A Summer of Barrel Aged Beers!
The year is 1970, and Joni Mitchell has just released Big Yellow Taxi, which would arguably go on to be her best known song. The B-Side of that single was a track called "Woodstock", a song inspired by her then boyfriend’s (Graham Nash from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame) experience of the legendary festival. The deprivation of not being able to attend gave her an intense angle, which she then wrote this B-Side about.
The lesson to be learned is do not miss out on something potentially special.
Roll on 48 years as the teams from Siren Craft Brew and Wiper and True bond over a love of all things ‘Brett’ at a very different type of festival, the Carnivale Brettanomyces in Amsterdam. Here they both enjoyed a bretted Old English Ale from Goose Island and were inspired to do a take on it.
Roll on another 2 years to the present day. The Perseid meteors have just been lighting up the night sky and 10.5% Collaboration Stock Ale - We Are Stardust - is born.
We Are Stardust is our modern interpretation of an English Stock Ale. These old ales, throughout history, would often sit for long periods and react to the environment around. The ‘modern’ approach is that we know exactly what we’re doing and aiming for, and the beer is kept in a very controlled environment. We started with a high bitterness and high gravity beer using age old recipes, designed to develop and mature over time. After an initial fermentation in steel, the brew was racked into oak barrels.
At this stage, we added a culture of Brettanomyces claussenii so that the beer would re-ferment over the 24 months spent ageing. The idea was that the time the beer spent in barrels would dry it while the brett would bring out some brighter notes and round off the harsh edges to create a polished product full of flavour and depth.
Normally we only use Bourbon barrels once or twice, but for this beer we weren’t looking to infuse too much flavour from the barrels themselves. Instead, we used 3rd use Bourbon barrels, which yielded far more subtle results and allowed the Brett to shine. Essentially, by 3rd use, it’s purely an oak vessel for re-fermentation.
In 1903, a UK patent was made for a strain of fungus; the first of its type. This was made, and later published by N. Hjelte Claussen of the Carlsberg Brewery. It was Claussen who named the microorganism Brettanomyces, which is greek for British Fungus. Although some believe that Claussen instead named the fungus for his love of Brittany. Either way, a love affair between brewers, and something that anyone else would consider a contaminant was born.
Modern craft brewers use Brett to create classic ‘English ale’ flavours - some might call it a ‘farmhouse’ flavour. Used correctly, it’s a depth of flavour that is as delicious as it is variable and unique.
We love experimenting with Brett, and we’re super happy with how this beer has turned out.
We Are Stardust is available now from the webshop and Tap Yard.
Whilst we’re talking about bretted barrel aged beers, you’ve probably noticed that We Are Stardust joins Through The Hourglass as the 2nd beer from the barrel store currently available.
The core base for Through the Hourglass is a Belgian Saison, re-fermented with Brettanomyces for 36 months in a combination in red wine barrels. The result of that was a vibrant and piquant beer with an intriguing dry finish. But for barrel manager Steve, always looking for absolute perfection, it needed something more.
Steve searched the many hidden wonders of the barrel store to find something perfect to blend with. These other elements, mostly from white wine barrels built more complex layers of acidity, tannins and broader and bright aromas.
The final blend is designed to be as refreshing as it is drinkable, all the while conscious of the 8.2% ABV so that it’s a drink you savour, exploring the depths of flavour rather than simply crush.
Through the Hourglass is available right now on the webshop and Tap Yard.
We couldn’t be happier with either beer. Mid-summer, and scorching heat waves might not scream ‘barrel aged beers’, but served cold these are both excellent examples of a summer garden brew.
As for later in the year… we’re not stopped with barrels yet, with some very exciting things on the horizon… Odyssey anyone?