Posts in Barrel Program
Sensory Testing
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Sensory testing is pretty much just a fancy term for sitting down with your buddies and drinking the sweet sweet nectar from each of our barrels ageing wild beers. It’s tough work, but we do it #forscience of course. Time is a big ingredient in the creation of these funky sour beers, and tasting each barrel as it progresses is a huge part of the long journey from grain to glass.

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When our beer first gets introduced into barrels it could taste like a delicious Belgian Saison, or a Norwegian farmhouse Kveik beer, or a low bitterness Belgian golden or red sour base. It’s at this point that we introduce our house wild cultures… and wait. There’s a reason we say #slowbeertakestime because it could be months before signs of acidity and funk start to show.

Around the 2 month mark we’ll first note a light acidity and a gentle funky Brett character. The wild yeast breaks down the compounds from the primary fermentation to create new exciting flavours and aromas. Acidity is produced slowly from the lactic acid bacteria in our cultures which turn sugars in the beer into tartness. If given the right environment, the beer can become grippingly sour over time. All these specs are measured and recorded for each barrel: aroma and taste, pH, and residual sugar.

As the beers approach the 4 month mark things start getting super funky. Every barrel starts to taste different, like each culture and barrel has its own personality. Some take on aroma of stone fruit and citrus, apricot and lime. While others develop classic rustic Brett funk on a backdrop of sharp lactic sourness.

At around the 6 month mark, the barrels’ personalities really start to shine. If the beer’s technical specs are stable, and flavour development is deemed complete, it’s time to select suitable barrels for blending, and sometimes re-fermentation on complimentary fruit, herbs or spices.

Although we try our best to encourage the production of great sour beer, wild yeast kind of have a mind of their own. Luckily with a dedicated sensory program (aka lots of “quality control”, wink wink nudge nudge) we can catch barrels or cultures that aren’t producing good beer. If a barrel or culture is deemed bad, the barrel ends up as furniture, and the beer contained unfortunately may never make it inside our faces. We’ve been lucky so far! Knock on wood!?

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Why Barrels?
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What’s with all those barrels in our taproom? Well to be honest, they’re all just for show. Just kidding! Our barrels don’t only look cool, they also make some mean beer. They’re traditional ageing vessels and are especially good for developing sour beer.

Belgian brewers have been making sour beer in oak barrels for a really long time. We draw inspiration from these chocolate and waffle loving European sour beer pioneers but put a modern spin on it all. We’re not after intense oak flavour, rather the barrels allow our wild yeast cultures a place to thrive and develop sourness and complex flavours. Our cultures end up sticking around in the oak and if the barrel is good it will continue to produce great sour beer time after time. Unfortunately, the same is true if a barrel produces bad beer; it will continue to produce bad beer and so instead we turn it into furniture. Once the wild yeast takes hold in a barrel, removing it is nearly impossible.

We choose previously used wine barrels over spirit barrels because of the more nuanced flavours the wine barrels provide. Sourcing these is tricky since they need to be fresh, ideally recently emptied of wine, or stored properly to prevent damage to the oak. Dried out old barrels won’t hold liquid and would impart bad flavours into our beer.

The oak we use is as important as any other ingredient that goes into the beer. Our barrels evolve over time and will be re-used so long as they keep producing great sour beer.

Hibiscus Brett Saison, Barrel Aged American Wild⁣⁣ (Barrel Release #002)
Barrel Release 002 Hibiscus Brett Saison

Barrel Release 002 Hibiscus Brett Saison

Barrel program release: 002⁣⁣
Total available bottles: 550ish⁣⁣
Time in oak: Seven months⁣⁣
Available on tap: Heck yes!⁣⁣
The barrels we use in our program have been previously storing red wine, purchased directly from BC wineries. Choosing used wine barrels allows us to limit oak flavour in our beers, while providing a natural ageing vessel which allows wild yeast and mixed cultures to thrive. Some red wine character from the barrel sometimes gets into the beer, which adds some flair.⁣⁣
This beer isn't going to be sour. The Brett adds a rustic funk and the hibiscus flowers added just before packaging create a berry like fruitiness, a red hue, and provide balancing tart note along with a drying tannin.⁣⁣

"Really funky, really fruity nose. Has a soft fluffy feel, and slightly tart. Refreshing and fun." -Brandon⁣⁣

The beautiful art in this release was once again created by Kate Schutz @everydayatelier
Malt: Pilsner, Oats, Wheat, Munich⁣⁣
Hops: Fuggles⁣⁣
Primary Yeast: WLP566⁣⁣
Secondary cultures: Escarpment Brett D, Brett B, Brussels Brett⁣⁣
On tap and in bottles to go. Limit 1 bottle per person.