply let the temperature “free rise.” Fermentation temperature plays a very important role in driving different alcohols and esters, phenols, and other precursors for biotransformation during secondary fermentation.
 
After primary fermentation subsides (about a week or so), we will transfer the beer to oak barrels. Sometimes we will add an additional inoculant to the beer prior to racking out of the tank; in other cases we will rack onto a slurry of yeast and bacteria from past batches; and in others we will rack without further amendation into rinsed, steamed and ozoned barrels. This decision is typically made by looking at our “cellar balance” and deciding where the project fits -- whether it is intended to be a portion of a particular blend or brand, or if we are just adding to the variety of our blending stock.
 
 
After the beer is in barrels, we monitor and wait. I guess we’d call this the “secondary fermentation” phase, where the microbes that function on longer timelines (typically Brettanomyces and the bacterias) are doing most of the work, and the beer is gradually souring. We track gravity and pH on most of our batches on a monthly basis, although some get tested weekly to ensure all is well. We are getting pretty good at predicting when a particular batch will be ready to harvest and either fruit or blend for a final product. If the beer receives a sugary secondary ingredient (fruit, for instance), it will be returned to the barrel with a shot of fresh yeast for another round of fermentation, where we monitor and wait once again.
 

Fermentation also occurs during our bottle conditioning process

 
 
While we “force carb” our draft beers in a brite tank using a CO2 stone, all of our bottled beers are naturally carbonated in the bottle. This means (you guessed it) more fermentation! Prior to bottling, it is essential that all active fermentation processes have come to completion, and the beer is absolutely stable with no residual sugars remaining. To carbonate our bottled beer, we add a calculated solution of dextrose and a yeast--just enough to add the level of carbonation that we target. If there were any sugars remaining in the beer, carbonation would increase potentially leading to gushers or even bottle-bombs. We are extremely cautious with packaging, and it is not unusual to delay bottling if we notice an anomaly.
 
After bottling, we allow the beer to rest and re-ferment for a minimum of 9 weeks before it is put up for sale. We have weekly check-ins on the progress of the conditioning, and will delay a release if we notice anything out of the ordinary. Bottle conditioning is a fermentation process, so the beer does go through some of the same phases that we notice in primary fermentation, although because dextrose is such a simple sugar it is consumed at an increased rate.
 
Our beers continue to evolve in the bottle even after they are a packaged. The yeast and bacteria that were present in primary and secondary stages of fermentation--especially Brettanomyces and Pediococcus--remain active and continue to slowly transform the more difficult to digest starches, creating new flavors, aromas and textures. While bottles are certainly ready to drink when we release them, they are a living product and change over time.
 
I hope this provides an interesting glimpse into how we think about the various stages of fermentation at The Rare Barrel. Post up any comments you might have and I’ll be glad to follow up on any questions!
 
Stay Sour!
 
Aaron M. Wittman
R&D Coordinator
 

 

Time Posted: Dec 20, 2016 at 8:00 AM
The Rare Barrel
 
November 8, 2016 | The Rare Barrel

Crowd-sourced Collaboration Between Yazoo Brewing Company and The Rare Barrel

We're excited to announce that Brandon Jones​ of Yazoo Brewing Company​ is teaming up with us to work on what we're calling a "Crowd-Sourced Sour" collaboration!! That means we're opening every part of the process to share with the public, mainly through The Sour Hour and Milk The Funk​!

Brandon will be on The Brewing Network's The Sour Hour tomorrow (Wednesday) at 5 PM PST and we'll definitely be chatting about this project along with drinking some of his latest creations.

Our main goal with this project is to drive discussion of sour beer making techniques and philosophies. From brew day, to fermentation and aging, and all the way through packaging, you'll be able to not only follow the process with unprecedented access, but actually be able to influence the final outcome of the beer! We know this beer will be a Logistical Nightmare (<-- good beer name!), but the value of collaborating in this manner is to learn from the diverse opinions and knowledge of the sour beer community, pro brewers and home brewers alike!

For more details, you can follow this on @YazooBrew, @TheRareBarrel, @embracethefunk, Milk The Funk, and The Sour Hour by searching #SourCollab!
 
The Rare Barrel
 
September 29, 2016 | The Rare Barrel

Finding Barrel p9t | The Search for The Rare Barrel 2016

The Rare Barrel, our namesake, stems from the epic journey of  Barrel pH1. pH1 is an oak barrel that was crafted in France from French oak in 1990. After a few years of housing wine, she traveled across the Atlantic and has helped pave the way for American sour beer. This single barrel was integral to the sour beer programs at both New Belgium Brewing Company and Russian River Brewing Company. With Lauren Salazar as pH1’s shepherd at New Belgium, pH1 helped define the process and flavor profile of La Folie. She disappeared (or was secretly gifted, depending who you ask) to Vinnie Cilurzo at Russian River Brewing Company where she contributed to the first batches of Beatification, their spontaneously fermented beer, and spent the following 11 years contributing to their exceptional sours. The travels of  pH1 and her impact on these breweries is inspiring to us because she epitomizes an idea that there is one barrel that stands out from the rest. There’s a rare barrel that houses an amazing, and possibly perfect, blend of yeast and bacteria. We named ourselves The Rare Barrel because of pH1, and this past year we started our first Search for our own Rare Barrel.
 
 

Behind the Scenes of The Search for The Rare Barrel 2016

Our first Search for The Rare Barrel spanned over three days from September 16th, 2016 through September 18th, 2016, however, it took years to develop. While we originally thought we would have conducted our first Search years ago, we quickly realized that it would take years to build our barrel house with various fermentation and souring experiments to conduct such an extensive Search. The Search for The Rare Barrel got placed on the backburner until we were confident that we had enough of an array of barrels to choose from.  This past March, the idea for conducting The Search for The Rare Barrel became plausible.
 
Planning for The Search had commenced. Over the span of 6 months it was our production team’s mission to find our best 40 barrels that would be considered in The Search. At the time that this process started we housed over 1000 barrels filled with sour beer. In order to focus solely on yeast and bacteria expression, we knew that we would only select barrels that housed golden sour beer that did not contain any characteristics from fruit and/or spice additions. This narrowed down the selection to 400 barrels. From these 400 barrels our team created a list of 60 barrels that they considered to be the most diverse and interesting of our barrel house and tasted through each barrel to further narrow the selection down to 40 barrels for The Search Party to taste during this 3 day event.
 
  
 
As this three day event grew closer, we contemplated how tasting through these 40 barrels would pan out. Questions arose such as “Who do we ask to be involved in The Search Party for  this extensive tasting?”,  “What is the appropriate amount of samples for each person to try?”,  “How will we ask The Search Party to rank each barrel?”, “How do we involve those outside of The Search Party?” These questions and many more were pondered on as we devised a plan of operation. After much discussion, our plan was this... to have a group of our Ambassadors of Sour and some friends in the Industry (a.k.a. The Search Party) taste and rank barrel samples throughout the first two days of The Search. We would have 5 one hour sessions on both Friday and Saturday. Each session requested participants to taste through 8 different barrel samples and rank them from 1 (not to be considered The Rare Barrel) to 5 (to be considered The Rare Barrel). We would then crunch the data from The Search Party to find the 10 best barrels in our barrel house. These barrels would move forward the final tasting on Sunday.  With help from Lauren Salazar of New Belgium Brewing and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing, they would  taste through the top 10 barrels with Jay Goodwin and, from those, select The Rare Barrel. To get the public involved we would have approximately 100 flights of 3 barrel samples available in the Tasting Room per day to simulate an experience similar to The Search Party. The barrel samples would be selected from barrels that were a part of The Search.
 

  

The Search for The Rare Barrel | Getting to the Top 10 Barrels

After months of planning,  tasting, extending invites to our prospective Search Party members, and prepping for service,  Friday, September 16th was here before we knew it. Doors opened and our first tasting session was underway. Up to 16 Search Party members tasted alongside each other in silence in each session. Throughout the first 2 days it was interesting to overhear conversations after each session among these members discussing either their similar or opposing opinions on each sample.  It was also exciting to chat with industry, Ambassadors, and patrons that experienced our public barrel tasting flight about how tasting through barrel samples was a new experience for them and most have a new understanding and appreciation of the work and thought behind tasting and blending beer to create a final product. After it was all said and done, there was a cloud of joy and appreciation hovering in the Tasting Room as our Search Party felt privileged and excited to be a part of selecting beer for The Rare Barrel, whether it was to dwindle barrels out of consideration or to promote them forward. By 6PM that Saturday, the second day of The Search,  the data was crunched and the top 10 barrels were selected. As we nailed the results to a barrel for the public to view, a crowd gathered around to see if their barrel had made the cut.
 
  
  
 

The Search for The Rare Barrel | The Final Tasting

Doors opened at 1PM on Sunday and we had eager supporters and onlookers ready to experience this final day with us. For those that enjoyed our public barrel sample flight, they got to taste at least 3 of the final barrels included in the top 10 barrels. Around 3PM, Jay, Lauren, and Vinnie sat down at the final table, each with all ten barrel samples spread out in front of them and began to taste and record their notes. A group of onlookers huddled nearby to witness the experience trying to overhear the discussion among the three after all 10 samples had been tasted. An hour after this final tasting began the three had come to a consensus. Barrel p9t was the one. This barrel, housed an exceptional blend of yeast and bacteria. This barrel was our Rare Barrel.
 
  
 

Barrel p9t | The Rare Barrel 2016

Barrel p9t was selected as The Rare Barrel in the 2016 Search. This single barrel contains batches of gold wort that were brewed between February and April 2016. These batches were part of a “sour saison solera” -- a mixed culture fermentation that was allowed to run through eleven generations. The mixed culture included  The Yeast Bay Saison, Giga Yeast Saison, Saison DuPont, multiple strains of Brettanomyces bruxelles, Brettanomyces lambicus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii, Lactobacillus buchneri, Pediococcus damnosus, and our house mixed culture. After fermenting in stainless with these cultures, the beer was racked into a barrel on top of the yeast cake from a previous batch, which included mature cultures of The Yeast Bay Saison, Brettanomyces Lambicus, Lactobacillus Delbrueckii and, Pediococcus Damnosus. It rested in this barrel from late April 2016 until September 2016, when it was selected as “The Rare Barrel” in our 2016 Search for The Rare Barrel.
 

The future for Barrel p9t

Short term | A small portion of Barrel p9t was carbonated the week after The Search for the public to try on draft in our Tasting Room. Starting at 4PM on Thursday, September 29th, Barrel p9t, The Rare Barrel 2016, will be pouring from the taps. Our intentions for serving Barrel p9t on draft and hopefully other single barrels selected in future years of The Search for The Rare Barrel is to share and enjoy this exceptional blend of yeast and bacteria.  To encapsulate Barrel p9t, our best barrel of sour beer, the majority of this beer is being used to propagate future batches of sour beer.
 
Long term | On Tuesday, September 20th, 2016, the majority of Barrel p9t was used to barrel ferment new wort. All work came to a halt as each employee slowly gathered around the fermentation area to watch Barrel p9t be awakened with a fresh batch of gold wort. There was almost 7 minutes of silence as we watched new beer fill Barrel p9t. In these 7 minutes there was a feeling of anticipation and excitement. Anticipation for what Barrel p9t would bring to The Rare Barrel and excitement to see this barrel develop and grow and possibly be an integral part in future blends for years to come. Taking this all in and looking ahead to our future one couldn’t help but also feel gratitude and pride. Gracious to those that helped us along the way, our mentors, colleagues, and supporters of The Rare Barrel. Proud that after 3 years we were able to find our own Rare Barrel.
 
 
We would like to thank all of those that have helped us on our journey to find Barrel p9t! Thank you to our staff for your hard work and help in preparation for The Search. Thank you to our Search Party members for providing feedback on which barrels should move forward. And a thank you to Vinnie Cilurzo and Lauren Salazar for being pioneers in American sour beer and lending your ears, palates, and thoughts on what is our Rare Barrel.

 

The Rare Barrel
 
July 19, 2016 | The Rare Barrel

The Search for The Rare Barrel

Long story short... we’re conducting our first Search for The Rare Barrel. Over the course of 3 days, our friends along with some of our Ambassadors of Sour will participate in an extensive tasting of our barrel house in order to find the best barrel of beer...aka “The Rare Barrel.” We’ll serve a portion of The Rare Barrel on tap for everyone to try, and then use the other portion to inoculate another batch of beer for future enjoyment.
 
Long story long... our namesake, The Rare Barrel, and The Search for The Rare Barrel, is inspired by the epic story of pH1. pH1 is an oak barrel, and she was crafted in France from French oak around 26 years ago. After a few years of housing wine, she found her way to New Belgium, where she was part of their original sour beer program. With Lauren Salazar as pH1’s shepherd at New Belgium, pH1 helped define the process and flavor profile of La Folie, an amazing and pioneering sour brown ale.  Around 2003, pH1 disappeared (or was secretly gifted, depending who you ask) to Vinnie Cilurzo at Russian River Brewing Company. While at Russian River,  pH1 contributed to the first batches of Beatification, their spontaneously fermented beer,  and spent the following 11 years contributing to their exceptional sours. When we heard this story about the travels of pH1 and her impact on these breweries, we were inspired by an idea… the idea that there is one barrel that stands out from the rest. There’s a rare barrel that houses an amazing, and possibly perfect, blend of yeast and bacteria. We named ourselves The Rare Barrel because of pH1, and now we need help searching for “The Rare Barrel” in our barrel house.  
 
WHAT | The Search for The Rare Barrel will span 3 days. A group of our Ambassadors of Sour and some friends in the Industry  (a.k.a. The Search Party) will taste and rank barrel samples throughout the first two days of The Search on Friday and Saturday. We’ll crunch the data from The Search Party to find the 10 best barrels in our barrel house. These barrels will move forward to Sunday, which is the third and final day of The Search, where we will get help from Lauren Salazar of New Belgium Brewing and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River. They will help us taste through the top 10 barrels and, from those, select The Rare Barrel.
 
WHERE | Barrel Cellar and Tasting Room @ The Rare Barrel, 940 Parker St, Berkeley, CA 94710
 
WHEN | Friday, September 16th
    Saturday, September 17th
    Sunday, September 18th
 
WHY | We are in search of the rare barrel … the barrel that houses the perfect blend of yeast and bacteria.
 
HOW CAN YOU PARTICIPATE IN THE SEARCH? | We will have approximately 100 flights of 3 barrel samples available in the Tasting Room per day for y’all to compare, contrast, and formulate opinions on. The barrel samples will be selected from barrels that are part of The Search. Each barrel sample is served uncarbonated and at room temperature, just like how our blenders taste through barrels in production. A commemorative glass is included with each barrel sample flight.
 
DRAFT | Below is a draft list of what we intend to serve throughout the weekend. Please note some guest beers may not be served each day and may sell out. To see what will be offered on draft as well as bottles available to go or for on-site consumption please see our Tasting Room Menu by clicking here. Our menu will be updated by Noon each day of The Search.
 
TRB SOUR BEER
Gifted Branch - golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with tons of peaches and a dash of apricots, 6.7%
Arrows of Neon - golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with lemon peel and lime peel, 5.6%
Wise Guise - a blend of Ensorcelled and our golden sour beer aged in oak barrels, 5.6%
Forces Unseen - a blend of golden sour beers aged in oak barrels, 5.5%
Ensorcelled - dark sour beer aged in oak barrels, 6.2%
Another World -a blend of red sour beers aged in oak barrels, 5.8%
Shades of Cool - golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with black currants, 5.8%
Cosmic Dust - golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with hibiscus, 5.7%
Stone Age Love - golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with tart cherries, 5.7%
 
GUEST BEER
STS Pils, Russian River Brewing Co, - Czech Pilsner, 5.3%
Dribble Belt, Russian River Brewing Co, - Pale Ale, 4.5 %
Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing Co, - Double IPA, 8%
Supplication, Russian River Brewing Co, - Sour ale aged in Oak Barrels with Cherries, 7%
1554, New Belgium Brewing, - Black Lager, 5.6%
Trippel, New Belgium Brewing, - Belgian Style Ale, 8.5%
Le Terroir, New Belgium Brewing, - Dry-hopped Sour Ale, 7.5 %
NBB Love Oscar, New Belgium Brewing, - Base of La Folie aged in Cabernet barrels from Chateau Montelena

FOOD | We’ll have a different food truck on site each day! Please see the schedule below.
Friday, September 16th from 4PM - 9PM | Passione Pizza
Saturday, September 17th from 1PM - 7PM | Tacos El Rey
Sunday, September 18th from 1PM - 7PM | Doc’s Classic Comfort Food
 
So are you in?
PS -pH1 was gifted from Russian River back to New Belgium back in 2014, and then New Belgium gifted her to us in 2015. It’s a real honor to be the current shephard of pH1. If you’d like to hear the full story of pH1 as told by Gail Ann Williams and Steve Shapiro in issue #111 of Beer Advocate Magazine, click here for a great read!

 

Time Posted: Jul 19, 2016 at 8:25 AM
The Rare Barrel
 
May 25, 2016 | The Rare Barrel

Upcoming events in 2016, and a look back on the first half of the year

It’s been an exciting start to 2016 for us here at The Rare Barrel. We’ve been the on the road, traveling up and down California, over to the East Coast, and even over to Europe! Here is a look at what we’ve been up to this year and what’s to come for the rest of 2016.

Quick summary of where we’ll be...
 
Firestone Walker Invitational 6/4/16  | Paso Robles, CA
Hamilton’s Tavern 6/10/16 | San Diego, CA
Toronado SD (brunch) 6/12/16 | San Diego, CA
Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America 6/25/16 | Los Angeles, CA
The Perennial SF (beer and food pairing) 7/12/16 | San Francisco, CA
Wicked Weed Funkatorium Invitational 7/16/16 | Asheville, NC
Ales for ALS @ Faction Brewing 7/23/16 | Alameda, CA
California Craft Brewers Summit 9/10/16 | Sacramento, CA
Great American Beer Festival 10/6/16 -10/8/16 | Denver, CO
3rd Anniversary Party at The Rare Barrel 10/15/16 | Berkeley, CA
 

Reflecting on where we’ve been this year...
 
  

Ratebeer Best 1/31/16 | Santa Rosa, CA

It was a huge honor to be invited to participate in the RateBeer’s Best festival up in Santa Rosa this past January. We we able to pour Apropos of Nothing, Forces Unseen, along with a couple other sour beers alongside some of the best breweries around the world. We are also stoked to be considered and awarded a medal for being one of the Top 100 Brewers In The World, according to RateBeer.
 

Extreme Beer Fest 2/5/16 - 2/6/16 | Boston, MA

In early February we hopped on a plane, flew across the United States, and realized that we weren’t in sunny Berkeley anymore. Braving the winter weather, it was great to catch up with our Nightshift Brewing and make new friends with the crew at Trillium Brewing Company, before we made our way over to Extreme Beer Fest. Grateful for the opportunity to pour Cosmic Dust, Impossible Soul and a few other brands, we were even more appreciative of the awesome reception of our beer as well as the warm Bostonian welcome. 
 
  

Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival 4/15/16 - 4/17/16 & 4/22/16 - 4/24/16 | Indio, CA

For some of those that attended the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, they got to sip on Cosmic Dust and Keen Observation at The Rare Beer Bar located in the Craft Beer Barn.
We were stoked to be on draft for the first time at such an awesome event because we’ve enjoyed feeding the monster at Coachella six of the last nine years. Craft beer... music… art… doesn’t get much better than that.

 

Craft Brewers Conference 5/3/16 - 5/5/16 | Philadelphia, PA

Jay Goodwin, Co-founder and Director of Brewing and Blending at The Rare Barrel, along with fellow sour beer colleagues Lauren Salazar and Andrew Emerton of New Belgium Brewing, Brandon Jones of Yazoo Brewing and Embrace the Funk, and Michael Kiser of Good Beer hunting conducted an open forum at this year’s Craft Brewers Conference in Philadelphia. The Sour Brewing Community Open Forum provided discussion on various topics such as different souring production methods and defining a common language and approach to articulating different souring processes and their flavor profiles. They also touched on the growth and importance that the sour beer style has on the craft beer industry.
 

World Beer Cup 5/6/16 | Philadelphia, PA

Ensorcelled, our dark sour aged in oak barrels, was awarded the silver medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup in the American-style Sour Ale category!!! We're honored and humbled to receive this award from the most respectable international beer competition. Our intention is to brew and blend the best sour beer possible to provide to sour beer drinkers, however recognition like this from our peers in the industry is mighty darn cool.
Fun fact...this is the 3rd award Ensorcelled has won! It was also awarded a gold medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup and a silver medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival.
 

Copenhagen Beer Celebration 5/13/16 - 5/14/16 | Copenhagen, Denmark

Jay and Alex were able to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark to serve our beer at the Copenhagen Beer Celebration. With four sessions over a two day period, we got to serve up 8 different sour beers to folks all around the world. This was our first time serving our sours in Europe and we had an awesome experience. We couldn’t believe how many people on the other side of the world were interested in trying our sours. Big thanks to Mikkeller Beer for the invitation and being awesome hosts!

 

The Bruery’s 8th Anniversary 5/14/16 | Placentia, CA

Congrats to The Bruery for 8 years of awesome! We got to pour at The Bruery’s 8th Anniversary party in Orange County, California recently and were able to bring along some bottles of Feed The Monster, Hypnotized,  and Keen Observation, to share with all the people celebrating at this great occasion!
 
Hope to see you somewhere else soon!

 

The Rare Barrel
 
May 18, 2016 | The Rare Barrel

Ensorcelled Wins Silver at 2016 World Beer Cup

Ensorcelled, our dark sour aged in oak barrels, was just awarded the silver medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup in the American-style Sour Ale category!!! We're honored and humbled to receive this award from the most respectable international beer competition. Our intention is to brew and blend the best sour beer possible to provide to sour beer drinkers, however recognition like this from our peers in the industry is mighty darn cool. 

Fun fact...this is the 3rd award Ensorcelled has won! It was also awarded a gold medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup and a silver medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival!

Time Posted: May 18, 2016 at 8:57 AM
 

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