Monday, August 13, 2012

Drink That Funky Porter…

If you have been frequenting The Bruery’s new tasting room since it opened a few weeks ago, you may have noticed (until recently at least) a set of beers bearing the name Carmen aged with various fruits. Carmen is a dark and beautiful sour ale not entirely unlike our sour stout, Tart of Darkness. 

Sour dark ales?! WTF, people who write my paycheck. WTF, indeed.

Brewing traditionalists might cry-foul at the mere notion of The Bruery mucking about in the pantheon of classic styles such as stouts, not unlike some beleaguered 10 Commandments of a forlorn and forgotten beer god who still believes in Leave It To Beaver family archetypes and pisses on the leg of anyone who uses the phrase “welcome to the 21st century”. And to those advocates of the steadfast, the tried, and the boringly true, I say: “Whatevs”.

Anywho…back to dark sour ales. Beers like Tart of Darkness and Carmen might sound strange to some, but believe me, there is some historical precedence.

Brettanomyces, the yeasts infamously found in Belgian Lambic, Farmhouse, and sour ales that produce aromas of horse blanket, smoke, and sweat…in a porter or a stout? You’re darn right.

I have an unhealthy fascination with historical beers—beers that, were it not for my propensity to piss off my wife with incessant homebrewed beer-tinkering, I might never get to try. Porter and Stout are two such historical brews that have held my carboys and kettles captive for a long time.

The history of porter and stout is the stuff of legends in the beer world, and like most legends, it holds about as much truth as a Ken Lay testimony. (Incidentally, has anyone noticed yet that my culture references are severely out of date?) Porter (and along with almost every other beer style) has had its history passed down through time in a game of academic telephone to the point that the modern version of the tale is filled with half-truths and speculation. There are a few things we can be sure of though, one of which is that Brettanomyces enjoyed porter just as much as the rest of us.

At one point in time, porter was a barreled product. And as Bruery fans probably know by now, Brettanomyces also like to go into barrels (they can live off the wood sugars). Put the two together and you get one Mutha’ Funky Porter. Read a few accounts by various brewing historians and they will all attest to the existence of Brett-based Porters. In other parts of the world, the Brett characters of clove, smoke, and horse blanket were actually considered essential components in British porter. Even a few years past World War II there was still at least one German brewer who used Brett in his “British Porter,” claiming that it was absolutely necessary to get the style right.

Modern accounts can make for some confusing reading, however. Some describe historical porter as tart and acidic from the use of Brettanomyces yeasts. While I’m sure that Brett just dove right into the beer and made a lovely home for its brood of bizarre flavors and aromas, it is not a yeast that will produce appreciable acidity in beer. (It can make a beer VERY dry by eating all the sugars that regular brewer’s yeasts think they’re too good for, and this dryness can sometimes be mistaken for acidity, however to most people the two perceptions are very different.) Brett will produce a fair amount of acetic acid (the acid in vinegar) if the conditions are just right (properly cellared barreled beer ain’t it though), but tartness and acidity in beer are usually associated with lactic acid production, something that Brett doesn’t do very well. Bacteria like Pediococcus and Lactobacillus do make a lot of lactic acid, which is why they are collectively and mundanely referred to as Lactic Acid Bacteria. So if some of these accounts are to be believed then it’s likely that producing a traditional porter would require pitching in some of these guys as well.

Really, I can only support my theory by extrapolating from statements like those above, though it would make sense that Brett wasn’t the only thing influencing historical porters in the barrel. (By the way, esteemed beer blogger Martyn Cornell has offered some interesting notes on historical porter flavor worth reading, here.) A lot of microbes can hang out in barrels, lactic acid bacteria being among them. Part of my graduate research was based on complaints from winemakers that whenever they found Brettanomyces in a barrel they often found Pediococcus as well. Lactic acid production by these bacteria is fairly strain-dependent, with some producing enough make your mouth cave in and others spitting out only tiny amounts. So it’s likely that you would have found some porters that were not as sour as others, potentially explaining the discrepancies of reputed sour levels. Also, some strains of Lactobacillus, though rare, can produce phenolic compounds similar to Brett yeasts.

So what am I saying here? While it’s probably not possible for us to ever know for sure, I think the argument can be made that early barreled porters had a fair amount in common with American sour beers or even Belgian Lambic, at least spiritually. It’s fascinating to think about what these historical beers actually tasted like. It also makes me wonder about other brews back in the 18th and 19th centuries. A lot of beers were barreled for shipping purposes or just to condition for a while. If Brett was a major part of Porter all those years ago, is it not possible that perhaps the famously barreled English IPA was also a Brett bomb, or that some of them may have even had some acidity? (The hops in IPA’s are usually pretty good deterrents against lactic acid bacteria, though a lot of strains do have resistance to them.) I’ve never seen reference in the beer history books about IPA’s referred to as “barnyardy” or “tart,” but who knows? Maybe the game of beer history telephone has obscured more of brewing’s oh so funky past. In any case, here at The Bruery we’re going to keep on keepin’ on, experimenting with styles and bending the rules. But in the case of Tart of Darkness and Carmen, I think that in a way we’re just following in the footsteps of all the famous beer-benders of brewing’s past.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Our Wood Cellarman's take on Sour Ales

-by Matt Strickland, The Bruery's Wood Cellarman

I wrote this piece about 8 months ago for another website I was writing for at the time ( Since we have a Sour Beer class coming up at The Bruery Provisions on August 13th (Stop by or email Provisions for more details) I thought this would be a good time to resurrect it for The Bruery blog. Of course you could also be cynical about the damn thing and call me lazy for rehashing stuff. You would also be right…and not my favorite person.

The Power of Sour: The Emergence of Modern Sour Beers

When I was 11 or 12 I considered myself a candy connoisseur. My appetite for those treats in the grocery-checkout lane was rarely sated. Always on the hunt for the next great sugar high, I found in my hand one day a bag of Warheads. (For the uninitiated, Warheads were superlatively sour bite-sized pieces of tooth torture.) I popped the first one into my mouth. My lips puckered and my tongue began to drown in cleansing saliva. I was hooked. From that day forward, I sought only the sourest of sour candies: lemon drops, candy straws, and gumballs that seemed to resemble miniature Death-Stars made solely of citric acid. I couldn’t get enough of that teeth-rotting goodness, but it was never sour enough. My friends and I searched relentlessly for something that would take tartness to the next level. We wanted pleasure and pain, the pre-adolescent equivalent to the type of jack-assery that ensues when you combine a nose, a straw, and wasabi.

My wife may dispute this point, but I am an adult now. My candy intake is strictly monitored. The sour candy indiscretions of my youth are long behind me. “Sellout!”, you say? No, I’ve just found new ways to get my fix. Sour candy youth transplants often veer towards the hot-sauce craze when they grow older, and I can certainly count myself amongst the capsaicin acolytes, but the object of my youthful obsession has been reincarnated in Belgian-style sour beers. Belgian lambics, Flanders reds and browns, and now a number of American breweries have thrown their barrels into that ring. It’s a great time to be a sour beer lover.

That First Taste

I encountered my first true sour ale about 7 years ago on trip to Chicago. I was a few years into my switch from big-brew swiller to microbrew maven when I came across a bottle of Lindeman’s Gueuze Cuvée René. I had heard of said beer through various outlets, and most of the reviews had been complimentary though a bit esoteric. The common aroma descriptors at the time were “barnyard”, “horse blanket”, and “sweat”, usually followed by acclaim and elitist caveats to the effect of “Not for the faint of heart.” Well, brew-love bravado brought out my wallet and I purchased the bottle for consumption later that night. I popped the cork with an air of sophistication and poured glasses for my two friends. We smelled. We sipped. They spit. I choked it down fast enough to feign an appreciative grin. It was one of those moments when I thought, “I should like this, but I don’t.” Further research led me to the conclusion that, like brussels sprouts, sour beer was an acquired taste. This concerned me. Despite my parents’ best intentions and dinner table ruses, I still can’t stand sprouts of any kind. All the same, I was determined to understand what the sour ale hubbub was about.

Fast-forward a few years. I was in Belgium on vacation with some friends, spending a few days in Antwerp. My knowledge of all things beery had led us to a hidden gem of a pub called The Kulminator. We sat down in the back patio encircled by crumbling stone walls and about a dozen stray cats. Our server was an affable old Flemish woman who spoke very little English. She quietly brought out the beer menu, a compendium of more than 500 beers, mostly Belgian and nearly half vintage-dated. Like any good beer geek, I had done my homework. I promptly went for Boon’s Framboise, a 3-year-old bottle of Belgian lambic sour beer aged with raspberries. Some minutes later, my anticipation was rewarded with a dusty bottle laid down in a small wicker basket. Our server poured us all a glass. I felt a thrill of trepidation. “Here we go again,” I thought. “Once more into the breach.” And there it was: the sight, the smell, and then the taste. Euphoria in my mouth and eureka in my mind, that bottle of lambic became a revelation. The aroma was laden with earthy notes, lactic sourness, and red fruit tones. The taste was light and lactic with a spritzy carbonation that cleansed a palate clamoring for more. I had found a new obsession.

Make no mistake—these beers are complex. Indeed, if you’ve been searching for a beer to put your faculties of smell and taste through a sensory decathlon, look no further. Depending on the sub-style you imbibe, you may encounter smells of raisins, dark fruit, apples, hay, horse blanket, honey, cherries, plums, raspberries, vanilla, cedar and more, all encased in a firm lactic sourness that can be subdued or brazen. Put the glass to your lips and tip it back. Those aromas become flavors coupled with perhaps a little caramel, toffee, maltiness, or citrus. Hopheads should check the lupulin madness at the door. With few exceptions, hop aroma and bitterness are virtually nonexistent in these beers. The acidity gives the balance that the hops would otherwise provide. These tend to be very refreshing beers, though some modern interpretations are a bit heavier. Most commercial examples are of moderate strength, and rarely will you see a sour ale go beyond 8% abv, though I’ve seen a number of newer beers in stronger territory.

Bugs in my beer…

Even if you’ve never tried sour ales, you’ve probably seen them. These curiosities on the shop shelves and bottle bars, their labels bearing strange names and unfamiliar words, are often passed over due to their seemingly odd nature and the high price tag so many of them command. Why are sour ales so bizarre, and why should you be willing to fork over your hard-earned scratch for them? It’s all in how they’re made.

When food goes sour, we usually consider it spoiled. The sour sensation we experience is caused by the presence of acids in the food. There are numerous common food acids, and they produce varying levels of perceived sourness on the palate. In fruits like apples and oranges (See? You can compare them), these acids are naturally present. In beer however, (putting aside the use of CO2 which forms carbonic acid and carbonation) the source of the sensorially important acids is often microbial. Beer yeast will produce varying amounts of lactic acid, but most strains that brewers use have been bred to keep these flavors in check.

Modern sour beer production takes a different approach. The brewers want those acids, and they use a number of microbes to get them. The three big “bugs,” as they are often called, that tend to get used in addition to standard brewer’s yeasts are Brettanomyces (a yeast), Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus (both are bacteria). American sour beer producers will often choose one or a combination of these critters to get the correct profile, while more “traditional” producers in Belgium often utilize all of them and a whole lot more. (Some producers will forgo the addition of microbes in favor of simply adding straight lactic acid, though in my opinion this yields inferior results.)

Most of these beers start out as normal, easy drinking brews. Mix some grains with water and lightly hop it. Brewer’s yeast gets pitched, and within a week or two you’ve got yourself a beer. It is during the steps taken after alcoholic fermentation when these beers are transformed. Methods vary from region to region and brewer to brewer, but they all include letting an “infection” take hold in the beer.

Lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Pediococcus move into the beer either through addition by the brewer or because they’ve been hanging out in the brewery all along. Either way, they set up shop and multiply. These guys produce the bulk of lactic acid found in sour ales. But if lactic acid was the only thing these bacteria could produce then these beers probably wouldn’t have too much to offer outside of making your mouth pucker a bit. For instance, strains of lactobacillus can produce certain compounds called tetrahydropyridines that are reminiscent of popcorn or white bread, and in extreme cases yield what is called “mousy taint”. Pediococcus can also produce a number of aroma compounds, though many of these haven’t been researched heavily in beer.

Of all the microbes found in beer and wine, Brettanomyces is certainly the most controversial. Feared by brewers and winemakers all over the world, it has found a circle of friends in those who love sour beers. The reasons for Brett’s notoriety lie in its behavior. You see, Brett is a survivor—you might even call it the Green Beret of the brewing yeast world. It can survive for long periods on very little food, even subsisting on wood sugars from barrels if nourishment gets tight. And as soon as Brett walks into your brewery, he kicks his feet up on the coffee table, and turns on that 24 hour “I Love Lucy” marathon you secretly want to watch. In other words, you’re not likely to get him to leave very easily. Once Brett gets around beer, like so many of us, he becomes an animal, grabbing all he can. Even though the brewer’s yeast should have eaten most of the beer sugars already, Brett is more than happy to hang around and pick up the scraps and can even ferment the sugars that brewer’s yeast can’t, such as dextrins (this is partly why sour ales are often so dry). On top of consuming sugar, Brettanomyces is famous for getting nourishment from a dozen other sources, usually forming some pretty interesting aroma compounds in the process. Ever hear someone describe an aroma of bandaids in beer? That’s Brett. Ever had a beer that had a subtle smoky flavor and yet no smoked malt was used? It could be Brett. Goat, barnyard, antiseptic, and rubber can also come from this yeast. On paper, none of this probably sounds particularly appealing, but in a glass the story is a whole lot better. These aromas are usually produced in fairly small amounts and can blend together into a medley that is exciting and otherworldly.

There are a couple of drawbacks to adding all of this microflora to the beer. One is that the flavors these microbes produce often take a lot of time to develop. It is not uncommon to hear of these beers sitting in barrels for months or even years before they ever see a bottle. Another issue brewers must contend with is that the flavors can sometimes run amuck, resulting in beers that are less than balanced and sometimes completely ruined. For instance, lactic acid bacteria can produce a fair amount of diacetyl (smells a lot like movie theatre buttered popcorn) when the beer is young, though this is considered a fault in most styles and time is needed for the compound to be metabolized into less aromatic compounds like acetoin or 2,3-butanediol before the beer should be served. If the wrong strain of Brett is used or if conditions allow it to get out of control, the beer could wind up smelling like the bandage aisle of the drug store. As Peter Bouckaert of New Belgium Brewing was quoted as saying, “If you want to be good, you’re going to have to dump some beer.”

So go buy a bottle already…

Selling people on sour beers can be a tricky endeavor. These beers usually do not resemble what most people consider “true” beer. Their flavors are pronounced and the price of admission can be steep at times. (Some bottles fetch prices of $30+, but most examples can be had for $20 or less.) But for those with an adventurous spirit, they can be revelatory beverages worthy of your time and money. And as with most great adventures, these brews are best shared with friends and food. Pour yourself a glass and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The following is a list of recommended brews with general tasting notes. Due to the nature of these beers, production is often small and you may not be able to find some of them in your area. Ask around. The world of sour ales is getting bigger all the time, and as much as I’d like to, there’s just not enough room here to list all the great ones. Cheers.

Sans Pagiae (The Bruery; 5.8% abv)
We make quite a number of sour ales here at The Bruery, however this one is currently one of my favorites. This is our version of a Belgian-style Kriek. It’s perfectly funky with a pleasing sourness and expressive cherry flavors. Find a bottle fast before they’re all gone.

Temptation (Russian River Brewing; 7.25% abv)
Vinnie Cilurzo has been at the forefront of the American wild ale scene for several years now with his line of barrel aged beauties. Temptation is a Belgian style blonde aged for 12 months in Chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces. This beer showcases a lovely tartness with plenty of oak and fruit to back it up.

Kriek (Brouwerij Cantillon; 5% abv)
Cantillon is one of the most prominent producers of traditional lambic beers coming out of Belgium. Hunt down anything with their name on the bottle, but this one in particular is a real treasure. Earthy, musty, and sour wrap around subtle cherry and red fruit flavors. This is the real deal.

Rodenbach Grand Cru (Brouwerij Rodenbach; 6%abv)
Sour ale lovers would hunt me down and drown me in a vat of Bud Lite if I didn’t mention this beer. This is a great example of the Flanders Red style from Belgium. Aged for nearly 2 years in oak tuns, this is a beer designed for quiet contemplation. Tart cherry and vanilla give way to a background of malty sweetness. Truly classic.

La Folie (New Belgium Brewing; 6% abv)
New Belgium Brewing was lucky enough to steal Peter Bouckaert away from Rodenbach several years ago and it’s a good thing too. Bouckaert is a God in the sour beer world of Odin like proportions, but this beer feels more of a Loki-like effort for all its mischievousness. Sour apple, oak, dark fruits and a hint of Brett: What’s not to love?

Kriek Ale (Cascade Brewing; 7.3% abv)
For my money, these guys are some of the most creative producers of American sour beers. The logo on their T-shirts even reads “House of Sour” so you know what you’re in for here. Their Kriek spends over 6 months in oak with their own special strain of Lactobacillus. This is an intensely sour beer with gorgeous cherry aromas and a hint of cherry pie crust in the mouth.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Matt Strickland - The Wood Cellarman

I am the Wood Cellarman for The Bruery. What is a “Wood Cellarman”, you ask? Well, going beyond the fifth-grade level innuendo that is giggling through your brain right about now, it means that I take care of The Bruery’s barrel program. Essentially I cellar a lot of wood…There ya go; you can get it all out of your damn system…


If you’re reading this blog right now it probably means that you’re a fan of The Bruery or that you have some insatiable and disturbing fetish that I promise you, even on my best day I couldn’t satisfy…so move along. However, if you fall into the first camp then you probably already have an idea of what it is I do.

The Bruery currently boasts one of the largest (I believe we’re in second place right now behind Goose Island) barreled beer programs in the country. When I interviewed for this job back in February we were sitting at 1300 barrels filled with another 200-300 waiting to be filled. When I started this gig a month ago we were at 1700 filled with another 300 on the fill list. And in 3 weeks or so we’ll have a total of 2500 barrels in the warehouse with another 500 on the way by the end of the year.

It reminds me of a joke that Jerry Seinfeld once told about painting his apartment every year and the room felt just a little bit smaller as a result. (Except in my case the “paint” is barrels and I don’t have a TV show that will inexplicably turn all my friends’ careers into road kill.) Every day I walk into that enormous warehouse and it feels just a little bit smaller.

In addition to maintaining one of the largest barrel programs in the U.S., I believe we also have one of the most complex programs as well. Between our Bourbon Barrel program and our sour beer program we have nearly 20 different beers sitting in barrel. Within each beer there are often multiple batch types, differing production methods, and barrel selections. Some barrels we age for years and won’t make it into this year’s blends while other barrels will. It’s as much a science as it is a craft - Take that Stephen Hawking!

When I tell people about my job, two questions usually come up: 1. Why would you want to be a Wood Cellarman? And, 2. How did you get the job?

The answer to the second question is that I interviewed with Patrick and Tyler months ago and I imagine most likely they went out that night, drank a bit too much Black Tuesday and one of them dared the other to hire me.

The answer to the first question is a bit more involved.

Barrels have a long history in beer and wine. Millennia have passed with very few changes or advances in the art of coopering. Barrels are still largely put together by hand with rudimentary tools, by skilled craftsmen and artists whose very existence should be celebrated in the form of a national holiday. (Even Beauty Queens get an entire week in August and not a single one of them has come through on their promises for bikini-clad world peace.)

Wood has an amazing impact on beer. It can impart a wide array of flavors and aromas. It can alter the beer’s texture. It can act as a home for microbes looking to get messed up on some beer sugars. Or it can simply act as a container for the beer to slowly mature in. No other material can have the same effects on beer and this is why beer has been sloshing around in barrels for centuries now. It is very much a part of the storied craft beer tradition and I’m very fortunate to play a part in it.

My day to day is rarely routine. Some days I’m racking the contents of puncheon barrels into smaller sized wine barrels, or maybe adding some cocoa nibs and vanilla bean to some bourbon barrels. Other days have me receiving barrel shipments, taking samples, or performing mini-blends. My mop has also become a close friend.

As a fan of The Bruery you may have noticed that we are in the middle of a substantial expansion process right now. As I mentioned above, our barreled beer program is roughly doubling in size this year and it’s not like it was the runt of the litter to begin with. Nearly half our production goes through my warehouse at some point and in the coming months I plan on sharing more about what we do here and about barrels in general. So keep pouring glasses of Oude Tart, Sour in the Rye, Anniversary, and Black Tuesday, because I promise you, we’ve got more on the way. Until then, I swear to keep a watchful eye on them for ya.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Four Years... Goes By Quick!

I apologize to all of you in blogland.  First off, I apologize for not contributing to the blog.  I've avoided writing here for a very long time, and while I'd like to commit to more blog posts, I feel that doing so won't actually help in me posting more frequently.  Secondly, I apologize for not being more timely with this post!  I was supposed to write about our four years of being in business during our anniversary month, but with the ten anniversary events our 31 days of May archive promotion, new fermenters, Tasting Room and related construction, and all of the other changes going on at The Bruery, I couldn't find the time!

My life four years ago versus now is completely different.  On June 13th, 2008, Tyler was The Bruery's only employee.  The two of us did everything.  Brewing, bottling, labeling, cleaning, bookkeeping, sales, compliance, the list goes on.  Actually, we did have some great volunteers who helped bottle.  Some of their wives still haven't forgiven them for the 12+ hour days of bottling (and as a result, coming home smelling like a brewery).  One of the early volunteers, Ben Weiss, became a legitimate part time employee on June 23rd.  In all of 2008, we brewed the equivalent of what we now brew in less than a week.  While each task was fairly minimal given our size at the time, it was a ton of work because it was the first time I was doing any of these tasks, other than cleaning toilets!

We sold our beer in Southern California exclusively with about six accounts, and on June 9th, we sent our first shipment to Stone Brewing Co.  It consisted of 12 kegs of Black Orchard, 55 cases of Batch No. 1, 55 cases of Saison Rue, 55 cases of Orchard White, 12 kegs of Orchard White, 5 cases of glassware, and 18 tap handles (which we made ourselves).  

Pallets of Batch No. 1 - Levud's in the brewery.
This first order was the biggest order we'd ship to them until November of 2008.  I had no idea what to expect as far as sales volume in the first year, and I was very afraid about brewing too much and having a bunch of beer I couldn't sell.  Plus, I was running out of cash and literally couldn't afford to purchase kegs or more bottles until we sold what we already packaged.  It was part of the plan to put beer into bourbon and wine barrels to kick off our barrel aging program, and this made up a significant amount of production in the first year.  I believe we filled around 50 barrels between June and December of 2008.  We had four fermenters, and at this point we likely only had Trade Winds Tripel in the fermenter.  Three fermenters were empty, something today that would drive me nuts!  This batch of Trade Winds only used thai basil from my backyard.  This basil bush went from amazingly full with flowers and leaves to being a bundle of sticks after this first 30 BBL batch.  We bottled that batch on June 23rd, and weren't able to sell it until mid-August.  Nowadays we start selling Trade Winds in April.  When October came around and we started selling Autumn Maple, we still had quite a bit of Trade Winds in inventory that we had to sell by the case from the tasting room at a steep discount.  By the end of the year, my wife Rachel came on board to manage the books and Jonas came on board to help in the tasting room.  The first year for The Bruery was very difficult.  My Dad (my business partner and The Bruery president) and I met every few weeks, and I'd bring the current financial reports and we'd compare them to projections.  Those were disappointing times to say the least.  There is nothing worse than trying to raise more money than when you're in the process of losing it.  We lost a ton of cash, it was a lot of work, but somehow I have mostly fond moments of that time.  The beer must have kept me happy!

Comparing our first year to our fourth year is tough-- we might as well be talking about two different breweries.  We now have 45 employees, and will likely hit over 50 employees within the next few months.  We are distributed in 20 states (plus DC), a few countries, and we're able to sell everything we produce.  What a great situation to be in, right?!  On an ongoing basis, 40% of our production goes into oak barrels, where on average it will age for 14 months.  Our barrel aged beers include everything from rich stouts to sour ales and other experimentations.
The new Tasting Room in progress.

We are also building a new cellar with 130% more stainless fermentation capacity than we currently have, a new tasting room, a pilot brewhouse, more warehousing space, and a dedicated QC lab!  Thankfully, The Bruery isn't losing money anymore. However, we are spending everything we have to build this new part of our brewery, and invest in our barrel aged beers where we won't see a return for some time.  My tasks have gone from doing everything at the brewery to just doing what I want to work on, or at least that's the goal.  It's a spectacular thing, but to be honest, I'm still stressed!  It's just part of my personality that probably won't go away, no matter how good things are going.

I look forward to the next four years, and wonder how I'll perceive myself and The Bruery of 2012 in 2016.  Will I consider The Bruery of 2012 to be as small as I now consider The Bruery of 2008?  Or will I have overestimated our demand, and find myself selling cases in the tasting room at a steep discount?  I'm also curious where the craft brewing industry will be in 2016-- will we reach 10%+ marketshare, or will there be less breweries than today?  All I know is it'll be an interesting ride.

Thank you to all of our supporters, including our fans, loyal accounts, distributors, suppliers, writers, current and past employees, for making The Bruery's success possible!  This isn't just The Bruery's anniversary, it's all of our anniversary.  I look forward to the continued opportunity to celebrate life and great beer with you.

The Bruery

Thursday, April 12, 2012

History of Whiskey

You can't really understand what a bourbon or whiskey barrel does for a beer if you don't know anything about whiskey.  Spend an evening watching these videos and you'll find yourself more understanding of what was going on in our oak barrels before beer went into them.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Momma, where do barrels come from?

Step 1)  Learn to fell a tree.  (don't try this without proper instruction from a certified lumberjack!)

Step 2) Learn the art of cooperage.

Step 3) Create a barrel factory where things are done a bit more efficiently.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Video - On Sour Ales

Our barrel aging program has a strong focus on sour beers.  Here is a short video featuring Patrick, Tyler and Jay, describing some of the basics behind sour beers.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Foods made with healthy bacteria

It may seem weird to some people that we brew our sour beers with bacteria, but check out some of these very common foods that are made with similar micro-organisms.


Kimchi fermentation is carried out by various microorganisms present in the raw materials and ingredients of kimchi. Among them, lactic acid bacteria which can grow in 3% brine play the most active role in the kimchi fermentation; it suppresses the growth of other bacteria which could grow under such conditions.

Among the 200 bacteria isolated form kimchi, the important microorganisms in kimchi fermentation are known to be Lactobacillus plantarum, L. Brevis, Streptococcus faecalis, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, and Pediococcus pentosaceus. Most kinds of bacteria belonging to the genus Lactobacillus have been found to be present in kimchi.


All foods are continually assaulted by many kinds of microorganisms, racing to eat as much as possible. When you pickle vegetables by fermentation, you help one type of microbe win this "race."

More specifically, you create special conditions in your pickle crock that keep away "bad" spoilage-causing microorganisms, and that allow a unique class of "good" bacteria, called lactic acid bacteria, to colonize your cucumbers.

As lactic acid bacteria grow in your pickle crock, they digest sugars in the cucumbers and produce lactic acid. Not only does this acid give the pickles their characteristic sour tang, it controls the spread of spoilage microbes. Also, by gobbling up the sugars, lactic acid bacteria remove a potential food source for bad bacteria.



"Here's a sourdough bâtard from Artisan Bakers in Sonoma," says Danielle Forestier, a French-trained master baker in Oakland, just across the bay from San Francisco. "I'm checking the package," she reports over the phone. "It's made of unbleached flour, water, and salt. Three ingredients, lots of taste, great texture." Yet a typical supermarket white bread has more than 25 ingredients and additives and still tastes vapid. 

The difference is those fermenting bugs. The baker's yeast in supermarket bread creates a virtual monoculture of S. cerevisiae. The sourdough bâtard, on the other hand, is a product of natural fermentation involving wild yeasts and bacteria. Almost all the bacteria are lactobacilli, cousins of the bacteria that curdle milk into yogurt and cheese. "These lactobacilli outnumber yeasts in sourdough by as many as 100 to one," Sugihara says. It's the acids they make that give sourdough its tartness. Not only that, say European researchers, the bacteria also contribute carbon dioxide as well as aromatic compounds that infuse bread with flavor and delicious smells.

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Yogurt is made when specific bacteria are added to milk in a controlled environment and allowed to ferment. 

For a dairy product to be called yogurt, it must contain two bacteria: Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Many types of yogurt incorporate other species as well, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei. In many countries, yogurt must also contain live bacteria and remain unpasteurized, with pasteurized yogurts being specially labeled. Pasteurized yogurt has a long shelf life and does not need to be kept refrigerated, but it also doesn't have the health benefits of live yogurt.