Keep Em' Coming

When AltBrau began in 2013 we never imagined we would have the opportunity to work alongside some of our favorite breweries or pour our creations at some of the best beer events. A short five years later and we are happy to announce several upcoming collaborations, the progress we are making in our test batches/home brew, and where you will be able to try our beer...

Collaboration: Tioga Sequoia


On April 20th we drove a few hours south to our hometown of Fresno, CA. Our friends at Tioga Sequoia Brewing Co. opened up the doors to their brewhouse and taproom and we brewed something a little outside their comfort zone. TSBC are known locally for their aromatic IPAs and crisp lagers and in the beer trading community for their adjunct and barrel aged stouts. So... of course... we went a totally different direction for our collaboration.

Using their 2bbl pilot brewhouse we split a batch into two Speidel fermenters and pitched Lactobacillus Plantarum (a souring bacteria). The next day we returned and pitched 2 different Brettanomyces isolates from The Yeast Bay.

In a few more weeks we will return to check that they are done fermenting before dry hopping and packaging. We will also be sure to visit our parents this time (sorry mom).

Collaboration: FreeWheel Brewing & South City Ciderworks


Back in August of 2016 we worked with FreeWheel Brewing Co., known for their English style ales, to see what a saison on cask would be like. It was a very popular option in their taproom that summer so we wanted to make an equally refreshing option for their customers this summer. Our goal is something a little unusual... a largely undefined style referred to as "Graf" which is a hybrid between beer and cider.

We brewed a wort utilizing english malts and hops and called our friends at South City Ciderworks to get some of their house juice blend. We added the juice to the wort (about 35% juice by volume) and fermented with an Belgian Abbey style yeast that was actually isolated from a from a Belgian-style beer produced by a brewery in the North-Eastern United States.

You can expect to find this refreshing 5%-6% experiment on draft in the San Francisco Bay Area in the next couple months.

Collaboration: Shady Oak Barrel House

Photo Credit: Aleksey Bochkovsky

Photo Credit: Aleksey Bochkovsky

Photo Credit: Aleksey Bochkovsky

Photo Credit: Aleksey Bochkovsky

In our last blog we covered our recent collaboration with Steve Doty at Shady Oak Barrel House and our experiment with dried Persian limes. That beer, released under Steve's "Cellar Wizard" series came out great. This, however, was not the first of our efforts with SOBH to create an awesome beer.

Roughly 8 months ago we began working with Steve and he started teaching us about sourcing barrels, wort, working with funky yeast and bacteria, etc. With our creative input and utilizing some of the connections we had made, SOBH filled a few with a saison base and fermented it with cultures from Nick Impellitteri at The Yeast Bay in San Leandro, CA.

These beers have now been packaged and are currently conditioning in bottles and keg. We will be releasing a tart, mixed-culture saison hopped with Czech Saaz and a golden sour ale hopped heavily with Ekuanot. You can expect to see these in July.

Due to our involvement in every step of the creation of these beers, we feel these releases will most closely represent the styles of beer you can expect from AltBrau when we launch our commercial operation.

Homebrewing: Research and Development


Although we have stayed very busy with collaborations, we have made sure to make time for small batch experimentation and recipe testing. These 3-8 gallon batches serve as the basis for our future commercial releases and it's important that we learn as much as we can about ingredient interactions, how much carbonation to shoot for, and the behavior of various yeast strains.

We recently had some issues with some of our wild yeast/bacteria captures and had to dump several bottles. It may seem easy to do so on such a small batch, but it was still heartbreaking. We cannot, however, allow subpar product to become part of our normal operations at any scale and we plan to be just as diligent about quality when we reach a commercial scale... even if that means dumping a barrel.

On a positive note... we've also had some great results from a recent batch where we used a Nordic farmhouse yeast (Kviek) along with Brettanomyces to create a delicious beer. We bottled that experiment as well as a mixed culture saison, and a blend of those two with authentic Belgian lambic.

So where can you try these beers?

Event: Carnivale Brettanomyces


Every year in Amsterdam the world of wild, sour, funky, and spontaneously fermented beers gather at Carnivale Brettanomyces. Over the course of four days a combination of professional and amateur brewers and blenders are featured at several local beer bars, breweries, and restaurants and a wide variety of beverages are served.

AltBrau has had the distinct honor of being invited to pour our beers at the homebrewers event on Thursday June 21st at Oedipus Brewing. If you'd like to try our collaboration beers with Shady Oak or our recent test batches this is the perfect place.

Throughout the weekend you will also be able to try beers from such producers as Drie Fonteinen, Trillium, Bokkereyder, Saint Somewhere, h.ertie, and many many others. We are excited to attend a dinner featuring the beers of Tommie Sjef and to see our friends (and old collaborators) Trevor and Linsey Rogers from De Garde.

Of course, we wouldn't be able to visit Europe without reaching out to some of the other up-and-coming breweries that will be pouring at Carnivale Brett to see if we could do a collaboration...

Collaboration: Antidoot Wilde Fermenten

Antidoot is the creation of Tom and Wim Jacobs, two brothers from Kortenaken, Belgium, about 90 minutes outside of Brussels. Like AltBrau, they making the transition from homebrewers to commercial operation. On their property they have constructed their own farmhouse brewery and barrel house and create beers using native/indigenous yeast and bacteria that grows amongst their grape vine and apple trees (they also make wine and cider).

We have been invited to stay on the farm in the days following Carnivale Brettanomyces (they will pouring as well) and we plan to brew a few batches on their system. We will be joined by a few other friends and brewers on these collaborations including Aiden from Bretty Fingers and staff from Nevel Artisan Ales

Apartment Home Brew Experiments

Any home brewer will tell you, no matter how much they love the hobby, that you have to make the effort and get motivated to keep the beers coming. After a week of work, being an attentive partner to your significant other, a parent, and making an effort to be social and hang with your friends... there doesn't always feel like there is a ton of time for brewing. On top of all that add living in the Bay Area of Northern California or other metropolitan area and chances are you will also run into space issues. No garage, no yard, no patio. So what do you do?

Improvise, experiment, and get used to small batches.

When I'm not convincing my buddies to let me brew on their pro systems or blend from their barrels (aka "The Easy Part") I am brewing 1-3 gallon batches on my little stove with a low power electric coil as my only heat source. This doesn't mean, however, that you cant have a lot of fun. I recommend hitting up your local homebrew shop and grabbing some specialty malts or adjunct ingredients you've never tried. Is there a hop variety in their fridge you haven't heard of? Fuck it! Go For it! Although it can suck to only have a couple bottles (I really like bottling in Champagne bottles but you can definitely grab 12oz bottles so you can get a few more to share) it's much less risky to experiment if you are risking only 1-3 gallons going bad.

If you are fortunate enough to have a mini-fridge or other space for temperature controlled fermentation than you are in good shape. But... if you are (like me) really tight on space and have limited ability to temp control I would suggest making beers using yeast varieties that are ok at a wider range of temps. I use saison yeast a lot and let it free-rise. If you really need temp control for the style beers you want to make there are options available or plenty of creative DIY projects you can find online.

For small batch apartment brewing I highly suggest you use the "Brew In A Bag" (BIAB) method. Using a cloth bag you can do your mash in the same vessel you do your boil in. Be sure to get your strike temperature dialed in (the water before you add the grain) and expect a few degree drop once the grain goes in. Click HERE for a handy calculator to help you determine the strike temp.

Invite your friends (who most likely haven't home brewed) over next time you start setting up. Ask your partner to weigh out some grains with you and show them how to use the mill. Making the time to home brew always feels good, and sharing a bottle of something you made in your modest home setup is one the best feelings in the world. Just don't forget the #1 rule of homebrewing... you have to be drinking a beer while you do it!

Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

(Avenue No. 3 Blending)

While on our European adventure, we spoke with Trevor from De Garde Brewing about how much fun we had blending with him last year when creating Avenue No. 1 and Avenue No. 2 for the folks at New Avenues for Youth and their amazing annual event Brews for New Avenues. The subject eventually got around to whether or not there would be an Avenue No. 3 for this years B4NA. Between the trip we were already on, the projects we had on the books, and Trevor's production schedule... we weren't very sure.

So as you can imagine we were very pleased to discover some free time for all parties involved in March 2017. Not only would Avenue No 3 be happening, but we would have a variety of Belgian Lambics to blend with as well. We called up our friend Bobby Taul, previously featured here on the blog, and he joined us on the trip last week. 

We met with James Bruce and Andy LoPiccolo from New Avenues at De Garde where Trevor treated us to a quick tour and a taste of some of his recent releases including two unblended lambic-inspired beers and his collaboration with Fonta Flora.

Our blending session began by setting our palates with a delicious bottle of Drie Fonteinen Vintage Oude Gueze 2002. It had held up very well and was the perfect way to start our morning.

After having tasted a few samples of Trevor's unblended barrels we knew which of his beers we wanted to serve as the base. Brewed in 2016, these 2 barrels were still relatively young and had a bright acidity and a pleasant amount of brettanomyces "funk" character. 

From there we experimented with the lambic options we had and ultimately decided on equal parts 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015 while adding a smaller amount of 2012. This combination gave us a complex and rounded quality with no single note overpowering the other. Once blended with Trevor's barrels and just a little more adjusting we were very happy with the results.

The final product will be a 6 year blend of approximately 70% spontaneously fermented Oregon beer and 30% Lambic. We are expecting approximately 300 bottles.

This beer will only be available on August 19th, 2017 at BREWS FOR NEW AVENUES, the annual festival featuring a rare beer auction, live music, food trucks, and much more. All proceeds benefit NEW AVENUES FOR YOUTH, a great organization helping at risk youth in the Portland area.

Buy your tickets ASAP if you'd like access to this beer and many many others. VIP go on sale June 1st... General Admission coming soon. Also make sure to check out our recap of last year's event.