For our last bottle release of 2018 we are releasing 5 beers: Smooth Pollinator (3 variants), No Puns Gose, and El Establo Saison. We are very proud of these beers and we hope you enjoy them as much as Dan and I do!
Honey is one of my favorite ingredients to use in beer, and I used it in my first homebrew that I made in college 13 years ago. In my experience honey can be a tricky ingredient to use in wild beers, because fermentation with Brettanomyces sometimes does weird things to the flavor of the honey. The reason honey does weird things with Brett, is that adding a simple sugar late in the fermentation process causes Brettanomyces to change its metabolism, and as such, different flavor byproducts are created. This happens with fruit refermentations and when adding things like agave nectar or Belgian candi syrup, but in my experience, honey has been more troublesome than other ingredients comprised of simple sugars. I have been able to avoid fermentation issues when adding simple sugar on the hot side of the brewing process in the boil kettle, but delicate ingredients like honey and fruit are damaged by heat. I could add such ingredients cold at the beginning of fermentation, but much of the aroma and flavor are diminished by the CO2 produced during fermentation.
The best way to preserve the varietal character of honey in a wild beer is to add it after primary fermentation, when most of the alcohol and CO2 have been produced. When honey is added in this way, the beer will typically taste great and have a prominent honey character when it is ready to package, and then frustratingly, the honey character will go away or morph into something weird after naturally carbonating in the bottle. When aged long enough in the bottle, the honey character will eventually return the way it was intended to be, often times with a new and unique Brett character.
Most of our beers are ready after 6-10 weeks of conditioning in the bottle. We decided to let all three versions of Smooth Pollinator condition four months in the bottle. Allowing the beer extra time to condition is not an easy decision, because the beer is fully carbonated within two weeks, and tastes nice after a month or so. After two months the beer tastes mostly ready but it still isn’t finished developing into something better. This beer (and all our beers) will age gracefully and develop unique character that cannot be achieved without time. Surely it would be easier if our beers were ready in 2-3 weeks like most commercial beers.
We brewed this Strong Farmhouse ale with coriander and orange zest, and refermented with 40 pounds of local honey in each large French oak puncheon for nearly a year. Coriander lends floral notes and orange zest adds a tangy, citric bite while amplifying the orange notes present in the honey. The honey lends aromatics that suggest sweetness, but Smooth Pollinator is medium bodied and refreshingly tart with a funky, Brettanomyces finish.
We are very happy with how Peghead, our first collab with Bangin Banjo turned out, so we decided to make another collab. Bangin Banjo is known for their Gose, and we had been considering making a Gose. We decided to brew a mostly traditional Gose with a few adjustments. We used Pilsener malt and pale wheat as is typical for the style, but we also added a touch of malted rye, because we like rye. We added freshly ground Indian coriander and salt in the whirlpool, and fermented with our mixed culture in stainless steel on top of lemons and oranges before transferring to French oak barrels. Of course, lemons and oranges weren’t traditional Goslar Gose ingredients, but we figured they would be a nice addition and would increase the citrus notes we wanted to reinforce.
I lived in Berlin for 7 months in 2011 while studying for my Brewmaster Diploma, and I was eager to try traditional Berliner Weisse and Gose while I was there. I was disappointed to learn that neither were easy to find, and all commercial versions (when I was there) were essentially pasteurized as there was no living bacteria in the beer, and the beers were made without Brettanomyces. Traditional Berliner Weisse and Gose both had living bacteria and Brettanomyces, and were bottle conditioned. Gose, as it was brewed in Goslar, was spontaneously fermented and had a mineral salinity. It is not clear whether salt was added to the beer or if the water used to brew had natural salinity.
By no means is our Gose 100% traditional. We didn’t brew the beer in Goslar and the beer isn’t spontaneously fermented. But from what I learned about Goslar Gose from my professors in Berlin, the commercial examples of Gose in Germany are not representative of Goslar Gose, but rather are closer to Leipzig Gose. The modern examples are slightly tart but not at all sour, and they are dosed with lactic acid rather than actually including any bacteria. They aren’t bad beers, but they are a little boring and one dimensional. Since I have never had Goslar Gose I don’t know exactly what it tasted like, but since it included multiple strains of wild yeast and bacteria it had to have been more complex and interesting than Leipzig Gose.
Our friends at The Tank in Miami have been crafting solid beers for 3 years, and we are excited and fortunate to have a few collaborations in the works with them. Head Brewer Moh Saade has a highly technical, scientific approach in the brewery and his beer exemplifies that. This year Moh and his team won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup for their Saison, La Finca Miami. The World Beer Cup is considered the Olympics of Beer, and is the most competitive beer competition in the world.
When Moh and I started talking about a collab, I figured it would be cool for us to blend our flagship Saisons. The Tank’s Saison is a more modern approach to the style, meaning that the beer is fermented entirely with one strain of yeast, rather than including wild yeast and bacteria. The beer is extremely dry as is characteristic of the style, and is fermented with a yeast that produces tropical esters and spicy phenols. Rather than just blend the Tank’s finished beer with ours and package it, we decided to age La Finca in Odd Breed Puncheons for nearly a year with our mixed culture. Our mixed culture makes The Tank’s Saison even more dry, while adding notes of pear and earth typified by Brettanomyces bruxellensis.
We blended the funkified version of La Finca Miami with an equal amount of our flagship Saison, Past & Future. We dry hopped with whole leaf Cashmere, which is a hop I had never used before, but Moh and our bartender Mike (who is also an awesome brewer) highly recommended Cashmere for its tropical and fruity notes. We dry hopped at a rate of just over one pound per barrel. We didn’t want to dry hop this beer too highly because we wanted to show the yeast character in this unique blend. El Establo Saison is more dry and bitter than our flagship Saison Past & Future, and has a unique Brett character slightly different than that found in most of our beers, with notes of pear and overripe tropical fruit. Cashmere hops add notes of tangerine and melon which work in tandem with souring bacteria to deliver a citric, tart finish that doesn’t become too sour.
This beer should be a great one to age and watch how it evolves over time. I’m really pleased with how this beer turned out, and I’m looking forward to our future collaborations with The Tank that are already in the works.
By Matt Manthe
December 13, 2018