If you have been to the brewery in recent weeks, you may have noticed a grey tarp covering something tucked along the back wall near our brewhouse. What lies beneath? It’s twelve oak barrels that we acquired from Chaddsford Winery, which is not surprisingly out of Chaddsford, PA. I was told by the barrel manager that they were used for whites first followed by reds after the oak flavor had subsided. Once that oak flavor had diminished a bit further, the barrels were retired. That means they are available for sale to us. Yeah! I should note that even when a winery deems that a barrel has insufficient oak flavor, it can still give off a tremendous amount of oak flavor to a beer particularly over a few years of aging. We received three different types of oak including 4 American Oak, 4 Hungarian Oak (pictured), and 4 French Oak.
Now we have some nice barrels. What to do? What to do? Could we make an American Wild Ale? We have already done Riserva and we have ideas for more of these. We looked at another few options and in the end decided to come with something without paying much attention to what others were doing. This is not to say we came up with a completely new style, only that we would use some non-traditional malts to form a non-traditional sour ale. We know that we are always building on the shoulders of giants. So in addition to the pale base, we chose raw wheat, Melanoidin, and Sauer malts topped off with a kiss of CaraAroma. The last three are fantastic malts from Weyermann. We also decided we would do 100% barrel fermentation.
On August 27th we started our ambitious brew. We decided that we would really like to accentuate the sour character, so we decided a sour mash would be in order. We mashed-in that afternoon and allowed the mash to rest overnight where it would gain some acidity. The next morning we heated up the mash and finished the brew. The aroma of this brew was just incredible and unlike any one I have ever smelled.
Now it was time to fill the barrels. We pitched a small amount of Wyeast 3278 Lambic Blend into each barrel. This yeast blend contains a wide variety of fermenting organisms including traditional brewer’s yeast, sherry yeast, Brettanomyces yeast and some lactic-acid producing bugs. We then filled the barrels with our beautiful wort and prepared ourselves for the long wait. It should be ready on 18 months to 2 years.
Check out these photos while you wait….