It’s high time we took a few moments to talk about how frickin’ awesome our special release program has gotten. This year, we were able to get our Barrel Wizards their own (not so) little piece of real estate at our new Fortress of Raditude, complete with a vastly expanded barrel-warehouse and a bunch of rad new toys which they have been employing with devastating effectiveness. Since we’ve been consistently getting our hair blown back by the fruits of their labor, we wanted to give you all a chance to share in our perpetual state of excitement and anticipation. This time around, we’re highlighting the evolution of three of the most creative, experimental, and overall badass sour beers we’ve made thus far.
Thermometer Island & Lightning Helix
The first two members of this delicious liquid trio are the progeny of our barrel program and a local citrus farm. Before we get into the fruit, let’s talk about the base beer, which is totally amazing in its own right.
The base for both of these wonderful sours is our red wine barrel-aged saison, which has been steadily evolving into something really magical over the last few years. As we continue to develop this beer–changing malts; adding to and adjusting microflora blends; and adding more and more barrels, each of which have their own unique personality–we broaden the blending options, giving us a huge selection of flavors & acidities to choose from, and deepening the flavor and complexity of the beer as time passes. We’re extremely pleased with how it’s progressed, and it blends with fruit like an absolute champion.
We add lots of different fruit to our sour beers, but we’re often drawn back to citrus–chiefly by virtue of our own geography and the bounty of mind-blowing fruit we’re surrounded by. We’re also kind of shocked that you don’t see it more prominently featured in regional beers, especially since we find that many barrels respond magnificently to the acidity and juiciness of California citrus. To this end, we’ve recently been spending some time at an idyllic, bio-dynamic citrus playground an hour north of us in Bonsall, and it’s been a total game-changer. Every trip, we discover rad new flavors and aromas that we can’t wait to work with, and it’s led to some seriously tasty new beers.
For Thermometer Island, we paired some gorgeous Satsuma Mandarins and Cara Cara Oranges with a Brett-heavy, citrus-forward version of our red wine barrel-aged saison, allowing it to condition on the halved fruit for 3 months. The result is, hands down, one of the most aromatic and complex beers we’ve ever been responsible for.
Lightning Helix was created in much the same way, but using a ripe, juicy harvest of Meyer lemons. The subtle, herbal character of the Meyer lemon comes out immediately on the nose and is backed up by soft acidity and citrus, yielding a beer that’s incredibly unique and unbelievably quenching.
Goblin Ski Patrol
On the non-fruited front, Goblin Ski Patrol takes a completely different path toward a destination every bit as complex and delicious as its two compatriots. The result of a ridiculous amount of blending, sampling, spirited debate, and critical levels of nerdery, this blended sour is even more delicious than the sum of its exceptionally tasty parts.
We began by creating a number of blends that all accentuated different characteristics. The first blend contained all barrel-aged versions of our sour blonde, Batch 1500 (our dark saison), a rye-heavy saison, and our house saison. As it turned out, we weren’t totally thrilled with using all barrel-aged components; they all had a vein of oak and age-derived acidity which was a bit too homologous for our liking.
To mix things up a bit, we ramped up the Brett character and tweaked the mouthfeel with an addition of Transit of Venus, our house grisette, which had been aged in a clay amphora. Traditionally used to age wine, the amphora adds a unique minerality and extends the mouthfeel. It's truly an amazing component to play around with, and did wonders for the final blend. Finally, we rounded out some of the existing fruitiness with a small round of dry-hopping with Wai-Iti before refermenting with fresh saison for bottle conditioning.
If that sounds like a lot of work, it was, but we’re immensely proud of the final result, which is a complicated, complex beer that manages to be incredibly enjoyable as well as thought-provoking. It also makes us super excited to get some foeders in the mix.
That’s a whole lot of info, and it’s just the tip of the tasty, tasty iceberg. We’ve got a host of rad fruited sours and new blends in the works, and we just filled our amphora with a beer/cider hybrid, among other things. We’ll be keeping this blog updated with special project news on a more regular basis from now on, so stay tuned if that’s your kind of party.
Of course, all of these beers will be available on Monday, 6/19 at 10AM as part of our latest online sale. If that’s news to you, you should definitely join our email list.