The folks in production have been working hard to keep up with the demand for our core brands like Cape May IPA and Coastal Evacuation — throughout the quarantine period, we’ve seen folks sitting at home, drinking our beers, and we love it.
However, that means that our tank space is at a premium. Or, to clarify, our tank space at HQ is at a premium — we still have plenty of tank space available in our Experimental Brewery over in the Barrel Room.
What to do… what to do…?
Might as well brew up some crazy, mixed-fermentation beers for the Tasting Room!
First up, released upon our reopening earlier this week, is Erosion — a mixed-fermentation saison with a co-pitch of our favorite Belgian Saison yeast and our favorite, down-and-dirty funk musician…
Ladies and gentlemen…
Put your hands together for BRRRRRRRETT LAAAAAAMBICUUUUUS!
(…we miss live music….)
Our diehard fans may recall an earlier beer with the same name. Erosion 2020 is a bit different than Erosion 2017. Both are saison-esque, but that’s where the similarities end.
“The old Erosion had a Saison-inspired grain bill but was co-pitched with Lacto and Brett,” Innovation Director Brian Hink reminds us, “whereas this Erosion is a Saison through and through that was co-pitched with a blend of Saison and Brett.”
Erosion 2017 was tart-leaning sour with a fruitier finish, but Erosion 2020 has a definitive Saison yeast character. Brett was the primary fermenter back in 2017, but Erosion 2020 has a more distinctive rustic earthiness thanks to the Brett competing with the Saison yeast.
The two beers are similar enough to share a name, and if you liked the 2017 version, odds are that you’ll enjoy the 2020 version. But, they’re different enough that if you weren’t a fan back in 2017, it merits another try.
“I vaguely remember Erosion 2017 from when I first started working here,” recalls Lab Manager Lauren Appleman. “I think I got it by accident because Corrosion and Erosion sound very similar in a crowded Tasting Room. But, as the late, great Bob Ross always said, ‘There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.’ I would say that is the case here because I’m so happy I was able to know the brand before its long hiatus.”
This is a complex brew, and, unlike some beers that are designed to let one of the three bills — malt, hops, and yeast — shine above the others, as a farmhouse ale, in Erosion, the malt, the yeast, and the hops work together to bring about its distinctive flavor profile.
“With these deceptively simple yet intriguingly unique mixed-culture beers,” Brian says, “it’s all about harmony and rhythm and letting each element shine while complementing the other components at the same time.”
When it comes to intrigue, the combination of our Belgian Saison yeast and the Brettanomyces lambicus slightly edge out the other elements of the beer.
Lauren is of two minds about our Belgian Saison yeast strain.
“It’s great because it is very resilient and fairly predictable,” she says, “but it is also a known diastaticus strain.”
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!
“It has the potential to wreak havoc in a brewery,” she says. “This is the guy that could lead to bursting cans if it’s not carefully regulated.”
Luckily, the carefully-regulated part is why Lauren has a job. She keeps an eye on the yeast at every step throughout the fermentation process.
And, thankfully, the benefits of the strain outweigh its risks.
“Diastaticus strains have an extracellular enzyme that can break down sugars that the yeast wouldn’t normally be able to break down,” she tells us. “The result is a very dry beer, and what we were looking for in Erosion.”
We co-pitched the Belgian Saison yeast with the Brett, a process that’s slightly different than a mixed-fermentation brew but results in a more balanced beer.
“In a co-pitch,” Lauren explains, “as the name suggests, the strains are pitched at the same time, and in a mixed-ferm the organisms are pitched at different times. Depending on your choice between these two methods, you may have drastically different end results. A mixed-ferm can really play to a certain strain’s strengths, but a co-pitch is likely to be a bit more balanced overall.”
Brian suggests that the Brett “really ties the room together, man,” a phrase from The Big Lebowski that he attempts to inject into every blog about every beer we ever make. (Seriously. Every single one. We’ll let him get away with it this time.)
Regardless, he really enjoys the combination of our favorite Belgian Saison yeast and Brettanomyces lambicus.
“It’s got some awesome, fruity bubblegum aromatics balanced by a dry phenolic finish,” he says. “It has such a distinctive yeast profile.”
While the yeast in Erosion is important, we can’t discount the role of the malt. We created a beautifully intricate malt bill for this brew, containing flaked rye along with pilsner, wheat, and oats provided by our good friends at Rabbit Hill Farms up in Shiloh, and some delicious Jersey Fresh-certified honey.
“The malts provide some earthiness, some nuttiness, some texture to the mouthfeel,” Brian says. “There are a number of components coming together to make a beautiful beer that really shines, with the malt laying a strong backbone upon which we can layer the other flavors.”
Furthermore, Rabbit Hill’s floor-malted grain is perfect for a beer such as this.
“Their grain definitely has a terroir to it that really complements a farmhouse, mixed-fermentation Saison,” Brian says.
Lab Manager Lauren Appleman agrees.
“The combination of the Rabbit Hill malt, saison yeast, and Brett works beautifully,” she says. “The end result is a very drinkable, rustic saison with a little bit of funk and tartness.”
And, ya know, it doesn’t hurt that the folks at Rabbit Hill are simply wonderful people.
“Hillary, Blair, and Abe are some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of working with in this industry,” Brian says, “and the quality of their grain has continued to get better and better as they’ve reinvested in their infrastructure and continued to build out their facilities.”
“The hops bill is mild in variety, but not mild in application,” Brian tells us.
We were liberal with their usage throughout the hotside, layering them throughout the boil.
“I feel a Saison should be apparently hoppy without being excessively bitter,” Brian says, “and here the Saaz’s noble earthiness really complements the terroir that Rabbit Hill’s malt brings and the rustic nuances the Brett brings.”
In the end, Erosion is dry and rustic, with an earthy and effervescent finish and underlying notes of grass and hay, a peppery phenolic bite, and a brilliant aroma of fruity esters and farmhouse lore.
“It’s so refreshing,” Brian tells us. “Rustic, yet bright, with a subtle tartness that adds a little zing to it and a strong fruity finish. I love Saisons, and I love Brett’d Saisons so much. This beer is just delightful. I’m really happy with how it came out.”
Hopefully, Erosion is the first of many mixed-fermentation or co-pitched brews that we can see out of the Experimental Brewery this summer.
“I’m hoping this is the first,” Brian says. “We have a stupidly busy summer ahead of us, but if we can squeeze some time in over there occasionally, I’m sure we’ll see another release or two.”
Erosion is available now in the Beer Garden and Brewtique for pints and growler fills. Be sure to check it out during your next visit!