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.
Beer Week is right around the corner, so it's about time we share the fun things we have in the works with you! Below is a list of our main events at the brewery, but you'll also find us at the Opening Gala and Jupiter's Sour Sunday. Here we go...
The Dry-hopped Sour Party w/Cellarmaker
Saturday, February 7th, 2-10PM @ The Rare Barrel
We've collaborated with our buds at Cellarmaker to make three dry-hopped sours! Tangerang will be making a comeback and we'll be releasing two new dry-hopped sours. Tim and Connor, along with six of their beers, will also be making an appearance on Saturday. Tangerang will also be the Ambassadors Fill on Saturday and Sunday of that weekend, and we will only be filling Ambassador and Founder growlers.
Real Smoked BBQ is bringing a massive smoker to our parking and will start smoking ribs, pulled pork, and tri-tip for this event before the sun comes up. Come hungry and thirsty! BBQ will be available for purchase from 2-10PM.
The Bruery, Societe, and Rare Barrel Reunion
Sunday, February 8th, 5-8PM (extended hours) @ The Rare Barrel
Societe, The Bruery, and The Rare Barrel are getting back together and will be serving 5 beers from each brewery, under the same roof, in The Rare Barrel's Tasting Room. Patrick from The Bruery, Doug and Travis from Societe, and Jay from The Rare Barrel will all be attending this event to hang out and chat with you about the past, present, and future of their breweries. Once upon a time, Doug, Travis, and Jay worked at The Bruery with Patrick, so it will be fun for these old friends to get back together and share each other's beers under the same roof!
Real Smoked BBQ is bringing a massive smoker to our parking and will start smoking ribs, pulled pork, and tri-tip for this event before the sun comes up. Come hungry and thirsty! BBQ will be available for purchase from 12-8PM.
Beer Dinner: An Exploration in Fat
Tuesday, February 10th, 5:30PM and 8:30PM seatings @ Mikkeller Bar SF
Chef Mike O'Brien will prepare a six course dinner paired with the sours from The Rare Barrel. Jay and Alex of The Rare Barrel will walk us through each course. Two seating's are limited to 14 people each and held in the Tivoli Sour Room located in the cellar of Mikkeller Bar SF. Being our 3rd beer dinner that we've done with Chef Mike O'Brien, we're confident that your pallet will be satiated. Cost is $180. Includes Tax & Gratuity. Menu and tickets here.
Sipping Session with Cellarmaker and The Rare Barrel
Wednesday, February 11th, 1PM @ City Beer Store
Cellarmaker and The Rare Barrel will be bringing over their 3 dry-hopped sour collaborations to enjoy at City Beer Store. Additionally, each brewery will bring a beer that they made with Sightglass Coffee beans, which were roasted just around the corner from City Beer Store. The dudes from Cellarmaker and The Rare Barrel will be hanging out and enjoying some beers and good company.
Let's Talk Sours with Cascade Brewing
Thursday, February 12th, 5-7PM (ticketed), 7-10PM open to the public
5-7PM (ticketed) – Kevin Martin (Lead Blender and Cellar Master) from Cascade Brewing, along with Jay Goodwin (Director of Blending and Brewing) from The Rare Barrel, will lead a conversation about sour beer blending and production as you taste through a variety of sours from Cascade and The Rare Barrel. Ticket includes minimum of 8 sour beers and 1 non-sour beer. Ambassadors will have the first opportunity to purchase (1) ticket through the Allocation section of the website on Thursday, January 29th at 10AM. If tickets are still available on Friday, January 30th at 10AM, they will go on sale to the public then. Tickets are non-transferrable, non-refundable, and there is a limit of (1) per person. $45/ticket, 36 tickets available.
7-10PM – Open to the public, six Cascade sours on tap along with some of ours!
Bottle Release: Shadows of Their Eyes
Saturday, February 14th, 2PM @ The Rare Barrel
Shadows of Their Eyes is our dark sour aged in oak barrels. Coming in at 6% ABV, aromas of chocolate complement the dark fruit notes in this assertively sour beer. Shadows of Their Eyes was awarded Bronze Medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup in Category 59: Belgian-Style Flanders Oud Bruin or Oud Red Ale!
Have an awesome Beer Week,
The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is spectacular event that combines both beer tasting and a competition. On the competition side of things, GABF happens to be the largest commercial beer competition in the world. We we're excited just to have the opportunity to pour our beer at the festival, but thrilled when we found out that we won an award!
Photo © 2014 Jason E. Kaplan
This year, Cosmic Dust was awarded a Gold Medal for American-Style Sour Ale (category 22) at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. As a brewery that focuses entirely on producing American sour beer, we couldn't be more proud to take home this award.
Cosmic Dust, the sour that was awarded a gold medal, is a golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with hibiscus. The base beer was fermented with Brettanomyces claussenii and Pediococcus damnosus. With a moderate acidity, this sour beer showcases subtle earthy and berry characteristics with a light Brett funk.
Our bottles of this beer have finished bottle conditioning, and we're excited to release Cosmic Dust as our 4th Founder's Club Exclusive Bottle Release! If you're a Founder, we've already emailed you the details for the release. If you aren't Founder, we'll have Cosmic Dust on draft in the Tasting Room for another week or so!
Starting this Sunday, our Tasting Room will be open on Sundays from 12-6PM! We’ve decided to go big for our first Sunday, so here is a list of the festivities we have in store for you...
NEW DRAFT SOUR RELEASE | Map of the Sun – golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with apricots. Think juicy apricot and apricot jam with a moderate acidity. Available on draft and as Founder’s Fill!
BARREL SAMPLE RELEASE | Puppy Love - a barrel sample of our unreleased golden sour beer aged in an oak barrel with boysenberries, which will be served directly from a 5 gallon oak barrel, uncarbonated and at room temperature. 100% of the proceeds from Puppy Love will be donated to our neighbors at the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society for their annual block party and fundraiser, Bark (& Meow) Around The Block. Available this Sunday only.
CELLARD BOTTLES FOR IN-HOUSE CONSUMPTION | We’re pulling a few cases of our bottled beers available for consumption in the Tasting Room. Available at noon while supplies last...
Ensorcelled (Founders Club only) – dark sour aged in oak with raspberries, 2014 World Beer Cup Gold Medal Winner in the American Sour Ale category
Shadows Of Their Eyes – dark sour aged in oak barrels, 2014 World Beer Cup Bronze Medal winner in the Belgian-Style Flanders Oud Bruin or Oud Red Ale category
Proportional Response – amber sour aged in oak barrels, a blend of an assertively sour red with a faintly tart pale
BOTTLES TO TAKE HOME | Sourtooth Tiger, golden sour aged in oak with ginger. Limit 3 per person.
SELF-GUIDED TOUR | We’re expanding the Tasting Room area on Sunday to include access into the part of the production area.
GUEST TAPS | Our buddies at Societe Brewing in San Diego decided to make a special delivery to the Bay Area for our first Sunday being open (well, not really just for us… but their timing was perfect!). We’ll have
Societe Brewing Co. - The Pugilist (2014 World Beer Cup Silver Medal in the Irish-Dry Stout Category)
Societe Brewing Co. - The Pupil, an outstanding IPA
Cellarmaker Brewing Co. - Peach Killiah IPA (IPA w/150 lbs of peaches)
Looking forward to seeing you this Sunday!
We like to experiment here at The Rare Barrel, and sometimes those results are not only worth tasting, but also worth writing about. 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!
Category 18: American-Style Sour Ale
Beer Name: Ensorcelled
Beer Description: Dark sour beer aged in oak barrels w/raspberry
Category 59: Belgian-Style Flanders Oud Bruin or Oud Red Ale
Beer Name: Shadows of Their Eyes
Beer Description: Dark sour beer aged in oak barrels
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:
- Increase the temperature on our cooler to 44°F
- Increase the applied pressure on our draft system to keep CO2 in solution (CO2 wants to come out of solution at higher temperatures)
- Install flow-regulated faucets to provide more restriction to the draft system and counter act the higher pressure on the draft system.
- Push beer though the lines with a blend of CO2 and nitrogen, instead of straight CO2
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.