Although our 2-4 gallon homebrew experiments are a fantastic way to test recipes, we decided to take steps towards our goal of commercial production by doing our first large scale (by our standards) test batch. Our favorite styles of beer have always been mixed culture ales aged in neutral oak so we began working towards sourcing our own Barrels, wort, and yeast/bacteria.
Our buddy Jon Frost from Auburn James Winery got us a sweet deal on two 59 gallon 2010 Cabernet barrels that are in great shape. He was kind enough to clean and treat them just after emptying them of their delicious wine and delivering them to our friend's property in Sonoma County.
Once we had our barrels and a location to store them, we began arranging wort production, yeast, and transportation.
The awesome folks at South City Cider allowed us to borrow a 275g IBC tote designed for liquid transport. We fork lifted the IBC into our rented moving truck and used a few straps and some rope to keep it in place as we went to pickup our wort.
We designed a simple recipe of 2-row Pale, Pils malt, and Malted Wheat. 10 IBU. Our friends (and collaborators) at Free Wheel Brewing in Redwood City CA were kind enough to do the wort Production for us. Head brewer Alisha Blue, assistant brewer Erica Dee, and General Manager/Head-of-Sales Devin Roberts all assisted in filling our IBC tote before we did the drive up to our barrels just North of San Francisco.
A few hours on a slow and steady drive north and we arrived at our destination. Lucky for us we had access to a borrowed forklift upon our arrival.
Primary fermentation took place directly in the IBC using a saison blend from The Yeast Bay (San Leandro, CA) where we allowed the temp to free rise. Normally we would carefully monitor and control fermentation temperature but our intention was to stress the yeast in order to create lots of phenols and esters. These aromatic compounds would likely be unbalanced if we were to bottle the beer after primary but once we introduce brettanomyces, lactobaccilus, pediococcus, etc our hope is that these compounds will serve as precursors for further flavor and aroma development during a long rest in oak. We also wanted a fairly dry beer to go into the barrels so we can package this 5%ish abv beer in 6-10 months.
We will be filling barrels this week. In each barrel we will be adding a unique blend of cool cultures from The Yeast Bay as well as some stepped-up bottle dregs from some of our favorite funky/sour beer producers.
We are really looking forward to seeing how these beers do in their new wooden homes. Even more than that we look forward to sharing these beers with our friends and family.