Search results for: Micro

Drive just 50 miles north of Los Angeles, you’ll not only find sprawling farmland, beautiful beaches and gorgeous oak trees, but a county experiencing its craft beer hockey stick moment. Four to five years ago, you wouldn’t find many craft beer breweries in Ventura County. It’s now a full-fledged beer destination.

In May, Joby M. Yobe and the rest of the Barrelhouse 101 team will be celebrating their 6th Anniversary. The “OG” Ventura beer bar and restaurant has been educating Ventura on craft beer through their 107 taps. They rotate twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. When they opened, Surf Brewing, Island Brewing and Anacapa Brewing were the only local breweries.

“Forever, this was known as Corona, Coors Light territory. When we got rid of any Corona, Coors Light macro, people were pissed.”

Jobe even got flack for serving beers in the proper glassware.

“I’m not drinking beer out of a fucking tulip!”

Ojai Beverage Company opened in 2007, back when the available beers were Red Hook, Pyramid and Firestone DBA, to name a few. Jobe and his cousin, Jorge Alem, own OBC and often work together to offer great craft beers. And they typically will host classes or small brewery specific events monthly.

Casa Agria Specialty Ales is a boutique brewery, focusing on mixed fermentation farmhouse style ales, barrel aged wild ales, and Northeast style India pale ales. Their beers uses fruit direct from the local farms and is expressive of the Ventura County culture. Try their outstanding American Wild Ale, Pinot de la Casa, which ages their Saison de la Casa in freshly dumped Pinot Noir wine barrels from Casa Baranca Organic Winery in Ojai, CA.

Concrete Jungle Brewing Project is a brewery and tasting room in Ventura on Market Street. The grand opening was October 14, 2017. Concrete Jungle bought the Surf Brewery facility. Surf Brewery was the first packaging craft microbrewery in Ventura County CA, when opened June 2011. Formerly located in Los Angeles, Concrete Jungle moved into the former Surf Brewery location and have expanded their beer style offerings.

Darryl Levi is a friend of mine that I asked to write an article for me in my blog, www.TheBeerGoddess.com. I sent him to the Orange County Beer Festival in 2010 and he got the bug for craft, which led him to homebrewing, then buying a bar in Camarillo. “Darryl’s Couch” was born.

Darryl’s Couch was the first craft beer pub in the county, having opened in Sept of 2012. Levi offers 11 taps including one nitro, focusing on designated craft as determined by the Brewers Association, which includes breweries like Firestone, Five Threads, Made West and Three Weavers. He’s currently holding an IPA competition every Wednesday with three single IPAs from local Ventura County breweries.

Enegren Brewing is not out to chase beer trends. Since 2011, the Moorpark brewery has been focusing on German style lagers. They were the second packaging brewery in Ventura County by just a month. Chris loves the style because of their versatility and complexity.

Enegren Feb2018

“I want to push the boundaries in craft beer and not just offer the same thing everyone else is doing.”

Enegren started homebrewing in 2014, as an engineering major at Loyala Marymont. Enegren took his knowledge about control systems and programming and built his own automated 15-barrel, European style homebrew system. Chris has installed brewing systems at Garage Project in New Zealand, Fremont Brewing in Seattle and Fall Brewing in San Diego, to name just a few. And he’s applied the best of his engineering and brewing knowledge in his own brewery. Their tanks are named after the breweries moms, wives and daughters. And their custom brewing system is named after a Viking shieldmaiden and ruler from what is now Norway. This ”Lagertha” will have produced a Maibock and single hop pilsner by the time this article is published. And all of their beers are brewed with natural carbonation. The smart brewery gets 100% of their carbonation through spunding. Enegren produced 2,000 barrels last year and will be installing a canning machine in mid-April.

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.'s Westlake Village taproom features a rotating list of specialty and cask beers and an artisanal menu featuring fresh gastropub fare. Try their Agua Santa Negra, a 5.1% ABV Mexican-Style Dark Lager, their Deisui Suru, an 8.0% ABV Japanese Imperial Lager or their English style India Pale Ale, a 2017 GABF silver medal winner, Hoppy Poppy IPA.

Did you know that a “thread” is a term sometimes used when blending two or more beers together? Located on Via Colinas in Westlake Village, Five Threads Brewing Company has been brewing since October 2015. You’ll find various styles like Heidi, their Bavarian Hefeweizen, Red, a Nelson Red Rye IPA and High Gear, their Mocha Oatmeal Stout.

Fluid State is already making waves with their awesome selection of craft beer and craft, organic pizzas. Since May of 2017, the restaurant/beer bar has impressed locals and beach town visitors alike with their authentic offerings.

Fluid State Feb2018

“We feel like there’s something to be said for having a business that’s based on friendships and relationships, not based on what is trendy. A lot of the beer that we have here tends to be – it just so happens to be breweries that are on the cutting edge – but that’s not the main reason we have them on tap. The main reason we have them on tap is because we have relationships with these guys. We’ve known them for years.”

Aaron Duncan and Jen Schwertman want to support those authentic breweries in the industry.

Some of the beers offered are the smaller, independent breweries that don’t yet distribute. Jen has been in the beer and bar world since the fall of 1992, having started at Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver. Aaron started homebrewing about 15 years ago in Santa Cruz and then opened a craft centric restaurant in 2007. He then started working for Ninkasi Brewing, helping to launch Ninkasi down the coast from Santa Cruz to north Los Angeles, which eventually brought him to Santa Barbara. Jen and Aaron met at the Great American Beer Festival in 2010, and eventually joined forces to create Fluid State.

The redwood bar, Chicago made steakhouse barstools and the big horseshoe bar help make Fluid State casual, social and meaningful. You won’t find tv’s, but you’ll find a fantastic deck and 24 taps.

14 Cannons is a production brewery and showroom, which opened in October 2017. Located in Westlake Village, the brewery features nine taps with beers like Spice Island Chai Tea Brown Ale and Slippery Deck Imperial IPA.

Institution Ale Company opened in 2014 and is producing excellent, clean beers like their 7.5% ABV West Coast IPA, Institution IPA. Or, try their new Double Dry Hopped Institution IPA, their flagship IPA double dry hopped with Columbus, Mosaic, Simcoe and Centennial hops. Restraint is a 6.0% ABV Maple Brown Ale with notes of nuttiness, chocolate, roasted coffee, maple sweetness and woodsy dryness. Institution recently expanded from 12,800 sq./ft to nearly 29,000 sq. ft. proving the quality of their brews.

Ladyface Alehouse is the first microbrewery in the Conejo Valley and produces award-winning Belgian, French and American style ales, on site. Since late 2009, they’ve been serving beautiful Biere de Garde’s like their 7.5% ABV Dérailleur®.

Ladyface2

Try their divine Golden Farmhouse ale, Trébuchet®, which was created with Ladyface’s Chaparral Saison brewed with honey from bees foraging on the local mountain sage scrub habitat and then ages in California Sauvignon Blanc barrels with Lactobacillus for over a year. Their seasonally-inspired European bistro-style menu - featuring its ales in many recipes - is also not to be missed.

Ladyface-Feb2018

Leashless Brewing is an eight month old certified organic brewery located on Thompson Blvd. in a 1930s-era building. Their V-Town IPA shines with navel orange and mangos. Their Tri-Fin Tripel is a classic Trappist with hints of black pepper and fruity yeast giving off notes of citrus and apricot.

MadeWest Brewing Co. is run by Ventura natives, which shows through their community involvement and mindedness. Founded in 2014, in the heart of Ventura, you may find some exceptional beers like their On The Juice, a hazy double IPA loaded with Galaxy, Citra and Ekuanot hops or Prospect, a Vanilla Coffee Porter, dosed with whole Madagascar Vanilla beans and 100 lbs. of single origin coffee beans roasted by Prospect Coffee Roasters, also in Ventura.

Head over to Davy Jones' Locker where Brian Oliver has been serving quality beers since 2014. Poseidon Brewing Company has been serving tasty DIPA’s, Brown and Cascadian dark ales and Imperial Chocolate Oatmeal Stouts since 2014. They quickly lived up to their mantra, “Ales With Depth.”

Smoke Mountain is a boutique farm brewery located on top of Rincon Mountain, bordering Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The hops, barley, produce and herbs are all grown locally, on their farm. While they have no taproom, the beer club is popular among locals – which can be mailed or enjoyed at their “Pick Up Parties.” You may also find some distributed locally, by visiting their social media pages.

Founder & CEO, Ali Zia is bringing is beer background and expertise from Newbury Park’s Bottle & Pint to the future Thousand Oaks brewery, Tarantula Hill Brewery. Bottle & Pint is a craft beer exclusive bottle shop, taproom and retail shop that opened in Newbury Park three years ago.

Tarantula Hill Brewery will be opening likely in two phases, with the brew-side of the building opening first – around October. They will start with festivals and select tastings. Around December, they will start serving not just the beer, but artisan pizzas and small batch ice-cream. Speaking of deliciousness, keep a look out for guest chef beer dinners, beer & ice-cream pairings and artisan coffee, all with the idea of pairing and enjoying together.

John Edney will be managing the restaurant, including the super-premium ice-cream. The first brewery in Thousand Oaks will appropriately be located on Thousand Oaks Blvd., exact location to be announced March 1st. The Thousand Oaks High School, class of ’91 natives want to incorporate the town as much as possible, using local ingredients and naming beers after local landmarks. The brewer – who’s yet to be revealed – has a over a decade of experience at one of the biggest breweries in the country. Ali and the team at Tarantula Hill know what craft beers the locals are gravitating to from serving them at Bottle & Pint, and so you likely see some IPAs, big stouts and some crisp lagers – among other styles.


Twisted Oak Tavern has made some awesome contributions to the VC beer scene since 2015, featuring beer from their in-house brewery, The LAB Brewing Co. Located in Agoura Hills, it was even voted best beer bar in California in 2016 by CraftBeer.com. Brewmaster, Roger Bott has been brewing beer for over 20 years and has taken the gold in two Casa Pacifica Beer Festivals. With a heavier focus on IPAs and Belgian ales, Twisted Oak features 32 taps showcasing around six of their own award-winning beer.


Topa Topa opened in June 2015 and has built their brewery on three core values; quality, craftsmanship and community spirit. They make beer that they like to drink. Jack is CEO & cofounder of Topa Topa, Kyle Thomson is CFO/COO and cofounder and cofounder Casey Harris brews their delicious brews. They typically have about 12-18 beers on tap, where 70% of production is Chief Peak IPA. Look for double IPAs, barrel aged beers and their “Solitude Series,” their single hop series, which is a taproom special that showcases a new hop every two months. And they’re doing so well, they opened their second taproom in Santa Barbara in October 2017. And look out for a third location in Ojai, adding a food element to the mix.

“As new breweries open, I think it’s human nature for people to think, ‘oh man, is that going to hurt your business?’ and we’ve just gotten busier and busier with every single brewery that’s opened. We love it…we think that spirit kinda’ sets us up for success.”

Jack also credits the newer craft beer drinkers in the area and their culinary curiosity.

“People just sort of skipped over Ventura and Santa Barbara area, and I think that’s changed now. We hope to change it with such a diverse, stylistically group of breweries.”

Their goals for 2018 are expanding, to simply make more beer and increase efficiency.

Many of the breweries in the county – including Topa Topa – have recently joined the Central Coast Brewers Guild, where Dyer sits on the board. The guild has expanded to include Ventura County, now with over 50 members. There is a Southcoast Chapter and the Northcoast Chapter.

Ventura Coast Brewing Company is proving that a taproom model with approachable beer, a nice patio in a great downtown location just works. They opened October 2016 and is selling a good number of lagers, hoppy pilsner and increasingly their new sours. Kyle thinks the beer culture has changed and grown even in just the past two-three years.

VCBC-Feb 2018

“I don’t think anyone really directly looks at anybody as a direct competitor. Even in distribution, where handles are getting a little bit tighter, it’s all culture growth at this point…the more the merrier,” said Kyle Thille, founder of VCBC.

Kyle and head brewer, Dan White (former head brewer at Smog City) wants to introduce new styles to the community, on an elevated and balanced level. They’ve started a tiered barrel program, separating those entry level sours and also offering wood-aged beers.

Westlake Brewing Company serves craft beers and live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Play on their old-school pinball machines and a regulation shuffle board table.

Published in The Beer Goddess Blog

Paso Robles, CA: You could say that Brewmaster Matt Brynildson has been waiting his entire career for a mandate like this: to riff freely in the brewhouse without formal recipe or restraint while plundering the many marvels of the hop revolution.

This mandate has begotten Luponic Distortion—a new series of rotating beers built around experimental hops, with each release designed to showcase the possibilities of pure hop aromas and flavors without any assist from adjuncts. 

Published in Beer News
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 02:42

Pucker Up: The Sour Resurgence has Arrived

Driven by nature’s unpredictability and culinary expression, experienced brewers are adapting traditional European techniques to bring bursts of intentionally tart and tangy flavors in beers as luminous as an autumn sunset.

In the mid-nineteenth century, back when beer was aged and shipped in wooden barrels, before the advent of refrigeration, nearly all beer was – on some levels - sour.

Practicing patience and an artful curiosity, sours can take up to two to three years to produce. But the wait is worth its weight in golden, deep amber and coppery-orange colored beers.

All hail Pediococcus, Lactobacillus, and Brettanomyces. The remarkable flavors in sour ales can be attributed to these wild yeast strains.

With bright flavors and carbonated mouthfeels of champagne and lemonade, these rising stars of the beer world are perfect for warmer months.

Just a couple hours south of the Coachella Valley, sour specialists, Lost Abbey Brewery, hand bottles every sour beer, eight bottles at a time. Their 2015 Framboise de Amorosa is coming out in July. In northern California, Russian River ages each batch of beer in a specific type of wine barrel (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon). And over in the Great Lakes region, Jolly Pumpkin is the only brewery that ages every beer.IMG 9229-edit

While Lost Abbey, Russian River and Jolly Pumpkin have been wreaking sensory havoc for over 30 years collectively, the following Southern California breweries are helping to lead the sour resurgence, on varying and awesomely quirky levels.

The Bruery: A Chat with Benjamin Weiss

Benjamin is The Bruery’s Marketing Director and the brewery’s second ever employee. The Bruery just celebrated their 7th year in May.

Benjamin became a professional brewer at The Bruery in 2008, just two years after starting to homebrew in Los Angeles. He eventually became the brewer on the infamous Black Tuesday.

EP: What’s your background brewing sours?

BW: I just drank them. Brewing them is pretty much the same as anything, you’re just fermenting slightly differently...most of our sours are aged in a used wine barrel, most of them nowadays, actually, primary fermentation starts in an oak barrel, then we rack into smaller oak barrels.

EP: Do you have any particular favorite wineries you like to get your barrels from?

BW: No, as far as the sour beers, we get the barrels from wineries, but we’re really using a neutral barrel. We clean them out…so as long as they’re newer, solid barrels, we’re happy with them. (pic: Cambria Griffith courtesy The Bruery)KQLynM6DA64MrDYbT4ytTyIklHOg809XebfgOnIqxd8ZqOdDM5KX4r9srgx-h0qmNIOO RIgoMaEt fKKlq BAzp12P9sBLw4TL4ALz2R8a35R2zzLjGCLr8OeKO1eFmg

EP: What do you love about sours?

Wow, that’s a good question. I don’t know. I’ve loved sours since I’ve first tried them back in my homebrew meeting about 10 years ago. I don’t know, there’s just something, when you have a good sour, there’s something complex and delicious about it. Like most of our sours are not purely lactic fermentation. They’re not just one note. It’s hard to describe, it’s almost a clean sour taste...also the funkiness that you can get from different strains of Brett that comes with time. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of time…I find them just fascinating.

EP: What do you think of the resurgence, or popularity of sours?

BW: Yeah. It’s crazy. I was just commenting to one of my coworkers that, we were at some festival, that five years ago, every single person that came up to you, you had to explain what a sour beer was…now almost everyone walks up and says, ‘oh you have a sour beer?’. It’s completely the opposite. At least with the beer crowd. It’s still a very, very small segment of beer. But within the craft beer aficionado community, it’s increasingly more popular.

EP: What are some of your favorites from The Bruery and why?

BW: One of my favorites we make is Rueuze, our kind of Gueuze style…it’s gotten a little bit better every year. It has that funky character that I like.

Gueuze is a type of lambic made by blending young (1-year-old) and old (2- to 3-year-old) lambics, which is then bottled for a second fermentation.

Rueuze is a blend of their sour blonde ale from several of their oak barrels, some of which have been aging several months, some several years. Notes of apricots, peach, lemon and bright barnyard funk flavors come through – perfect for summer. The Bruery Terreux suggests pairing it with smoked salmon with fresh goat’s cheese. I definately agree with that.

EP: What are some of your upcoming plans?

BW: We’re launching a tasting room for Bruery Terreux [in Anaheim] hopefully at the end of this year, if not early next year. And we’re just going full steam ahead. Coming out soon, we’ve got a Jester King collaboration and a Prairie collaboration at Terreux.

Bruery Terreux is a new-ish brand, loosely translating to “Earthy Bruery” in French. Developed by Patrick Rue of The Bruery, it’s a new space that focuses solely on their farmhouse-style ales fermented with the wild yeasts. (pic: Cambria Griffith courtesy The Bruery)6t6pTBfZCwsRzd9qkbOXOWiZn1FkmDXq5dHYCGToYC02b7G8 SjHKar4IgyQUFZIhsIGbGfUKMjz9n1cU8WlcAO7jI5btJClPXB-Sm-AQQc estMAFbPbsUu7ch20bRZo

The Jester King collaboration will be coming out in about two months.

Firestone Walker: A Brewery in Wine Country

The “accidental” story of Barrelworks is a beautifully tasty one. The story of renegade brewers Matt Brynildson,“Sour Jim” and Jeffers Richardson has grown from its humble beginnings in 2005 to over 1,500 barrels, just south of Paso Robles, in Buellton.

Jeffers is the Director of Barrelworks (aka “Barrelmeister”).

EP: What’s your fascination with sours?

JR: I love how it contributes depth and complexity to beer. Acidity ads a whole new dimension of flavor to beer…and plays teasingly with wild yeast and oak, when those components are involved.

EP: How long have you been experimenting with sours?

JR: My palate has been experimenting with acidified beers since 1985, when I lived in Brussels and first tried them. But I didn’t become comfortable with wild beer production until I teamed up with Jim. I'm old school. I was indoctrinated in the ways of clean beer practices. Once we were given our own padded room [facility], and the inmates were allowed to run it, I was more comfortable. Jim, on the other hand has been a certifiable experimenter of sours for some time.

Masterblender, Jim Crooks – aka Sour Jim- started making wild beers in local wine barrels. This innovative and unprecedented barrelhouse is the birth house of several of the wildly coveted beers being poured annually at the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival, held every May.

IMG 5058-edit

What does "Sour Jim" love about sours?

My main love for sours stem from our choice to embrace the funk, and more importantly, the continuous learning curve that is brought about by the use of Brettanomyces and acid forming bacteria in our products.  Using these agents to produce truly unique beers constantly test the theory of how fermentation, barrel aging, and flavor/aroma of each strain can be so wildly unpredictable and unique.

Their Agrestic (2014) is based on Fireston's original flagship beer, Double Barrel Ale, or DBA, which then underwent a “chrysalis” process involving 87% French and 13% American Oak barrels and a proprietary collection of micro flora. It spends 14 months there. This sour leans towards the punker, tropical and oaky side of things and is brewed with B. lambicus, L. lindneri and L. brevis. The nose and taste bring citrus along with a gorgeous mix of coconut, vanilla and spice.

According to Jeffers, the acidity in a beer should enhance and support other aspects of the beer.

“We want to build layers of complexity.”

Sour Opal is an American Gueuze style with a Titratable Acidity (T.A.) of 6.6 g/L. You’ll notice on the Firestone Walker Barrelworks labels this acidity, which is something that currently, no other brewery divulges. With their home in wine country, Firestone Walker has adapted traditions and techniques from their winery friends.

La Piccola is a new collaborative cross-continental dark Saison that was featured at the Firestone Walker Beer Invitational in May. The collaboration between brewmasters Agostino Arioli of Birrificio Italiano and Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker resulted in two very similar beers. Agostino brewed his version with Sichuan peppercorns, sourced directly from a spice hunter in Italy.IMG 5391-edit

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Bretta Weisse will be in bottles July 25th. Agrestic and Krieky Bones will be available August 22nd. And the wild brewers also have a Hood River Strawberry Saison in the works.IMG 2389-edit

Coachella Valley Brewing: Pucker Up in the Desert

Chris Anderson has been brewing up his sour program in Thousand Palms over the past year.

EP: What sours are on tap now?

On tap now is the Peche, an American wild ale with locally grown white peaches and pediococcus, lactic and multiple Brettanomyces cultures. Tasters are $3 and there’s only one keg left.

Also pick up a bottle of the special Framboys, wild ale brewed with raspberries and boysenberries. It's decedent.IMG 5382-edit

EP: When did you start this, or think about starting to brew sours?

CA: We immediately started getting into that mode when we had the capacity to store that type of a beer. We got a bunch of tanks dedicated just for making sour beers. That was probably about a year ago. That was kind of the inception of the first couple sour bases that we use to make a couple different beers with a batch of different fruits.

EP: How many tanks?

CA: We have three right now. We immediately made a sour base which is your run of the mill wheat beer and used some really old hops, which is typical of sour beers. You want to use old, cheesy, skanky hops, rather than the real aromatic ones. You don’t want that to shine through in the beer. We aged it away, we use a special flora. We have an onsite laboratory here that we can do micro – we built our own culture, that we inoculate all the barrels with, as well as the wort.

And the sour program at CVB is taking off. Anderson even hinted they might be expanding their sour program – outside of their current space – in the near future.

Their new Profligate Society will feature upcoming sours, Cabernet barrel aged Epineux Poire prickly pear wild ale, Cabernet barrel aged Cassis Noir black currant sour ale and Cabernet barrel aged Flame Rouges wild ale. Less than 500 bottles of each beer will be released to Profligate members.IMG 5374-edit

CA: We have the Flame Rouges, brewed with red vine raisons and red flame grape juice. That’s fermenting in the barrel now. We’ll be releasing it late this year, probably Fall…we’ve got a guava one fermenting, too.

EP: What do you love about sours?

"I don’t know, it’s kind of mysterious ya’ know? A little unorthodox. It’s the opposite of everything you’re told as a brewer, even the way the mash is done. The long aging, and you still may not get really high quality results…and it’s all about blending too."

And Anderson has blending experience, having won homebrew medals for his sours, before becoming a commercial brewer. He would sweep these categories in competitions.

Hangar 24 – New Sours are Landing

Hangar’s new sours First Crush and Sanguinello are launching this Saturday.

"First Crush" is a Sour Red Ale aged in red wine barrels with Syrah grape juice, there will be 2,300 bottles. The addition of Syrah grape juice after primary fermentation adds vinous, tannic notes of red wine, ripe fruit and leather.e2e2453d-dd2e-4493-a1b4-1116c6b153c9
“Sanguinello” is a sour blonde aged in white wine barrels with blood orange juice. They squeezed the juice of blood oranges into Sauvignon Blanc barrels, which held nine and eighteen month old sour blonde ale. There will be only 1,200 bottles. (Hangar pix: Hanger 24 Brewery)99b5cb0c-0167-47a9-8eda-3d6ab7b04699

When venturing into your sour quest, don’t miss out on the much-revered Cantillon Brewery, Drie Fonteinen, Allagash Brewing, Side Project, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, Cascade Brewing, Almanac Beer Co., The Rare Barrel or Mikkeller.

While sours still make up a relatively small portion of the craft beers that are available, they are becoming more and more prevalent - in small batches. 

Sours are brewers way of coloring outside the lines. Get funky and join the wild, wild yeast of the beer world.

Published in The Beer Goddess Blog
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 02:42

Pucker Up: The Sour Revolution Has Begun

Driven by nature’s unpredictability and culinary expression, experienced brewers are adapting traditional European techniques to bring bursts of intentionally tart and tangy flavors in beers as luminous as an autumn sunset.

In the mid-nineteenth century, back when beer was aged and shipped in wooden barrels, before the advent of refrigeration, nearly all beer was – on some levels - sour.

Practicing patience and an artful curiosity, sours can take up to two to three years to produce. But the wait is worth its weight in golden, deep amber and coppery-orange colored beers.

All hail Pediococcus, Lactobacillus, and Brettanomyces. The remarkable flavors in sour ales can be attributed to these wild yeast strains.

With bright flavors and carbonated mouthfeels of champagne and lemonade, these rising stars of the beer world are perfect for warmer months.

Just a couple hours south of the Coachella Valley, sour specialists, Lost Abbey Brewery, hand bottles every sour beer, eight bottles at a time. Their 2015 Framboise de Amorosa is coming out in July. In northern California, Russian River ages each batch of beer in a specific type of wine barrel (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon). And over in the Great Lakes region, Jolly Pumpkin is the only brewery that ages every beer.

While Lost Abbey, Russian River and Jolly Pumpkin have been wreaking sensory havoc for over 30 years collectively, the following Southern California breweries are helping to lead the sour resurgence, on varying and awesomely quirky levels.

The Bruery: A Chat with Benjamin Weiss

Benjamin is The Bruery’s Marketing Director and the brewery’s second ever employee. The Bruery just celebrated their 7th year in May.

Benjamin became a professional brewer at The Bruery in 2008, just two years after starting to homebrew in Los Angeles. He eventually became the brewer on the infamous Black Tuesday.

EP: What’s your background brewing sours?

BW: I just drank them. Brewing them is pretty much the same as anything, you’re just fermenting slightly differently...most of our sours are aged in a used wine barrel, most of them nowadays, actually, primary fermentation starts in an oak barrel, then we rack into smaller oak barrels.

EP: Do you have any particular favorite wineries you like to get your barrels from?

BW: No, as far as the sour beers, we get the barrels from wineries, but we’re really using a neutral barrel. We clean them out…so as long as they’re newer, solid barrels, we’re happy with them.

EP: What do you love about sours?

BW: Wow, that’s a good question. I don’t know. I’ve loved sours since I’ve first tried them back in my homebrew meeting about 10 years ago. I don’t know, there’s just something, when you have a good sour, there’s something complex and delicious about it. Like most of our sours are not purely lactic fermentation. They’re not just one note. It’s hard to describe, it’s almost a clean sour taste...also the funkiness that you can get from different strains of Brett that comes with time. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of time…I find them just fascinating.

EP: What do you think of the resurgence, or popularity of sours?

BW: Yeah. It’s crazy. I was just commenting to one of my coworkers that, we were at some festival, that five years ago, every single person that came up to you, you had to explain what a sour beer was…now almost everyone walks up and says, ‘oh you have a sour beer?’. It’s completely the opposite. At least with the beer crowd. It’s still a very, very small segment of beer. But within the craft beer aficionado community, it’s increasingly more popular.

EP: What are some of your favorites from The Bruery and why?

BW: One of my favorites we make is Rueuze, our kind of Gueuze style…it’s gotten a little bit better every year. It has that funky character that I like.

Gueuze is a type of lambic made by blending young (1-year-old) and old (2- to 3-year-old) lambics, which is then bottled for a second fermentation.

Rueuze is a blend of their sour blonde ale from several of their oak barrels, some of which have been aging several months, some several years. Notes of apricots, peach, lemon and bright barnyard funk flavors come through – perfect for summer. The Bruery Terreux suggests pairing it with smoked salmon with fresh goat’s cheese. I’ll go with that.

EP: What are some of your upcoming plans?

BW: We’re launching a tasting room for Bruery Terreux [in Anaheim] hopefully at the end of this year, if not early next year. And we’re just going full steam ahead. Coming out soon, we’ve got a Jester King collaboration and a Prairie collaboration at Terreux.

Bruery Terreux is a new-ish brand, loosely translating to “Earthy Bruery” in French. Developed by Patrick Rue of The Bruery, it’s a new space that focuses solely on their farmhouse-style ales fermented with the wild yeasts.

The Jester King collaboration will be coming out in about two months.

Firestone Walker: A Brewery in Wine Country

The “accidental” story of Barrelworks is a beautifully tasty one. The story of renegade brewers Matt Brynildson,“Sour Jim” and Jeffers Richardson has grown from its humble beginnings in 2005 to over 1,500 barrels, just south of Paso Robles, in Buellton.

Jeffers is the Director of Barrelworks (aka “Barrelmeister”).

EP: What’s your fascination with sours?

JR: I love how it contributes depth and complexity to beer. Acidity ads a whole new dimension of flavor to beer…and plays teasingly with wild yeast and oak, when those components are involved.

EP: How long have you been experimenting with sours?

JR: My palate has been experimenting with acidified beers since 1985, when I lived in Brussels and first tried them. But I didn’t become comfortable with wild beer production until I teamed up with Jim. I'm old school. I was indoctrinated in the ways of clean beer practices. Once we were given our own padded room [facility], and the inmates were allowed to run it, I was more comfortable. Jim, on the other hand has been a certifiable experimenter of sours for some time.

Masterblender, Jim Crooks – aka Sour Jim- started making wild beers in local wine barrels. This innovative and unprecedented barrelhouse is the birth house of several of the wildly coveted beers being poured annually at the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival, held every May.

Their Agrestic (2014) began from their DBA, and then underwent a “chrysalis” process involving 87% French and 13% American Oak barrels and a proprietary collection of micro flora. It spends 14 months there. This sour leans towards the punker, tropical and oaky side of things and is brewed with B. lambicus, L. lindneri and L. brevis.

According to Jeffers, the acidity in a beer should enhance and support other aspects of the beer.

“We want to build layers of complexity.”

Sour Opal is an American Gueuze style with a Titratable Acidity (T.A.) of 6.6 g/L. You’ll notice on the Firestone Walker Barrelworks labels this acidity, which is something that currently, no other brewery divulges. With their home in wine country, Firestone Walker has adapted traditions and techniques from their winery friends.

La Piccola is a new collaborative cross-continental dark Saison that was featured at the Firestone Walker Beer Invitational in May. The collaboration between brewmasters Agostino Arioli of Birrificio Italiano and Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker resulted in two very similar beers.

Agostino brewed his version with Sichuan peppercorns, sourced directly from a spice hunter in Italy.

Coachella Valley Brewing: Pucker Up in the Desert

Chris Anderson has been brewing up his sour program in Thousand Palms over the past year.

EP: What sours are on tap now?

On tap now is the Peche, an American wild ale with locally grown white peaches and pediococcus, lactic and multiple Brettanomyces cultures. Tasters are $3 and there’s only one keg left.

EP: When did you start this, or think about starting to brew sours?

CA: We immediately started getting into that mode when we had the capacity to store that type of a beer. We got a bunch of tanks dedicated just for making sour beers. That was probably about a year ago. That was kind of the inception of the first couple sour bases that we use to make a couple different beers with a batch of different fruits.

EP: How many tanks?

CA: We have three right now. We immediately made a sour base which is your run of the mill wheat beer and used some really old hops, which is typical of sour beers. You want to use old, cheesy, skanky hops, rather than the real aromatic ones. You don’t want that to shine through in the beer. We aged it away, we use a special flora. We have an onsite laboratory here that we can do micro – we built our own culture, that we inoculate all the barrels with, as well as the wort.

And the sour program at CVB is taking off. Anderson even hinted they might be expanding their sour program – outside of their current space – in the near future.

Their new Profligate Society will feature upcoming sours, Cabernet barrel aged Epineux Poire prickly pear wild ale, Cabernet barrel aged Cassis Noir black currant sour ale and Cabernet barrel aged Flame Rouges wild ale. Less than 500 bottles of each beer will be released to Profligate members.

CA: We have the Flame Rouges, brewed with red vine raisons and red flame grape juice. That’s fermenting in the barrel now. We’ll be releasing it late this year, probably Fall…we’ve got a guava one fermenting, too.

EP: What do you love about sours?

CA: I don’t know, it’s kind of mysterious ya’ know? A little unorthodox. It’s the opposite of everything you’re told as a brewer, even the way the mash is done. The long aging, you still may not get really high quality results…and it’s all about blending too.

And Anderson has blending experience, having won homebrew medals for his sours, before becoming a commercial brewer. He would sweep these categories in competitions.

Hangar 24 – New Sours are Landing

Hangar’s new sours First Crush and Sanguinello are launching this Saturday.

"First Crush" is a Sour Red Ale aged in red wine barrels with Syrah grape juice, there will be 2,300 bottles. The addition of Syrah grape juice after primary fermentation adds vinous, tannic notes of red wine, ripe fruit and leather.
“Sanguinello” is a sour blonde aged in white wine barrels with blood orange juice. They squeezed the juice of blood oranges into Sauvignon Blanc barrels, which held nine and eighteen month old sour blonde ale. There will be only 1,200 bottles.

When venturing into your sour quest, don’t miss out on the much-revered Cantillon Brewery, Drie Fonteinen, Allagash Brewing, Side Project, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, Cascade Brewing, Almanac Beer Co., The Rare Barrel or Mikkeller.

Sours are brewers way of coloring outside the lines. Get funky and join the wild, wild yeast of the beer world.

Published in The Beer Goddess Blog

Brewers Association Reports Annual Growth Figures for Small and Independent Brewers

 
Boulder, CO • March 16, 2015—The Brewers Association (BA), the trade association representing small and independent American craft brewers, today released 2014 data on U.S. craft brewing(1) growth. For the first-time ever, craft brewers reached double-digit (11 percent) volume share of the marketplace.  
 
In 2014, craft brewers produced 22.2 million barrels, and saw an 18 percent rise in volume(2) and a 22 percent increase in retail dollar value.  Retail dollar value(3) was estimated at $19.6 billion representing 19.3 percent market share. 

Published in Beer News
Monday, 09 March 2015 17:04

The Buzz Crawl

More and more restaurants and bars are offering amazing craft beers in the Coachella Valley—and now there’s a new, responsible way to sample these tasty brews in Palm Springs.

Introducing the Buzz Crawl.

Published in The Beer Goddess Blog
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 22:18

Barrelworks Unleashes The 2015 "Feral One"

2nd Anniversary Wild Ale to Be Liberated on February 14


Buellton, CA—Cover your eyes and hide the children, as Firestone Walker Brewing Company is set to release the 2015 vintage of the Feral One—a rowdy sour ale blend that commemorates the second anniversary of the brewery’s Barrelworks wild yeast facility.

Published in Beer News

"Agrestic" Leads Charge for Remaining 2014 Liberations from Barrelworks

(Buellton, CA): The wild things are bouncing off the walls at Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s Barrelworks wild yeast facility, setting the stage for more unruly releases in 2014.

The next bottling to be sprung from Barrelworks is Agrestic, an American wild red ale that will be released at the Liberation of Agrestic event on September 20. Only 600 cases of 375ml bottles were produced, and they will only be available at Barrelworks and the brewery in Paso Robles.

Published in Beer News
Monday, 30 November -0001 00:00

Stones Throw Brewing

Published in Arkansas
Monday, 30 November -0001 00:00

Saddlebock Brewery

Published in Arkansas
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