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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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…