Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Seriously Sour: The Rare Barrel

Last week I had the opportunity to visit one of Berkeley's newest craft beer destinations, the Rare Barrel.  Slated to open in November 2013, the Rare Barrel is a self-proclaimed "Sour Beer Company," and the brewery will focus entirely on producing world-class sour beers.

The Rare Barrel produces barrel-aged, sour beers.
The Berkeley location.

The Rare Barrel is the creation of two former homebrewing friends, Jay Goodwin and Alex Wallash.  Jay is a proven and accomplished brewer who brings his experience at The Bruery to the project, whereas Alex is involved with designing the look, the feel, and the soul of the Rare Barrel.  The Berkeley location will feature a modern, comfortable tasting room, and it will be a fantastic space for tasting what I can only assume will be some incredibly flavorful and complex sour beers.  Jay and Alex place an emphasis on attention to the details, and each aspect of the Rare Barrel is a deliberate decision calculated toward creating the best sour beer experience possible.

Raw space at the Rare Barrel.
Fermentation tanks at the Rare Barrel.

The Rare Barrel brewed batch number 1 in late February 2013, and the beer has been souring and aging in the brewery ever since.  During my visit, batch number 12 was vigorously fermenting away in one of the three fermentation tanks.  The Rare Barrel does not brew on-site, instead producing wort at another local brewery and then adding the bugs and kicking off beer production in the Rare Barrel's tanks.  The beer is then moved to the barrels, where Jay will use wild yeast strains--brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus--in order to continue to ferment and sour the beers.  Expect to see lambics, krieks, fruited lambics (e.g., framboise, peche, etc.), and even a gueze (in a few years time).

Jay (left) discusses wild yeast fermentation
with Doug Constantiner of Societe Brewing Company.
Jay talks about Batch 1.

We tasted through the barrels, and Jay explained the subtle differences between the batch and base beers in each barrel, the variations of yeast strains used, and whether or not fruit had been added into the barrel.  Jay is extraordinarily passionate about the process of souring and aging beer, and he talked at length about the science and the processes involved.  He is clearly excited about the next challenge that awaits the Rare Barrel -- blending the barrels, finishing, and bottling the beers.  Look for bottles and draft beer around the Bay Area this fall.

Check out the Rare Barrel on the web, and follow the guys on twitter for updates on the brewery's progress...

Live the craft. Cheers.

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