Southern Brew News February/March 2015 : Page 1

The massive hop drying kilns at Yakima’s B. T. Loftus Ranches established in 1932. By Owen Ogletree By Chris and Cristina Collier Wicked Weed apart in the Southeast," declares Wicked Weed's Erin Jones. "When we opened our brewery doors almost two years ago, we offered the unprecedented option of sour beers on draught, and Asheville immediately jumped on board." Most beer enthusiasts see sour beers as light and refreshing -perfect for hot, humid climates found throughout the South. John Roberts, brew-master for Max Lager's in Atlanta and creator of Georgia Air Lift Berliner Weisse , asks, "Sour ales are a bit like lemonade, and what self-respecting Southerner doesn't like lemonade?" Christopher McElveen of Florida's Wild Oak Artisan Ales adds, "We design a lot of our beers to highlight flavors of citrus and tropical fruits, balanced by Brettanomyces funk. Our beers are highly carbonated and very dry -perfect for south Florida." The resounding success of the annual sour beer festival at Florida's Cajun Cafe on the Bayou in Pinellas Park illustrates just how popular these beers have become in the state. "I decided to do the festival because of my own appreciation for sour beers and the realization that my wife and all my friends were also major fans," states Cajun Cafe owner Paul Unwin. L actobacillus, Pediococcus and Brettanomyces , oh my! Vile microbes, usual-ly viewed as harbingers of spoilage, are now being invited into craft brewhouses around the country, with the resulting sour and wild beer craze even infecting the Southeast. Sour and wild beer styles making appear-ances in southeastern craft breweries include Berliner weisse -a low-alcohol, pale wheat beer with clean lactic sour-ness; gose -a fruity, tart wheat ale with light spices and salt; "Brett" beers with Brettanomyces yeast that produces a funky, dry, leath-ery acidity; a variety of soured fruit beers; and sour/funky styles springing from a mixture of yeast and bacteria. L Pucker Appeal Why have wild and sour beers recently achieved such success in the Southeast? Jason Pellett, brewmaster at Atlanta's sour-focused Orpheus Brewing , doesn't understand why it took so long. "I've loved sour beers for years," he says. "If sour beers had been more readily available, I probably would never have started homebrewing." When it comes to southeastern sour ales, many craft beer geeks immediately think of Asheville's extraordinary Wicked Weed Brewing . "Sour and wild ales have certainly set See Wild p.2 ast September we had the opportunity to travel out to the Yakima val-ley with our friend J.R. to select hops for his long standing brewpub, Max Lagers, in Atlanta. The demand for hops, particularly new varieties, is so high that breweries generally need to arrange for hop contracts for the varieties they plan to use for the year. Hops are only harvested once a year and once the crop is exhausted no more will be available until the next harvest. As big hop enthusiasts, we were excited to assist in choosing specific lots for his upcoming yearly contract. We had never participated in a lot selection before. This process is by invitation from the supplier and is primarily reserved for the brewer-ies that purchase very large amounts of hops each year. We did not know what to expect from the experience and we were blown away by what we learned about the intricacies of the hop industry. As we drove into the Yakima valley we discovered that the landscape was high desert. There is very little rainfall and all the irrigation is supplied from a high groundwater basin that is fed from mountain snowmelt. The concept that hops thrive in the rainy conditions of the Pacific Northwest is completely false as rain and moisture cause mildew on the flowers and is not a friend to the hop farmer. Upon arriving in Yakima we were invited by Wayne and Madison of Cigar City Brewing to join them in a day of touring hop farms. This was an amazing and unexpected venture. The Se e Yakima p.13 Tennessee ..................4 Florida ......................5 Alabama/Mississippi ...6 Louisiana ...................7 Georgia ................... 11 The Carolinas .......... 14

Where The Wild Beers Are

Owen Ogletree

Lactobacillus, Pediococcus and Brettanomyces, oh my! Vile microbes, usually viewed as harbingers of spoilage, are now being invited into craft brewhouses around the country, with the resulting sour and wild beer craze even infecting the Southeast.

Sour and wild beer styles making appearances in southeastern craft breweries include Berliner weisse - a low-alcohol, pale wheat beer with clean lactic sourness; gose - a fruity, tart wheat ale with light spices and salt; "Brett" beers with Brettanomyces yeast that produces a funky, dry, leathery acidity; a variety of soured fruit beers; and sour/funky styles springing from a mixture of yeast and bacteria.

Pucker Appeal

Why have wild and sour beers recently achieved such success in the Southeast? Jason Pellett, brewmaster at Atlanta's sour-focused Orpheus Brewing, doesn't understand why it took so long. "I've loved sour beers for years," he says. "If sour beers had been more readily available, I probably would never have started homebrewing."

When it comes to southeastern sour ales, many craft beer geeks immediately think of Asheville's extraordinary Wicked Weed Brewing. "Sour and wild ales have certainly set Wicked Weed apart in the Southeast," declares Wicked Weed's Erin Jones. "When we opened our brewery doors almost two years ago, we offered the unprecedented option of sour beers on draught, and Asheville immediately jumped on board."

Most beer enthusiasts see sour beers as light and refreshing - perfect for hot, humid climates found throughout the South. John Roberts, brewmaster for Max Lager's in Atlanta and creator of Georgia Air Lift Berliner Weisse, asks, "Sour ales are a bit like lemonade, and what self-respecting Southerner doesn't like lemonade?"

Christopher McElveen of Florida's Wild Oak Artisan Ales adds, "We design a lot of our beers to highlight flavors of citrus and tropical fruits, balanced by Brettanomyces funk. Our beers are highly carbonated and very dry - perfect for south Florida."

The resounding success of the annual sour beer festival at Florida's Cajun Cafe on the Bayou in Pinellas Park illustrates just how popular these beers have become in the state. "I decided to do the festival because of my own appreciation for sour beers and the realization that my wife and all my friends were also major fans," states Cajun Cafe owner Paul Unwin.

Brewers Gone Wild

Run by a group of fanatical beer nerds, Burnt Hickory in Kennesaw, Georgia has churned out a wide assortment of sour/wild beers with names based on songs from punk/alternative bands. "I think sour ales are going through an 'Americanization' of old European styles, much like the transformation of English IPA into specialized American IPA," relates Burnt Hickory's Greg Niznik. "American brewers love to take a classic beer and push the boundaries to make it their own."

Matt Glidden, owner of Ass Clown Brewing in Cornelius, North Carolina, believes that because sour ales don't taste like typical beers, they attract non-beer drinkers as well as enthusiasts. "Sours wake up your taste buds, make you salivate and hit your jaw in amazing ways," says Glidden.

Chattanooga's Moccasin Bend Brewing gets creative by reserving a portion of the wort from regular production beers to inoculate with homegrown Lactobacillus strains. Moccasin Bend's Chris Hunt shares, "Our Purple Pucker started out when we soured a portion of our Lookout Mountain Lager. The local wine club began pressing cabernet grapes, deals were struck, and a portion of the wine must found itself blended with our beer."

Local Flavor & Flare

Many of the award-winning beers at Tampa's Cigar City Brewing were inspired by Cuban culture in the Tampa Bay area. "There are guava pastries in many Cuban restaurants," explains Cigar City's Wayne Wambles. "We translated this into liquid form with our Guava Grove sour ale. The beer's lactic acid meshes well with the guava and conveys an appealing tropical character."

Louisiana's Bayou Teche Brewing celebrates creativity and its fifth anniversary with a special persimmon Berliner weisse boasting a local Cajun twist. Bayouliner Weiss includes French pilsner malt and persimmons soured with Lactobacillus.

Druid City Brewing's taproom in Tuscaloosa puts a wild spin on their 9.2% ABV Riverside Saison by finishing fermentation with a dose of Brettanomyces. "This gives the beer an extra kick of funk that makes it extremely interesting and popular," says owner Elliott Roberts.

A Balancing Act

As with any beer style, balance makes up an important factor in sour beers. Wild Oak's Christopher McElveen suggests, "Individual flavors in wild ales can be overwhelming, but if they are balanced properly with other flavor compounds, they work synergistically to create something remarkable."

Rapp Brewing's Greg Rapp researched gose because the beer was brewed originally in Goslar Germany where his mother was born. Rapp Gose, brewed with Himalayan sea salt and coriander, forms the perfect balance of tartness, wheat breadiness and saltiness.

Sour and wild beers can be unpredictable. "You have to wait to see what will develop in your barrel," says Burnt Hickory's Greg Niznik. "The yeast and bacteria are always in control - they ultimately decide what your beer will taste like."

Ben Woodward of Haw River Farmhouse Ales in Saxapahaw, North Carolina produces elegant, well-made sour ales that require time, patience and talent. Woodward points out, "Too many folks tend to slap the 'sour' label on a batch of beer gone bad in the hopes that a bevy of unsophisticated palates won't know the difference between a good sour beer and an infected porter."

It's Not Easy Being Sour

Aside from sometimes "cross-contaminating" mainstream beers in a brewery, wild and sour ales offer other challenges. Expensive wild yeast strains can strain the budgets of small brewers. Bob Sylvester, founder of Tarpon Spring's pioneering Saint Somewhere sour beer nanobrewery, purchased a new starter culture of Brettanomyces for each brew in the early days. Sylvester chuckles and says, "Eventually, I took a Brett culture, diluted it with sanitized water to a gallon, dumped it in a pump sprayer and hosed down the brewery. I haven't had to buy a Brett culture since!"

Offering an inviting, porous surface for feral microbes, wooden barrels make ideal vessels for fermenting and aging wild and sour ales. Khris Johnson, brewer/co-owner of Green Bench Brewing in St. Petersburg, Florida discusses a downside, "To make more of the sour/wild beers we're excited about would require housing hundreds of barrels, which just sit there for several months. It's not easy to find an ideal space with the climate control requirements that our area would demand."

Yazoo Brewing's Embrace the Funk project has been constructing sour and wild ales for two years in Nashville. Yazoo's Linus Hall reports, "We're moving all of our Embrace the Funk beers to a separate aging and packaging warehouse about five miles away, where we can really ramp up packaging without worrying about souring our other beers."

Backyard "Bugs"

Cigar City's Wayne Wambles explains, "One of the most interesting developments regarding sour and wild ale production is the identification of local wild yeast strains. Placing media in fruit orchards and other places of interest in order to isolate, plate and propagate indigenous yeast strains is fascinating."

Doug Reiser of Asheville's Burial Beer Company mentions, "We have a great collection of wild yeast in our backyard because of the local flora. If we isolate the most useful yeast strains, we can make truly native beer."

Creature Comforts' David Stein, maker of Athena Berliner Weisse, stresses that none of the challenges outlined in this article should discourage brewers from experimenting with wild/sour beers. "Every brewery makes these beers differently, but it's totally fun and doable. We can't wait to see more sour and wild ales in the market — especially from the Southeast."

Read the full article at http://sbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Where+The+Wild+Beers+Are/1926505/245586/article.html.

Touring Yakima Valley

Chris And Cristina Collier

Last September we had the opportunity to travel out to the Yakima valley with our friend J.R. to select hops for his long standing brewpub, Max Lagers, in Atlanta. The demand for hops, particularly new varieties, is so high that breweries generally need to arrange for hop contracts for the varieties they plan to use for the year. Hops are only harvested once a year and once the crop is exhausted no more will be available until the next harvest. As big hop enthusiasts, we were excited to assist in choosing specific lots for his upcoming yearly contract.

We had never participated in a lot selection before. This process is by invitation from the supplier and is primarily reserved for the breweries that purchase very large amounts of hops each year. We did not know what to expect from the experience and we were blown away by what we learned about the intricacies of the hop industry.

As we drove into the Yakima valley we discovered that the landscape was high desert. There is very little rainfall and all the irrigation is supplied from a high groundwater basin that is fed from mountain snowmelt. The concept that hops thrive in the rainy conditions of the Pacific Northwest is completely false as rain and moisture cause mildew on the flowers and is not a friend to the hop farmer.

Upon arriving in Yakima we were invited by Wayne and Madison of Cigar City Brewing to join them in a day of touring hop farms. This was an amazing and unexpected venture. The hop farmers were extremely gracious and seemed very excited to show us around. Most hop growers are fourth generation family farmers. Their great grandfathers established the farms many years ago when breweries were just taking root in America. A great deal of change has been occurring for hop farmers, lately. There has been a shift to growing distinctive varieties that the craft brewers appreciate and crave instead of growing a commodity for mass production breweries. The farmers were thrilled to see the excitement from the brewers who travel across the country to select the different varieties.

There is only a 30-40 day window for harvesting the hops. There is only so much product that can be harvested and baled in a day and the processing plants run almost continuously. Some varieties mature earlier than others. For this reason farmers grow a variety of strains so that everything is not needed to be harvested at the same time. For example Hop A may need to be harvested the first week of September while Hop B may hold out until the end of the month. All this is strategically planned out to handle the bottleneck created by the processing machinery.

The processing facilities are strategically located near the various hop fields. This expedites moving the fresh cut bines and allows the trucks to efficiently run from the fields to the processor. After the bines are removed from the truck they go through a series of automated actions that strip the hop flowers and shake away vines, stems, and leaves. The flowers are then spread out onto huge kilns where they are dried out for several hours at around 115 degrees. The day is completed by compressing the hops into 200 pound bales. The method of removing the hop cones from the bine is difficult. The machinery used is complicated yet effective. However, there is a good deal of waste. The amount of hops on the floor of a processing plant would probably supply the average homebrewer for many years! After the hops are baled they are either sent directly to a brewery or supplier to be used as whole hops or they are delivered to a pelletizing facility. There is little to no waste in the pelletizing processes. The bales are broken and the hops are pulverized and formed into pellets and instantly packaged as specified by the supplier.

The lot selection process was a surprising sensory experience. Basically a brewery will contract for certain varieties of hops through a supplier. The supplier will acquire brewer's cuts of each variety. These are bricks that are cut out of bales from various farms. At the selection you will be presented with several different cuts of a particular variety. The distinctive characteristics come from the conditions of their growing location in the field and the time of their harvest as well as their genetic make-up. What was so amazing was the huge variance in aroma within one variety. For example, a Simcoe sample cut early from one location in a field may exhibit completely different characteristics than a sample harvested later and from a different location. One sample may be dank and cat pissy while another is grapefruit and piney with varying degrees of the garlic/onion compounds. The brewer will observe the appearance of the flowers while rubbing them and releasing the lupilin and oils. Capturing the aroma can give a glimpse into how the hop will perform in a beer. Primarily, the brewer is focusing on consistency, but personal preferences and tastes come into play too. What is interesting to consider is that the brewers who do hand selection essentially are getting the cream of the crop. Everything else is left to be sold to the breweries that do not travel out for the selection. All uncontracted hops are sold on the spot market which is also available to homebrewers. It pays to be the big guy in this instance, although all the lots are generally of excellent quality anyway.

It was fascinating to experience the selection process. The science, engineering, and passion that go into hop farming are incredible. Brewing craft beer is such a spirited and enthusiastic vocation. It is gratifying to see that same energy involved in the development of one of the primary ingredients.

Read the full article at http://sbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Touring+Yakima+Valley/1926508/245586/article.html.

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