The holidays are over and it’s time to make more beer! This month we will release four unique bottles, and these beers will also be on draft in our taproom and see limited draft distribution.
Many people already know that we are very inspired by traditional Lambic. Lambic can’t be made outside of the Senne Valley in Belgium, so we will never call our beer Lambic. We make our own version of Lambic-inspired beer, and have brewed three batches (and we have more on the schedule). To make our Lambic inspired beer, we start with a traditional grist of 2/3 malted barley with 1/3 raw wheat. We prepare a turbid mash and boil for 4.5 hours using only whole leaf aged hops.
To make The Fitzgerald we used our Golden Wild Ale blended with about 20% Lambic-inspired spontaneous beer. The wort from the spontaneous beer was inoculated with wild yeast and bacteria from the air outside our brewery on January 3, 2018. January 3 happens to be my birthday, and it was also one of the coldest nights last year, with temperatures in the upper 30s.
The spontaneous beer included in the blend to make The Fitzgerald lends a little more body with tannins and light astringency (in a good way) with some bitterness and light acidity. The yeast character provided from the spontaneous beer is somewhat reminiscent of a wild hefeweizen yeast strain, showcasing strong citrus and fruity esters with some light clove and peppery phenolic notes. Blending spontaneous beer with a beer fermented with our house culture provides an amalgamation of unique yeast character and flavor not found in our other beers.
Juniper and lemon are definitely noticeable but don’t steal the show; like all our beers, we wanted the fruit to be well balanced with the base beer and yeast character. This is a beer that will transform with enough aging in the bottle. I expect it to age well, but after a few years it will likely taste pretty different than it does fresh: the lemon and juniper notes will fade and the yeast character will become more prominent.
For those that are wondering, we will be releasing our first batches of spontaneous beer later this year, and we have plans to blend some of our spontaneous beers with fresh fruit.
Stabbing Elbows is our heavily fruited golden wild ale with organic sweet and tart cherries. This beer spent nearly a year in French oak barrels and then spent seven months on cherries before bottling in late October of last year. Most of our beers spend about three months on fruit, but Stabbing Elbows benefited from additional fruit contact time and has a cherry character that is well integrated with the base beer. Most American wild ales made with cherries display notes of cinnamon and have a cherry character quite different from that found in Kriek from Belgium. The cherries used in Belgian Kriek are typically from Poland, or less commonly are from the Senne Valley in Belgium. (Due to urban sprawl there are few cherry trees grown in Belgium).
We wanted to achieve a cherry character more reminiscent of Kriek, so we included some organic dark sweet cherries from Turkey alongside organic Montmorency cherries from Michigan. The dark sweet cherries are not particularly aromatic, but they have a depth of flavor and intensity I feel is missing from Montmorency cherries. Montmorency cherries on the other hand provide great aroma but not much color, and while they have a great flavor, I find it to be a little one dimensional. Including two types of cherries helps us achieve the color, aroma, and flavor we want, and is another way we can build complexity and nuance.
It should come as no surprise that we like using citrus in our beer! Our mixed culture naturally displays citrus notes, and the lemony acidity from our Pediococcus souring bacteria accentuates those citrus notes. To create Citrus Farmer we started with a beer that already had strong citrus notes, and we added Florida lemons and oranges for refermentation after barrel aging for a year in French oak puncheons.
Citrus Farmer is a little higher in alcohol than most of our farmhouse beers, and also has a little less acidity. We didn’t want to layer a bunch of citrus on top of a beer that was already pretty sour, because the citrus fruit used lends additional acidity. Our mixed culture produces mostly lactic acid, which is considered a relatively soft type of organic acidity. Lemons and oranges lend some additional lactic acidity, but primarily contribute citric acid, which has more of a sharp bite and is characteristic of the acidity found in citrus fruit.
We look forward to experimenting with additional types of citrus fruit, and already have plans to experiment with grapefruit and tangerine. We have found that when we add fruit matters and impacts the flavor and intensity of fruit in the beer. In this beer we added citrus at the end of the boil and again after barrel aging. Maybe next time we will also add some citrus during primary fermentation before barrel aging, just like we did for our Gose, No Puns.
I have been a fan of traditional smoked beers for a long time, and I probably enjoy smoked beers a lot more than the typical beer drinker. Dan is also a big fan of smoked beers, and we both enjoy heavily peated Scotch Whisky.
Tilling Season is our lightly smoked farmhouse ale aged in a unique 25-year-old Scotch Whisky barrel. We used a small amount of Beechwood smoked malt from Germany alongside a grist of pilsner malt, raw wheat, flaked oats, and rye as is often found in our farmhouse beers. Beechwood smoked malt is traditionally used in German Rauchbier, and is malt that is dried (after germination) over heat and smoke from burning beechwood. Beechwood is a hardwood that lends mellow smoky notes of bacon with underlying notes of vanilla and honey. Before modern malting and kilning techniques, all beer would have been at least a little smoky from the fuel source used to dry the malt. Today, malt is typically produced without exposure to smoke, but for those looking to make a smoked beer there are numerous types of smoked malt available like peat smoked, Cherrywood, white oak, etc. but beechwood is the original type of smoked malt used in beer.
Many people know that we are starting to distribute our beers throughout the state of Florida with Progressive Distribution, and Tavour has shipped our beer to customers in over 20 states. Soon, our beer will be available on draft in select bars in Sweden. Why Sweden? Why not! Late last year we had a beer importer and distributor express interest in carrying some of our beer at various craft beer bars in Sweden. He explained that there is a thirst for unique American beers in Sweden, and we are honored to be sharing our beer with those on the other side of the Atlantic. If you happen to find yourself in Sweden, look for all three variants of Smooth Pollinator and Beeker on draft!
By Matt Manthe
January 9, 2019