We like to experiment here at The Rare Barrel, and sometimes those results are not only worth tasting, but also worth writing about. One of these experiments that we have been working on is called the Echo Series.
In short, the Echo Series is an experiment where we let the yeast/bacteria/beer and sometimes fruit 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 packaged, we will transfer most of the sour beer from each barrel into the blending tank. With the help of a sight glass, we continue to remove most of the sour beer from each barrel, and stop removing the beer when we start seeing yeast, bacteria, and sometimes fruit in the sight glass. We then leave the remaining mixture of beer, yeast, bacteria, and fruit in the bottom of the barrel, which is typically about a few inches of liquid in the bottom of the barrel.. Typically we would rinse the barrels before refilling them, however, with the Echo Series we fill the barrel with another sour beer without rinsing out the previous remnants and let the refermentation process begin. This means that there are still millions of cells of yeast and bacteria transferred over to the next beer… the same yeast and bacteria that have already proven themselves to create a great tasting beer!
Hypnotized, the first beer to be released 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 that we 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 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.
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.
Last week was Beer Week, and boy, was it an epic one! We had a lot of fun events and made a lot of new friends. Here is a little recap of some of our highlights from Beer Week 2014:
We had our very first bottle release on the first Saturday of beer week. We’ve spent almost 2 years working full time to get to this point, so needless to say, we’re ecstatic that we we’re finally able to get our bottles in your hands! If you didn't happen to snag a bottle before we sold out on Saturday... we have quite a few more bottle releases lined up on the near horizon. (What's up with the recliner below? The first fans showed up around 9:30AM for the 2PM bottle release, so we thought they needed a comfortable place to wait. We'll be keeping the recilner reserved for the first person in line for future releases.)
On Thursday night of Beer Week, we partnered with New Belgium Brewing to serve 6 sour beers and discuss blending in the basement of La Trappe. This event was particularly fun because everyone got to chat sours with Lauren Salazar (she manages the wood program at NBB, is a sour beer rock star, and an all-around great person). We hope everyone who came learned a little bit about sour beer and blending, while enjoying some sours from NBB and TRB!
What do you get when you have six sour beers and an remarkable chef? You get a delectable beer dinner. We worked with Chef Mike O’Brien from Mikkeller Bar to pair 5 of our sour beers with 5 food courses. If you are interested in getting adventurous in your own kitchen, you can eat with your eyes below. Warning: you will be hungry in 2 minutes....
Course 1 of 5 - SKUs Me (golden sour) paired w/Kumato oysters on the half shell w/Asian pear mignonette
Course 2 of 5 - (red sour w/raspberry) paired w/roasted baby beats, fennel, bulls blood
Course 3 of 5 - Egregious (dry-hopped golden sour) paired w/poached rock cod, celery root purée, endive
Course 4 of 5 - Shadows of Their Eyes (dark sour) paired w/honey glazed duck n barley risotto
Course 4.5 of 5 - Gose Without Saying (pale sour) granite, pineapple compote, chantilly
Course 5 of 5 - Ensorcelled (dark sour w/raspberry) paired w/salted caramel & dark chocolate tart
For those who haven’t been to Jupiter’s Sour Sunday, it is definitely worth penciling in the schedule for next year. Over 100 sour, wild, and barrel aged beers to choose from... yes please. While the weather was a little wet this year, we don’t think it stopped anyone from having a sour time. We were also very excited to be included at the featured pour table w/The Bruery, Russian River, Crooked Stave, and Almanac. Big shout out to Kelsey and the Drake’s/Jupiter/Triple Rock crew for throwing a great event!
We hope you had as much fun during beer week as we did.
Beer Week (Feb 7-16) is right around the corner, and we have some awesome events in the tasting room and around the Bay! Here is a snapshot of the good times ahead:
TASTING ROOM (Tasting Room is open Fridays 4-10PM and Saturdays 2-10PM)
All Sour, All The Time - We will dedicate all 10 of our beer taps to our sours, and we'll be rotating through every beer we've put on draft so far. Over the course of the two weekends, we'll bring back Map of the Sun, Fields Forever, Tremendous Slouch, Egregious, and Hope in the Darkness (all of which are no longer on tap, and will probably only last though Beer Week). We only have 1-2 kegs of each beer, so we'll pour them while supplies last! Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to see when these beers are tapped.
EVENTS AROUND THE BAY
Friday, February 7th, 6-10PM
SF Beer Week Opening Gala - Come say "hi" to Jay and Brad as they pour you a sour or two at the gala!
Saturday, February 8th, ~6PM - ??
Barrel Aged Beer Fest @ The Trappist - Come enjoy some barrel aged beers from The Rare Barrel, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, 50/50 Brewing Co., and more. Jay will be there, and we hear Chad from Crooked Stave will too. If you haven't met Chad, he's pretty rad.
Sunday, February 9th, 11:30AM-??
Sour Sunday @ Jupiter - Jupiter will be pouring an egregious amount of sour and barrel aged beers on the back patio. Our crew will most definitely be there pouring sours and trying to catch 'em all.
Wednesday, February 12th, 5:30PM and 8PM
Beer Dinner @ Mikkeller Bar - We've worked with Chef Mike O'Brien at Mikkeller Bar to create a ridiculous 5 course meal... each course paired with one of our sours. This is arguably going to be one of the highlights of our week. Seatings are at 5:30PM and 8PM, and Jay and Alex will be at both seatings. Yes, this event is a little pricy, but hey, have you ever had an all-sour-5-course-beer-dinner-extravaganza? Treat yourself... feed the hedonist inside you.... a few tickets are still available here.
Thursday, February 13th, 6-10PM
Wood Is Good @ La Trappe - We're pairing up with Lauren Salazar from New Belgium Brewing to pour three of each other's favorite wood aged sour beers. The Rare Barrel crew and Lauren will be there hanging out from 6-10PM. If you haven't met Lauren, she is a sour beer rockstar and someone for whom we have the utmost respect and admiration. This event will be $25 for a flight of six 4oz pours (flight of all 6 sours being served). Tickets will also include light snacks. 2 kegs will be tapped at 6PM, 7PM, and 8PM!
Friday, February 14th, 7-11PM
Ales for Autism Black and White Beer Ball - 27 craft breweries, live music, local food, and all the proceeds from the event support educating children with autism, providing care for people with autism, and furthering autism research. As a new craft brewery without much beer, we don't have enough beer to send everywhere we'd like, but we're particularly excited to donate beer to this event and support the cause!
Saturday, February 15th
Meet The Brewers Beer Fest @ Hermitage Brewing Company - 12-5PM - 20 breweries, 5 food trucks, and unlimited beer. Jay will be pouring at our booth, and we believe that brewers from all the other breweries will be in attendance too.
Funktastic Four @ Livermore Saloon, 1PM - ?? - Logsdon Farmhouse Ales + Prairie Artisanal Ales + 10 Barrel + The Rare Barrel = Funktastic Four. Word has it that David Logsdon will also be there.
Sunday, February 16th
Sleep in. Rehydrate.
Hope you have a stellar Beer Week!
Our tasting room is now open on Fridays from 4-10PM and Saturdays from 2-10PM! Our 12 taps will be flowing with our sours, two guest beers, and two guest wines. If you get hungry, you can also nosh on organic panini with a side salad. We're also kid friendly. Here is a preview of what we have to offer on December 27th, our opening day:
Location: 940 Parker St, Berkeley, CA 94710
Hours: Friday 4-10PM, Saturday 2-10PM
Hope to see you around!
We are excited to announce that we are opening up a limited number of memberships for the Founder’s Club! Below are some of the highlights for the Founder’s Club:
A Founder's Club Membership will cost $300 (+tax). Memberships will go on sale on Friday, October 11th at 9am PST. Membership benefits start on January 1st, and conclude on December 31st, 2014. Here are more details about the Founder’s Club
Membership in this club includes 10 bottles of sour beer that the blenders at The Rare Barrel will create specifically for the Founders Club. 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 Founder’s Club, and as always, we will work to create the best blends that we possibly can. These beers may be released throughout 2014. Our intent is to release these beers only to the Founder’s Club, however, it is possible that there will be a slight overage in production. When this happens, The Rare Barrel plans to offer Founder’s Club members the opportunity to purchase additional bottles. We also plan to cellar or serve these excess small-batch blends and may release them at special events. If there are excess bottles after the Founder’s Club members have the opportunity to purchase them, and we decide not to cellar or serve the remaining bottles, we may sell them to the public.
In 2014, we anticipate having limited quantities of each release available to the public. However, as a Founder’s Club member, you will have the first right to purchase a limited number of bottles of most bottled releases through the website (www.therarebarrel.com) before anyone else. We may sell the draft version of a particular release before we sell the bottled version. Additionally, we might have some brands that are only offered for sale in the tasting room.
Founder’s Club members will receive a 10% discount on purchases made through the tasting room and website. This includes bottles, draft beer, growler fills, apparel, and food.
We will also be selling and filling a limited number of 32oz. glass growlers in our tasting room, however, members are are guaranteed a 32 oz. ceramic growler that is unique to the Founder’s Club. Due to limited production volumes, we can only offer small number of beers available for growler fills. For our regular glass growlers, we will strive to make one beer available for growler fills. Members will have access to this beer with their Founder's Club growler plus exclusive access to one additional beer of our choosing. Founder’s Club growlers can be filled by the Founder’s Club member or their trustee. Empty growlers can be picked-up in the tasting room or shipped at an additional charge.
Each member will receive two pieces of glassware that are specific to the Founder’s Club. Glassware can be shipped (at additional charge) or picked-up in the tasting room.
Membership also includes a personalized, non-transferrable, membership card. Show your membership card in the tasting room to receive your 10% discount.
Founder’s Club members will have the first right to purchase a membership with our 2015 sour beer club. The number of memberships available for 2015 is currently undetermined, but will be based on production volumes and our ability to provide club members with limited release blends. Either way, each Founder’s Club member will have the opportunity to purchase a 2015 membership. Additionally, the 2014 club will be the only one called the “Founder’s Club.” Subsequent memberships will have a different name.
Founder’s Club members will have three options for fulfilling their orders placed online. Members cann either pick-up beer at brewery, shipping beer to their house/business within California, or a designate a trustee to pick-up their beer for them.
Founder’s Club membership is valid through December 31st, 2014. Beer purchased through the membership can be stored at The Rare Barrel up to March 31st, 2015.
Are you in?