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!
There are many different variables throughout the fermentation process that affect how sour beer is produced. In order to better understand our beers and sour beer production in general, we pull small samples from each batch of beer every 10-14 days and specifically track four things: sensory, attenuation, temperature, and pH.
In order to test each batch, we pull a very small sample of beer from the barrel. However, it is incredibly important that we do not allow extra oxygen in the barrel, so we never remove the bungs from the barrel during this process. Instead, we are able to get samples from our barrels by “pulling nails” (often referred to as the “Vinnie Nail”, popularized by Vinnie at Russian River). It’s as simple as it sounds… we grab a pair of pliers and a glass, pull the nail, catch the sour beer as it pours out of the barrel, and then put the nail back in the hole! While sampling is important for testing the beer, it is important not to remove too much beer from the barrel at one time as that could also cause too much oxygen to enter the barrel.
After samples are pulled, our production team first tests the beer on sensory. With over 900 barrels filled, we are sampling sour beer every day. Sight, smell, taste, and mouthfeel of each sample are recorded to assist us in tracking the progress of our different yeast and bacteria experimentations as well as help create exciting new blends. We’ll take notes on how each batch looks, smells, and tastes every 10-14 days so that we can track how it changes over time and know when it has completed fermentation.
Are there still fermentable sugars in the sour beers? Are the yeast and bacteria still fermenting the beer? To answer these questions our production team uses an Anton Paar to measure attenuation and monitor the progression of the fermentation process. The data collected from these readings, show us how much sugar has been converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide over time. If we see weeks of stable readings, we know that yeast and bacteria have fully attenuated the beer and that this batch of beer is either ready to be packaged or blended. Ensuring that our beers have fully attenuated and are fermented dry is very important to make sure that our beers do not over-carbonate in the bottle.
Temperature plays a very important part in yeast and bacteria activity. Yeast and bacteria typically convert more sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide in hotter temperatures, while fermentation can slow down in colder temperatures. Since the amount of heat present affects how yeast and bacteria act, it also affects how sour beer tastes and smells. Different fermentation temperatures will produce different esters and phenols, which give each batch of beer varying characteristics. The ideal temperature range is somewhere between 50-70F, which is actually one of the main reasons why we decided to start here in Berkeley. Berkeley’s climate hovers in the ideal fermentation temperature range. The size and location of our warehouse provide an excellent space to house our 100 BBL fermentors and over 900 barrels filled with fermenting beer.
The final assessment that we record every 10-14 days is pH level. pH is the measure of how acidic or alkaline a solution is. Bacteria produce acids (most commonly lactic and/or acetic acid), which acidifies our beers and puts the “sour” in them. We track the progress of acid producing bacteria by taking a pH reading. Bacteria are still active if pH continues to decrease, but after consecutive weeks of stable readings we are able to proceed in the blending process.
How do we test pH? First, we calibrate a probe to 7.0 pH by dipping it into a neutral storage solution. We then rinse the probe with water and dip it into the second acidic storage solution to calibrate the probe to 4.0 pH. We rinse the probe one more time with water and then dip it into our beer sample to take a final pH reading.
pH will give us a good idea of how acidic a beer is, however, it doesn’t directly translate to how people perceive acidity on their pallet.
Recording the data from these four assessments allows us to further our understanding of how yeast and bacteria work to create sour beer. We learn more and more as we track each batch of beer in this decades long experiment.
San Francisco Beer Week is only a few weeks away, do you know what you are doing? We are gearing up for an epic week from January 22nd through January 31st and will be hosting a few events. See what is going on below.
Mark your calendars! We are starting the beginning of Beer Week by getting the gang back together… again! The Bruery, Societe Brewing Company, and The Rare Barrel will all be under the same roof for our second annual reunion event. Each brewery will be serving 5 beers for you to try at the Tasting Room starting at 2PM.
If you didn’t know, Patrick from The Bruery, Doug from Societe, and Jay from The Rare Barrel all worked together at The Bruery. Patrick, Doug, and Jay will all be in house for the first few hours to share each other’s beer, reminisce about the past, chat about the present, and look forward to the future.
Real Smoked BBQ is bringing a massive smoker to our parking lot again and will dishing up some amazing BBQ for this event and Sunday, January 24th. Come hungry and thirsty!
That’s right, we are bringing back a few of our past releases for you to try in our Tasting Room for one night only! We will have 13 sours on tap and 3 bottles to try in house. Please see a list of beers we plan on serving below.Draft Becoming | golden sour aged in oak barrels with boysenberries Dubious Nights | dark sour beer aged in tequila barrels Forces Unseen 14 (Batch 2) | blend of 3 golden sour beer aged in oak barrels Forces Unseen 15 (Batch 4) | blend of 4 golden sour beer aged in oak barrels Forces Unseen 16 (Batch 5) | blend of 5 golden sour beer aged in oak barrels Impossible Soul | golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with tart cherries and sweet cherries Map of the Sun | golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with apricots No Salt | golden sour beer aged in tequila barrels Proportional Response | amber sour beer aged in oak barrels Soliloquy | golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with rose hips and orange peel Sourtooth Tiger | golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with ginger Supermassive | dark sour beer aged in oak barrels with blackberries and black currants 2nd Anniversary Sour | red sour beer aged in whiskey barrels Bottles (for on site consumption) Apropos of Nothing | golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with elderberries and lavender Forces Unseen 14 (Batch 1) | blend of 3 golden sour beer aged in oak barrels Home Sour Home | golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with peaches, cinnamon, and vanilla bean Bottles (for sale) Map of the Sun | golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with apricots No Salt | golden sour beer aged in tequila barrels
Lauren Salazar will be in house on Saturday, January 30th from 2PM to 5PM along with some of our friends from New Belgium Brewing. Five special sours from the New Belgium cellars will be served along with suggested cheese and dessert pairings. Lauren and Jay will also be holding 3 Q&A sessions at 2:30PM, 3:30PM, and 4:30PM for up to 20 people each session. Sign-ups are on a first come first serve basis so make sure to stop by the Tasting Room early to get your chance to chat with Lauren.
Have an awesome Beer Week and see y’all in the Tasting Room!
We’re thrilled and honored to have been awarded two medals in the 2015 Great American Beer Festival® (GABF®)! Ensorcelled was awarded the Silver Medal and Apropos of Nothing was awarded the Bronze Medal… both in the American-Style Sour Ale category!
Presented by the Brewers Association, GABF® is the largest national beer competition that recognizes the most outstanding beers produced in the United States. The 2015 GABF® competition winners were selected by an international panel of 242 expert judges from the record number of 6,647 entries, received from 1,552 U.S. breweries.
Since opening our doors in 2013, our brewery has entered three competitions (2014 GABF®, 2014 World Beer Cup®, 2015 GABF®). With a combination of quality and luck, we’ve managed to win 1-2 awards at each of the three competitions we’ve entered our beers in. We don’t brew and blend sours with the purpose of competing for these awards, but we’re mighty proud to receive this positive feedback from our peers when it comes!
Do you like learning about sour beer? If so, you might enjoy The Sour Hour podcast on The Brewing Network!
The Sour Hour is a podcast made for sour heads, homebrewers, and professional brewers who are interested in spreading knowledge sour beers. The show is hosted by Scott Moskowitz of The Brewing Network and Jay Goodwin from The Rare Barrel, and they are usually joined by special guests on each episode.
The Sour Hour is available for free through iTunes! If you have any questions you’d like Jay and Scott to answer on the show, feel free to email your questions to email@example.com or call 888.401.BEER when they are in the studio!
Here is a list of episodes and special guests that are available at the time of this blog post…
Episode 1 – Michael Tonsmeire, author of American Sour Beers
Episode 2 – Lauren Salazar of New Belgium
Episode 3 – Cory King of Side Project and Perennial Artisan Ales
Episode 4 – Troy Casey of Casey Brewing and Blending
Episode 5 – Tim Clifford of Sante Adairius Rustic Ales
Episode 6 – Q&A Episode
Episode 7 – Nick Impellitteri of The Yeast Bay
Episode 8 – Chad Yakobson of Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project
Episode 9 - Q&A Episode
Episode 10 – Rudi Ghequire of Rodenbach Brewery
Episode 11 – Jean of Cantillon, Vinnie of Russian River, and Rob and Jason of Allagash
Episode 12 – Jim Crooks of Firestone Walker Barrelworks
Episode 13 – Milk The Funk
Episode 14 – Adrienne Ballou and Garrett Crowell of Jester King Brewery
Episode 15 –Jester King continued
a wise man advised
"you should err
on the side
to that they replied
"we will err
on the side
Last week was awesome. Jay and Alex flew out to New Belgium Brewing to blend a sour beer with Lauren Salazar. Our friend Lauren is the Blender at New Belgium, a giant in the world of sour beer, and an all-around badass. The final blend we created is called “Err On The Side Of Awesome”, but in order to fully understand this collaboration, we’re going to take a step back in time…
On a brisk afternoon in the fall of 2007, Alex’s uncle took him on a tour of New Belgium. While Alex was on the tour, he realized that brewing is using the science of biology to create art… to create beer that was way better than the stuff he was drinking at the time (crazy as it is, Alex's mom caught a picture of that exact moment below). Upon returning home, Alex got a homebrew kit, and started brewing in his kitchen with his roommate and best friend, Jay. Fast forward in time, Jay is working at The Bruery, Lauren teaches him how to start their sensory program, and a friendship is born.
Roughly around the same time that Alex went on his tour of New Belgium though, New Belgium was looking to get rid of a few of their oak barrels, and decided to send them out to other breweries. Lauren marked the barrels that she wanted to keep and she marked the ones she wants to send out. Time passes, the seasons change, and she finds herself visiting Russian River. While she’s touring Russian River, she sees a barrel marked “pH1”… which was never supposed to leave New Belgium! pH1 was one of New Belgium’s original seven oak barrels and it was producing amazing sours. Whoops. This barrel, pH1, ended up contributing to Russian River’s exceptional beer, Beatification, and ended up living there for quite some time.
A few years later, Alex and Jay catch wind of this story, and love the idea behind it… the idea that there is this one exceptional barrel that has a perfect blend of yeast and bacteria. With that in mind, Jay and Alex decide to name their brewery “The Rare Barrel”, in reference to the legendary pH1.
About one year ago, Russian River surprised Lauren by sending her beloved pH1 back to her! She excitedly filled it up, and began to age a cherry sour in it. The cherry sour aged for a year, and brings us back to present time. pH1 has bright cherry notes, is assertively sour, and very dry. pH1 is bold, and pH1 is ready to be blended. By this point, we’re good friends with Lauren, and a collaboration with New Belgium and The Rare Barrel is born, with pH1 right smack dab in the middle of it. The circle is complete.
Lauren, Jay, and Alex spent three epic days in the wood cellar tasting through a wide variety of samples from New Belgium’s barrel and foeder program. We started with pH1 at the center, which was assertively sour and dry with bold cherry notes and free from off flavors. It was a perfect beer to blend with, because it had so much personality that we were able to carry though the entire blend. After days of tasting, blending, tasting, and more blending, we came up with a blend that we were all quite proud of.
The final blend consists of pH1, eight oak barrels of cherry sour, and parts of 2 foeders of Felix (pale sour). Check out the video below for a fast tour through the wood cellar to see pH1 and the 2 foeders. The final blend ratio of Err On The Side Of Awesome is 4 parts cherry sour, 1 part Felix from Foeder 59, and 1 part Felix from Foeder 29. Err On The Side of Awesome is assertively sour with bright notes of cherries, pineapple, white wine, and friendship.
For more details on this collab, feel free to check out The Full Pint's story too.
UPADATE - 2016 Ambassadors of Sour is now full and enrollment has closed.
We are excited to announce that we are opening enrollment for Ambassadors of Sour, our 2016 beer club! Enrollment opens to new members on Thursday, October 1st at 9am. Click here to learn more about the benefits of being an Ambassador!
Fact: Cellarmaker Brewing Company knows their hops.
We teamed up with our buds from Cellarmaker Brewing Company to create 3 dry-hopped sour collaborations for SF Beer Week. We brought the sour base beers, and they brought the hop schedule. Done and done.
Why 3 dry-hopped sours? Well, we collaborated with Cellarmaker to create a dry-hopped golden sour called Tangerang back in 2014, and we were both quite proud of that. Tropical and juicy, Tangerang is like a refreshing and crushable IPA that is sour instead of bitter. We thought it would be fun to explore dry-hopping sours a little bit further, so we teamed up with those guys to create a few more of these. Here are the details on the three collabs we made with them...
Tangerang - golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with motueka, citra, and columbus
Breakfast Time - golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with apricots and dry-hopped with citra, simcoe, and equinox
What Hop Pun? - golden sour beer aged in oak barrels and dry-hopped with citra
In order to preserve the freshness hop character in these beers, we made them for draft only. Don't worry though.... if you missed 'em this time, we'll probably bring them back again in the near future.