The third release in our Barrel Aged series is almost here.
If you were fortunate enough to try The Keel before it disappeared, and if you’ve been cellaring your bottle of The Skeg because The Keel blew your mind, then it’s time to open The Scupper.
And if you haven’t jumped on board with the Barrel Aged Series, what are you waiting for?
You may be wondering what a scupper is. (Even if you’re not, let’s pretend that you are.) Is it one who scups? That which scups? How does one scup?
No, it’s none of those things. A scupper is basically a hole in the side of a ship meant to carry water overboard. It’s wet out there on the high seas, and water on the deck can be a problem. You need to have some way of releasing it, and the scupper provides that.
So, are you going to want to dump this one over the side? Not. At. All. The Scupper’s waaaayyyy too good for that.
With most of our brews, we use one of two yeast strains: either our house ale strain — very clean and neutral, or our Belgian strain — a little more “yeasty” and expressive. We obviously don’t limit ourselves to only these, but the latter is what was used in Misty Dawn, the base of The Scupper.
The concept behind the Barrel Aged Series is to play with different yeast and bacteria to give us wildly different beers, with the lactic acid and sour notes at the forefront. These brews use a much more complex palette of microflora: up to ten different strains of Brettanomyces, some crazy Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, with a touch of Acetobacter in there, as well.
This latest installment of the Barrel Aged Series builds on what we built before with The Keel and The Skeg. With The Keel, we kinda just threw in everything we could find — judiciously and well-researched, of course — and the ultimate effect was, by all accounts, freakin’ awesome. (Yeah, 94 on Beer Connoisseur!)
With The Skeg, the idea was to see what would happen when Brettanomyces could get funky with a really hoppy base. The beer going in was all about the hops (no treble), so the end result focused on Brett metabolizing and evolving the hop character.
However, with The Scupper, we focused on an already-complex base — Misty Dawn will keep your palette entertained for awhile on its own. When we added four strains of Brett in there, it “just completely chewed up and spit out something otherworldly in flavor,” says Head Brewer Brian Hink.
Follow this logic: “If Brett were a world class DJ,” says Brian, “this remix could become more popular than the original song, like in ‘Stronger’ when Kanye sampled Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger’ it just took something that was already great and just took it to a whole new level of greatness. That’s what the Scupper is all about.”
Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm agrees. “What we have here with The Scupper is a beer with a very different flavor profile than our previous Barrel Aged Series releases, and also one that will mature and age to a much greater extent than the other releases would, as well.”
After spending four months in those beautiful French Oak red wine barrels — the same ones that carried The Keel — we bottle conditioned this brew for another three months.
Brian gives us this analogy: “Remember back in college when you’d work for months on a term paper and you would just never be happy with it, and then for another one you would stay up the entire night right before it was due and somehow you managed to pull out your best work at the 11th hour?”
(Of course not, Brian! All of our work was always completed in a timely fashion so that we might be asleep by 9:30 pm.)
“Bottle conditioning this beer for four months under pressure was like pulling that all nighter and doing your best work.”
We wanted to let The Scupper sit for another few months to let the Brett work its brettful magic on the sugars and esters, but instead of putting it in a fermenter or barrel, we put it in a pressurized bottle. The extra CO2 puts a little more stress on the Brett, causing it to work a little more brettful magic. The result is more funky flavors, with “barnyard” and “horsey” flavors coming to the forefront and in higher quantities. As the sugars begin to run out, the Brett starts to metabolize the esters produced during the brew’s original fermentation as Misty Dawn. So, as the Bretty flavors are added, the other esters start to fade in a beautifully choreographed dance, leaving behind a brew unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
Asking Brian what he likes about any of the beers in the Barrel Aged series is sort of like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. He likes “everything!” about this one. “The complexity, the funk, the vinous notes and slight woodsy character thanks to the barrels it rested in for three months, how it’s bone dry — it has a lower gravity than water, so there’s just nothing left — and yet it has a juiciness to it that leaves you longing for another sip, and even the approachability of it. I think this is the best-looking of the three brews so far, too, but that obviously wouldn’t mean anything to me if the beer didn’t come out right, but for this one it definitely makes it shine that much brighter.”
Jimmy is a big fan of the funky, wild beers. “The terms “barnyard” and “horsey” may not seem too appealing — and in most IPAs or Pilsners they certainly aren’t — but when these flavors are used correctly they can be very tasty, especially when accompanied with woodsy notes from barrel aging, a touch of sour from Lactobacillus, and some vinous flavors. The Scupper is definitely funky, but right now it’s a just the right level of funk that any drinker new to the wild beer scene can latch onto it without being put off by the unique flavor profile.”
Like all the brews in the Barrel Aged Series, The Scupper is meant to be cellared for as long as you can take not drinking it. (But don’t let it go beyond two years. Please. If you do, we don’t vouch for it… but we’d love to know how it drank.)
Jimmy’s definitely stashing a few bottles in his cellar. “In a year or two it’ll be at that level of funk that makes me smile from ear to ear. At the moment it’s more leathery with a hint of tobacco. The woodsiness and the slight vinous notes from the red wine barrel are right there, but the horse and deeper funk notes are in the background, tempting the beer nerd in me, and these will further develop over time.”
Brian agrees. “In another few months of proper cellaring — a stable temperature between 55 and 65 degrees and out of direct sunlight — this beer will just keep getting better and better.”
Do you need more than that?
The Scupper releases at noon, Saturday, October 22nd from The Brewtique. Same deal: $20 a pop, limit of three bottles per visit. See you there!