Big Bad Brett & Our Barrel-Aging Program
Lurking, deep in crimson staves resides a breed of microbes—explosive, frantic and frequently berzerk in temperament—they are Brettanomyces, a wild form of natural yeast. Grant them sugar, a stable environment, and in due time, flavors ripe with spice, earthiness, funk, and barnyard will succeed, mimicking styles of old. To the casual beer drinker, traits of farmhouse ales may pass as unpleasant, like sipping a glass of curdled milk, but for geeks, it satisfies that nagging itch. Aging beers in barrels and pitching wild yeast is an established practice, but for us, it's a newly pursued direction.
"To the casual beer drinker, the traits of farmhouse ales may pass as unpleasant, like sipping a glass of curdled milk, but for geeks, it satisfies that nagging itch."
Shane, formerly of Jester King Brewery's Apprentice Program and the current barrel director of Humble Sea, is designing a variation of barrel-aged beers, reminiscent of classic farmhouse ales. In a stable room, barrels are filled with a basic Saison recipe; however, each barrel is slightly modified. For example, one barrel might contain Sacrohamyces while the next solely Brettanomyces, and the adjacent, a combination of the two. The base recipe remains the same, but adjustments are performed to contrast and enrich flavors.
The program boils down to flavor—great flavors which aren't found elsewhere. So to ensure the best beer, we joined forces with experts in the brewing industry. Last month, three brewers from Humble Sea (Nick, Shane, and Ben) hooked up with Sean Venus of Venus Spirits and David Nosagrup of Fruition Brewing to craft a 10 barrel batch of base Saison. The brew day was typical—boiling of the kettle, removal of spent grain, and the transferring of hot liquid. But unlike most sessions, the final product was 300 gallons of wort, destined for oak barrels. Once pumped into their new home, the wort received a pitch of yeast and set to age for an undetermined amount of time.
The kickoff of a barrel-aging program represents more than progress, but an opportunity to cultivate new eccentric styles. At the end of the day, brewing needs to be indicative of passion, personality and preference. So if the love for beers rich with spice, barnyard, and earthy tones are the jam, then patiently hang around as we start a new chapter.