Our first four sour beers are ready! Here is a little more info about these beers:
"SKUs me, is there any room on this shelf for another new brewery? There is? Great!!" SKUs Me, which is our very first blend, was fermented with Brettanomyces yeast and Lactobacillus bacteria and aged in oak barrels. This moderately tart golden sour beer has notes of lemon zest and hay.
Ensorcelled is a blend of our oak-aged red sour beer and oak-aged black Brettanomyces beer. After blending our red and black sours together, we added raspberries and let the beer age in barrels for a few more months.
Shadows of Their Eyes is a dark sour beer fermented with Brettanomyces yeast and Lactobacillus bacteria and aged in oak barrels. Aromas of chocolate complement the dark fruit notes in this assertively sour beer.
Proportional Response, a balanced amber sour beer, is a blend of our mouth-puckering red sour beer and our faintly tart pale sour beer. The result of this blend is well-balanced amber sour beer with moderate tartness and hints of cherries and grapefruit.
Our first draft beers are ready to be served! Starting on October 17th, we’ll have a few events around the Bay Area to give you a sneak peak of our sour beers.
Here are the details on the first four events scheduled:
Thursday, October 17th, 5-9pm, City Beer Store, 1168 Folsom St #101, San Francisco
Friday, October 18th, 5-9pm, Beer Revolution, 464 3rd St, Oakland
Sunday, October 20th, 12-5pm, Sour Sunday @ Jupiter, 2181 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley
Saturday, October 26th, 4-7pm, Livermore Saloon (by The Beer Barron), 2223 1st Street, Livermore
Each of the craft beer spots listed above will be serving two of our oak-aged sours on draft, accompanied by The Rare Barrel crew. Come by, say hi, and get a sneak preview of some of the beers we will be serving in our tasting room, which will hopefully be open by the end of November. We will be having a few more events over the next couple of months if you can’t make any of the three listed above.
Our dream of serving our first sour beers has been years in the making, so we couldn’t be more excited to share our first sour beers with you!
We do things a little differently at The Rare Barrel, and we don’t have a brewhouse. Instead, we rely on renting time on our friends’ brewing systems around the Bay Area. On brew days, we hop in our box truck and travel to one of the breweries with our recipe, specialty malts, and two 15BBL transport tanks ready to brew!
Overall, we’ve been very happy with the process so far. Scheduling brews, transporting sterile wort, and the quality wort have all been up to our standards. We haven’t tested positive for any infections on our wort stability testing, and we are very happy with the way our barrels are progressing. Each batch has come home to us safe and sound. All that positive momentum had to come to an end sometime though…and that momentum came to a halt with Batch #13.
Jay had just returned from a successful brew, so Alex and Brad helped him unload the truck, as usual. Alex forklifted one of the tanks from the truck, and proceeded to set it down in the parking lot. However, when the tank was 6” above the ground, this happened…
Did the forklift puncture the tank? Did a pipe break? Why are we flooding the parking lot right now? Will this ever stop???
We tried everything we could to stop the flow, but couldn’t figure out why the valve that would stop this madness wasn’t closing. After a little maneuvering, we got the handle loose and closed the valve. After the fact, we realized that the threaded piping on the tank had rotated 90 degrees in transportation, so that our piping was the first thing to touch the ground, not the legs of the tank. With 5,000 lbs. of wort resting on the pipe, it didn’t stand a chance. We lost about 150 gallons of beer in the parking lot. Our neighbors joked about grabbing their beer steins and having a party in the lot.
Mistakes happen…especially with new companies. We’ve already made our fair share, and this won’t be the last, but this is the first one that really cost us some beer. While we originally intended to re-use the yeast from this batch to ferment future batches and top off some barrels, we’ve decided to release this beer on its own. This beer has a funk’d up backstory, so we’ve decided to stay funky with this beer by adding multiple strains of Brettanomyces and bacteria to it.
We haven’t updated our blog recently, and we are here to do something about that. We’ve been quite busy around The Rare Barrel lately, and would like to share some recent events with you.
We started brewing in February and it’s kept us very happy. While we started off brewing once every other week, we recently upped it to brewing two times every three weeks. That’s still a relatively small amount compared to most breweries, but with all of the preparation and work involved with sour beer, we stay busy.
More equipment allowed us to increase our production and prepare for packaging. This new equipment includes a second 30BBL fermenter, a 15BBL blending tank, and a 70BBL blending tank. The second fermenter has allowed us to double our production, but we aren’t using it to its full capacity yet. We’re expecting to start packaging sometime in the second half of this year. The 15 BBL blending tank will be used to package draft and small bottle releases, while the 70BBL blending tank will be used for our larger bottle releases. Additionally, our bottling line and labeler are currently being manufactured.
We’re also building a tasting room. Woo! Back in March, we got zoning approval for the tasting room (thank you to all our friends and neighbors who came to speak in favor of it!). The tasting room should be open around late 2013.
How do you like the new website? Click around if you’d like. With this new website, we’re now able to sell our apparel (hoodies, hats, and shirts) and ship to all 50 states. Eventually, we will even sell and ship beer to residents in California using our new website, too.
We’ll do our best not to go this long without posting again. For the most up-to-date news, be sure to follow us on Facebook. For updates in 140 characters or less, you can follow us on Twitter. And for #artsy photos, follow us on Instagram @therarebarrel.
About one year after announcing the founding of The Rare Barrel, we have finally brewed our first full batch of beer! It is happily fermenting away in our 30 barrel fermentation tank as we speak. We’re very excited and proud to share what we have in store for this inaugural brew.
Batch #1 will be a 3-year old golden sour beer blended like a Belgian Gueuze but fermented using our choice of cultured yeast and bacteria. Three years from now, we will blend Batch #1 with a 1-year old and a 2-year old golden sour to create our Batch #1 blend. It’s worth noting that we are not trying to make a true Gueuze (by definition, Gueuze can only be made in Belgium and must be spontaneously fermented), but instead we are trying to create a fascinating flavor profile that comes from their blending techniques.
Image: Spent grain from Batch #1
Our company is heavily inspired by the talented Gueuze blenders of Belgium. In addition to blending beer, many of these Gueuze blenders procure wort (or beer) in a similar manner to us. Some blenders will pick up spontaneously inoculated wort from Lambic brewers and bring it back to their barrel warehouse to fill their barrels. Similarly, we bring back sterile wort (but not beer) to our barrel warehouse, and we inoculate the wort with cultured yeast and bacteria in our fermentation tank. For Batch #1, it seemed fitting to start fermentation with a strain of Brettanomyces from Drei Fontenien, one of these amazing Belgian Gueuze blenders headed by Armand Debelder.
Image: Jay with Armand Debelder of Drei Fonteinen
Batch #1 will be blended with batches brewed one year and two years from today, to create a blended golden sour beer. The first part of this blend (already brewed to be aged for 3 years) will start by aging with Brett for several months. Once the desired level of attenuation and flavor development has been achieved, we’ll be adding pediococcus bacteria cultures to the beer with a little bit of fresh wort. This will add complexity to the flavor of this beer as well as give the Brett an addition of new fermentable sugar and some bacteria to keep them company.
The second and third parts of the blend are still up for consideration. Will we continue with the same fermentation track as Batch #1? It’s hard to say. We will have to taste it in one year to see how the flavor has developed which will largely determine the plan for the second and third parts of the blend.
Image: Alex and Jay pitching Brett from barrels
2016. Until then, sit back, relax and enjoy some sour beer!
As the time to our first brew day rapidly attenuates, we’d like to share with you the meaning behind the name of our sour beer company.
Our name may remind you that sour beer is only a small part of the American beer landscape. However, for us, the name is about a mission. The mission, which is built on a foundation of experimentation, exploration, and collaboration, is to discover a truly exceptional blend of yeast and bacteria that make a “dream barrel” of sour beer. This is why we’re starting an all-sour beer company. We are in search of The Rare Barrel. In our quest to create a range of exceptional sour beers, you will search for our finest barrel of sour beer: The Rare Barrel.
On an annual basis, we will organize an exhaustive search (tasting) of our barrel house to find our finest barrel of sour beer. A team of craft beer enthusiasts, sour-heads, homebrewers, brewers, BJCP judges, cicerones, and foodies will taste through our barrel house and select our finest three barrels of sour beer. Once the search party has determined the top three barrels of sour beer, the founders of The Rare Barrel will taste them, and name the finest of the final three barrels as “The Rare Barrel.” Shortly after the search for The Rare Barrel, we will serve The Rare Barrel at a party for all attendees to enjoy. Additionally, we will re-pitch The Rare Barrel’s culture of yeast and bacteria into a new batch of wort, with the intention of recreating The Rare Barrel for more to enjoy.
We will be experimenting with various techniques and ingredients to produce a wide and exciting range of sour beers. This will give us great and diverse options in the selection of The Rare Barrel. With every beer we make, we will strive for its quality to reach the caliber of being The Rare Barrel.
We look forward to your help in the search for The Rare Barrel.
As we sit here and drink our 3,000,000th glass of sour beer (rough estimate), our conversation inevitably leads us to talk about the flavor profile, acidity, yeast and bacterial characteristics, and ingredients… you know… the kind of stuff everyone ponders about when they’re enjoying a sour beer, right?
Well, probably not. While we geek out over the sour beers we drink, we also realize that a lot of our friends still aren’t familiar with what sour beer actually is… yet. Let me take a moment and give you a quick rundown on sour beer:
…is a term used to encompass many different beer styles, some of which include lambic, gueuze, Flemish red, and Berliner Weisse. The first three styles mentioned are traditional to Belgium, while the last is traditional to Germany.
…has an extremely wide range of complex flavors. Some of the more common descriptors are sour, acidic, tart, dry, yoghurt-y, and fruity.
…is the oldest style of beer in the world. This wasn’t really by choice though. For thousands of years, beers were “accidentally” sour because humans didn’t even know that yeast and bacteria existed! If beer wasn’t consumed quickly enough, it would become sour.
…becomes “sour” from Lactobacillus and/or Pediococcus, which are both bacteria. “You’re putting WHAT in my beer???” someone might ask. Yup, bacteria! You may have already been introduced to these bacteria, if you enjoy yogurt, kefir, milk, cheese, miso, sauerkraut, or sourdough bread. Lactobacillus (Lacto) or Pediococcus (Pedio) are responsible for the flavors produced in these foods.
…usually ages in wood barrels. The wood creates a perfect environment for the souring microorganisms to grow and ferment over a long period of time.
…takes a long time to make. In general, sour beers will age in barrels for anywhere from 6-36 months before they are ready to be consumed. At least that’s how long our sour beers will age.
…is commonly fermented with fruits. Cherries and raspberries are among the most traditional fruits fermented with sour beer, but apricots, peaches, figs, blackberries, and strawberries also make for great ingredients in sour beers. Fruit was traditionally added to beer as a way to preserve the fruit, but now fruits are added because they just taste amazing in the sour beers!
…is commonly fermented with Brettanomyces (Brett), which is a kind of yeast that is most commonly known for its funky flavors that are found in saisons and farmhouse ales. Brett will add a small amount of acidity to a beer, but won’t add enough sourness to make a beer sour by itself.
…is a great beer for you to try if you enjoy wine. Some of characteristics they share are acidity, dryness, and fruit notes.
…can be spontaneously fermented, which means that the wort is exposed to the open air, which allows the natural yeast and bacteria in the air to fall into the wort, and ferment it into beer. By definition, lambics and gueuzes need to be spontaneously fermented.
…is usually blended. For example, a brewery might have 10 oak barrels with sour beer. Once the sour beers are ready to be consumed, the brewery will blend some (or all) of those barrels back together to create the final product. Each of those 10 barrels will be slightly different, so it is up to the blender to decide what barrels and proportions are blended to make the final product.
We originally were going to include an additional 39 descriptions of what sour beer is, but instead we decided to drink another sour beer and thought you would probably have more fun doing the same.
“Why all sour?” is a question we are commonly asked, and a question we love to answer. It basically boils down to our love of sour beer, not being able to get enough of it, and using the challenges of sour beer production to our advantage.
Firstly, sour beer is our favorite style of beer. Like many who are passionate about craft beer, we were first enamored by the citrusy, piney, and resiny flavors of hops, and the bready, toasty, and sweet flavors from malt. After countless dances with malt and hops, we were introduced to our first sour beer. Sour beer was different, intriguing, and new. While it may not have been love at first sight, there was something captivating about this style. Whether it was the pleasant tartness of a Berliner Weisse, the deep complexity of a Gueuze, or the refreshing raspberry notes of a Frambiose, we found unique flavors in sour beer that kept us coming back for more. Before we knew it, sour beer became our favorite style of beer. However, there was a problem: where could we find more sour beers?
As we tasted our way through the amazing sours that some of the German, Belgian, and American craft breweries made, we quickly realized that there weren’t as many options for sour beer as there were for other styles of beer. If we were in the mood for an IPA, we wouldn’t have just one choice, but a plethora of choices at a craft beer store or bar. But when it came to variety in sour beer, our options weren’t has plentiful. Many stores didn’t sell sour beer, and the ones that did would have only a couple of options . When it came to bars, we were ecstatic to find even one sour beer on draft. So why aren’t there more options when it comes to sour beer? From the production challenges to consumer tastes, breweries are usually inclined to experiment with sour beer on a small scale, if at all. With only a handful devoting a large chunk of their time to these styles, finding sour beer has become a difficult task for those who love it. We hope we can contribute to making this process of finding sour beer a little easier.
While most look at the challenges of sour production and decide against pursuing it, we’ll be embracing these challenges. Sour beer production has been studied less than other areas of brewing. By focusing completely on sour beer, we can concentrate on learning as much as possible about the reasons certain flavors are produced in sours, instead of worrying about keeping up with the constant needs of production of styles with shorter fermentation times. Through focus, we hope to gain a better understanding of the beer, and in return, reflect that understanding in the flavors of our beers. Another big concern that many breweries have when it comes to making sour beer is cross contamination. This occurs when the microorganisms used to make sour beer find their way into beers that brewers don’t want to be sour. We plan to reduce this concern by producing only sour beer. However, we will still take great care to ensure that our beers are made using the same techniques that other breweries use to prevent unwanted yeast and bacteria from affecting beers they aren’t intended to be in. With our entire focus on sours, we can also craft a cellar around the production of sour beer. In doing so, we will partner with local breweries by renting time on their brewhouse to brew our wort, then bring it back to our barrel house for fermentation, barrel aging, blending and packaging. This allows us to forgo building a brewhouse (…for now), which would only be used sparingly for these beers which take so long to age.
It’s been said that constraint breeds creativity. By adopting a singular focus on crafting sour beer, we plan on thoroughly exploring flavors through conventional sour beer production techniques, as well as a few more experimental techniques. We are ecstatic so share this journey with you. Follow our progress on this blog, as well as our Facebook and Twitter pages to learn more!
Brimming with excitement, we are pleased to announce the location of The Rare Barrel. Over the past couple of months, we have been quite busy examining warehouses and cities throughout the Bay Area. While it has been lengthy process, we have discovered the perfect location for The Rare Barrel: Berkeley, California.
While there are many reasons we decided to start The Rare Barrel in Berkeley, the one that trumped them all is the City’s climate. Berkeley remains relatively cool in the winter and summer months, which is great for aging sour beer. While some parts of the Bay Area may reach 90-100 F for extended periods of time in the summer, Berkeley maintains a relatively cool climate because of “The Slot.” The Slot is a term used to describe the path that cool ocean winds travel. These cool winds, which are strong in the summer, travel from the Golden Gate Bridge, directly through Berkeley, and over to the Central Valley. We have been electronically monitoring the internal temperature of our barrel warehouse all summer, and are very pleased with the data.
In addition to finding our new barrel house, we’ve also been busy obtaining our Building Permit. We look forward to starting construction very soon.
Thank you for waiting patiently while we are in this initial phase of The Rare Barrel. We cannot wait to share our sour beer with you!
A note from Jay:
Starting my brewing career at The Bruery was a dream come true. Even at six months old, The Bruery already had a reputation for using strange ingredients in strange styles. With Patrick Rue’s vision from his days of experimental homebrewing during his stint in law school and Tyler King’s like-minded passion for craft beer with professional expertise, The Bruery’s first employees had formed a powerful team. To join them was one of the luckiest moments of my life.
Now years later, The Bruery still has a reputation for pushing the envelop. However, now they have the accolades to back up these crazy ideas! Tyler has built a talented and passionate brewing team and Patrick has hand-picked brilliant minds to run the business. I couldn’t be more fortunate to have worked with such an amazing group of people. The Bruery took me in, treated me like family, and I’ll always be incredibly proud to say I worked there.
Today I give a heartfelt THANK YOU, from me to everyone at The Bruery. I would not be where I am today without you.