After eight years, we’ve brewed a significant number of beers — nearly 400 on Untappd right now. In that time, we’ve certainly decided upon a few favorites, but, sadly, we can’t brew them all.
Our sour IPA, Corrosion, is one of them — a favorite around the brewery, but it didn’t make it onto the schedule this year.
Regardless, when we first brewed the latest in our Barrel Aged Series two years ago, Corrosion was still on the schedule and inspiring our Innovation Director Brian Hink.
While Possibly Maybe is definitely a different breed of cat — it’s a barrel-aged, dry-hopped golden sour — the similarities between the two are evident.
Possibly Maybe is a golden ale that was soured in the barrels, then dry-hopped, as opposed to the kettle souring that Corrosion sees. We’ve used this base on a number of our other sour projects, with great success.
“It’s a nice foundation to build from,” Brian says, “with only a touch of malt character, a nice golden straw color, and not much in the way of hop presence — it’s a pretty basic beer by design.”
The malt bill of Possibly Maybe is comprised of pilsner, wheat, and melanoiden malts. While pilsner and wheat seem like logical choices in a golden sour, the melanoiden gave us a bit of a pause — we usually use it in darker beers, like King Porter Stomp or Mop Water.
“I like playing around with Melanoidin malt in Saisons,” Brian says. “I feel the malty sweetness can add an underlying depth to the finished beer, and with Saisons and, in this case, a mixed-fermentation, barrel-aged beer, that touch of malt character allows the beer to mellow a bit, instead of coming across as dry and abrasive.”
We also went with some of the fruitier hops in our repertoire — Motueka and Lemondrop. Together, they bring some fruit notes that complement each other nicely.
“The tartness was really nice on this one,” Brian says, “and Motueka has a strong lime-note to it, and Lemondrop — believe it or not — has a strong lemon characteristic! So lemon and lime, two nice tart flavors that would help accentuate the flavors and nuances that were present in the beer prior to the dry-hop, without overpowering everything and taking over too much.”
On the fermentation side, we used Brettanomyces claussenii and Lactobacillus brevis as the primary fermentors in Possibly Maybe, as we wanted the yeast esters to be the primary focus of the beer, with the hops playing second lead and everything else in supporting roles.
So, we wanted to keep the lacto alive to make it into the barrels, as opposed to killing it off in the boil. Brian treated this brew as a kettle sour like Corrosion.
“We knocked-out around 100°,” he explains, “scrubbing the wort with CO2 as opposed to adding O2.”
In a kettle sour, you need to eliminate O2 from the process, as oxygen encourages other organisms to start eating the wort. However, by making it an oxygen-free environment, the lacto is more likely to start munching first.
“We also didn’t pitch any yeast,” Brian says, “leaving the lacto free to go to sour the beer.”
“But, since it was headed for some barrels, using Brett in the primary fermentation was the logical course of action.”
Instead of the Brettanomyces lambicus that we more commonly use, we laid Possibly Maybe down with Brettanomyces claussenii. We asked Lab Manager Lauren Appleman what the differences are and got a predictably gloriously geeky answer.
“Mainly, the claussenii is generally able to ferment out lactose while the lambicus generally cannot,” she explains.
If you take a look at these two microbes next to each other under our Nexcelcom fluorescent microscope, you’d probably be able to tell them apart.
“The claussenii looks almost like ropes of cells, while the individual cells of the lambicus can be seen separated from each other,” she explains. “These ropes are called pseudohyphae and they have been known to help with cell viability. I would absolutely recommend checking out the Milk the Funk Wiki for a way more in-depth read if you find this as interesting as I do.”
So, one can ferment lactose and the other can’t. However, there’s no lactose in Possibly Maybe, so these two buggers would have more or less done the same thing in this brew in terms of fermenting out the available sugars. However, the esters that they create are quite a bit different.
Since Brian was trying to keep the barnyardy, rustic notes in Possibly Maybe to a minimum, claussenii was the better choice. While both will give off those classic Brett aromas, but claussenii ups the fruity esters.
“I think claussenii gives off more of a tropical flavor and the lambicus is more of a stone-fruit,” Lauren explains.
We laid Possibly Maybe down in third-use red wine barrels for over two years.
“Essentially, they’re neutral aging vessels at this point,” Brian says.
So, you’re not going to get too much of the barrel characteristics or the vinous character in Possibly Maybe — there are hints, but nothing overwhelming. Furthermore, the previous two beers in these barrels weren’t swimming with a tremendous number of microbes, either.
“So it was a good way to let the primary bugs continue to mingle and do their thing as opposed to being outmatched by some of our more advanced cultured barrels,” Brian says.
The result is a deliciously well-hopped, tart brew, designed to be consumed fresh but will age gracefully for many months to come.
“Possibly Maybe has a lot of subtle complexity,” Brian says. “The hops are there but not the sole focus. The barrel character is there but only in a complementary role. The base beer is there but not anywhere near the level of The “Z” is Silent or Biére de Mineur. It’s well-balanced and inviting, and I enjoy that.”
Lauren has been loving all of our recent sours.
“I personally can’t get enough of these sours that we have been coming out with recently,” she says. “And Possibly Maybe is no exception.”
Possibly Maybe releases from the Tasting Room only on Saturday, $9.99 a can. Don’t miss out!