Christmas is Coming Early
The second Friday of December means one thing to the fine people who work day in and day out within our brewery walls: Our annual holiday party. There have been mariachi bands. There have been fire dancers. There have been freak shows. There’s even been a guy who let us staple money to his bare body. (The larger the denomination, the larger the area of choice…if you catch our drift.)
The entertainment always changes, but one thing remains the same. Our brewmaster and genius team of brewers unleash beers that have flown under the radar until that fateful Friday. Experimental ingredients, never-before-used yeast strains, extreme aging — nothing is off limits.
We keep these beers to ourselves, putting them on tap for one night and one night only. But this year, we’re sharing the wealth. This Saturday, we’re releasing a Flander’s Red, a Foeder-Aged Orchard Ale (a collaboration with Distillery Lane Ciderworks), an experimental Chestnut Ale and a Smoked Sour Wheat during what aptly dubbed Brewmaster’s Christmas.
Allow the man himself, our Brewmaster Ben Clark, to explain:
Flander’s Red 5.8% ABV
What is the history of Flander’s Red? It’s a Belgian red/brown ale that is aged in barrels or foeders for extended periods, 6 months to 2 years or so, and often blended with younger versions of itself to make up for a lack of body, as the bacteria and yeast consume almost all sugars in the wort, leaving a thin, dry beer. The specific blend of yeast and bacteria is important, and the profile can be influenced by the balance of these organisms.
How long has ours been in the Foeder? Around 2 years
What happens to the flavor as it ages? Acetic acid notes increase (vinegar flavor) and beer dries out. The acids produced create a complexity that help add character where the lack of body (from long aging/sugar reduction) leaves a gap. The best Flander’s are dry and complex.
What should be expect from our release? Subtle notes of acetic acid with hints of dark fruit and cherry and a dry finish.
Foeder-Aged Orchard Ale 8.5%
What is a foeder and what does it do to beer? A foeder is a wooden vessel utilized to age beer long-term. It allows a slow uptake of O2, which acts as an inoculation source as the wood holds the yeast and/or bacteria in the vessel. When it’s refilled or topped off, the resulting beer is very similar to the previous version.
How are we incorporating the cider into our beer? It is added at start of fermentation and comprises 50 percent of the actual beer.
Ciders are also becoming very popular – why Distillery Lane? We have had a long-time working relationship with DLC, and we love their focus on traditional English cider varieties grown locally.
Flavor profile? Apples, phenolics, barnyard notes. The younger it is consumed, the more apple character and sweetness/roundness should be expected.
Does this beer age well? Absolutely. A pronounced barnyard character will develop, and beer will dry out over time.
Chestnut Ale, 6.6% ABV
How did this concept come about? It’s a local partnership with a teacher in West Virginia who has a chestnut grove on his property and happened to reach out.
Why did we decide to give chestnuts a try? It was our first time really diving into using a product like this in a beer. It seemed interesting on the surface, and after some research we found it was a common malt substitute for individuals with gluten allergies. They have a surprisingly similar flavor to base malt.
Compared to other ingredients, what percentage of chestnuts are we using? 5%
This is our second year brewing this beer. What are we finding chestnuts do most – flavor, aroma, texture? They add a subtle flavor, mild buttery sweetness added to palette.
What should we expect flavor wise from this year’s release? This beer will be more dominated by the fruits added, plums and black currants. You will get dark fruit notes alongside sweeter and fuller body in part from the chestnuts.
Smoked Sour Wheat, 5.6%
How was this brewed? We used a kettle souring process.
Special ingredients? We used a beechwood smoked malt from Copper Fox, a distillery and maltster in southwest Virginia.
Flavor profile? Slight smoke both in the nose and finish. A distinct tartness combined with prominent hop character (all coming from Simcoe). Believe me when I say it is surprisingly refreshing, despite so many things going on. It all works really well together.
All four will be on tap in our tasting room starting at noon this Saturday. You can thank us then for sharing.