One of the best things about the advanced stages of homebrew obsession is being involved in ongoing barrel projects. This was the first big group project I got involved in and my second project using the Solera method. At some point I need to document more of that here, but I’m terrible at posting, so I can’t make promises. The batch we brewed this day was either the third or fourth batch to be put into the barrel. The barrel is a third hand oak wine barrel. I want to say I heard of it originally being a Cabernet barrel, but it’s pretty stripped at this point, so it matters little in the finished beer. Every six months, another 20g batch of sour ale is taken out, and pre-fermented Belgian golden ale put back in.
Today Commish and I were brewing the 20g replacement batch, which will get racked in around October. It’s always nice to come out to Gretna and brew in Commish’s Old Man’s garage in the woods. A nice little ritual for every 6 months or so. Typically it’s a bit of a party, with the Mt. Gretna Homebrew Club all coming by to help out, drink beers, and participate in merriment, but on this occasion everyone was sadly elsewhere. It was a big batch and a long day to be brewing on our own.
Brew day was pretty straightforward though. One of the nice things about coming out here is getting to check on a few projects that we’ve got going. It’s always nice to check and see where the barrel is at. Solera develops flavor exponentially, so every time you taste the barrel it’s deeper, more complex, and more well rounded. At this point we are getting almost Gueuzey vibes from it, though it never sits long enough to drop bright or develop quite that level of acetic. So it’s sort of a strawish yellow, with layers of sour fruit flavors and just a whiff of that acetic to carry it through. Loads of nice tannic grippiness too.
We also finally got to try this golden sour ale/kombucha/IPA accident, that we’d been hearing about. Commish and I had dumped some Booch into some leftover barrel beer, and left it there to get stinky, and Old Man mistook it for one of his IPAs and dry hopped it all to hell. This is the sort of thing that could go horribly wrong, but somehow, it came out pretty incredible. It’s light, hoppy, and sour as hell, yet very refreshing and highly drinkable.
Last time we were up here tending to the beers, I took the opportunity to brew up a Belgian strong pale ale recipe that I’d been looking at as a strong sour ale base. Most of our sours to this point have been in the -6% range. This one would be up around 9%. I was really curious how the bugs would respond to that alcohol level, and what the eventual flavors would be like. On this occasion we had a chance to taste the finished base beer and add 4lbs of foraged mulberries, and some ECY02, Flemish Ale yeast. (Note: at the time of this posting, I’ve actually tried this beer a couple months in, and it is turning out amazing. Really looking forward to this one!)
Here’s the recipe. We mashed at about 152˚, for 90min.
Looking forward to heading up to Gretna again soon. Especially because it will be bottling time. I can’t wait to sample the beer again, and we have some great secondary aged versions of this beer coming to us with various fruits added. I’ll have to do a post on those later.