A funky name for a funky beer. It’s an oxymoron — how can anything really be temporarily permanent?
Well, it seems that our Barrel Aged Series is exactly that. We have beers in process, so it’s definitely a permanent series, but it was temporary — the last beer was released around this time last year.
But, we’re bringing it back, stronger and better than before.
Our Barrel Aged Series has laid dormant for a while. It had done some great things and produced some great beers — in fact, The Topsail was named Beer of the Year for 2017 by Beer Connoisseur — but, regardless of the quality of the beer, 750ml, large-format bottles have been steadily declining in popularity.
“It’s a niche product,” says Head Brewer Brian Hink, “and it’s a pricey niche product. But it no longer had a wow factor to it, so we sort of stopped and refocused. Most of our stuff has been in process for several years, but it was figuring out the right way to package it, and finding a cool way to really get people excited about it.”
We were doing some big bottle runs of the first two Barrel Aged Series, sending them to accounts and out for wholesale. We’d create these beautiful etched glass bottles and dip them in wax, and the whole thing felt really special.
Maybe too special.
“We were making opening the bottle turn into an occasion,” Brian says “like popping the cork out of a bottle of fancy wine at a dinner party. That’s all great, we’ve been doing that forever and it’s worked forever, but why can’t we put a sour beer in a can? And why can’t we can-condition a sour beer? We can, and we did.”
So, we can-conditioned Temporarily Permanent in 16-ounce cans. And, instead of doing a huge run of them, we’re only doing 650 single cans. It’s not seeing wide distribution — it’s only available through our Tasting Room — and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
“I brought up canning in the wintertime,” Brian says, “back in February, and you could kind of see Hank and Ryan and some of the other powers that be, their eyes sort of perked up and they got excited when I mentioned canning the sours. They were like, ‘That’s an option?!? That’s a thing?!?’ It’s kind of different. I’ve seen a couple people put it out there, but they’re very few and far between.”
Apparently, canning is an option. And it’s not really all that much different from putting it in a bottle. It may seem a little weird, but it’s not.
“I think it almost seems blasphemous at first,” Brian says. “‘Wait, you can’t put this beer in there,’ but as beer culture has evolved and people have gotten a little horde-y with it, people think, ‘No, I can’t drink this now. I need a special occasion to drink this.’”
Generally, our fans buy these beers and think they have to cellar them. And we don’t blame you — those bottles were just so pretty. They seemed really special. What everyone failed to realize is that we’d already done the cellaring. We release these beers when they’re ready to be consumed.
“Yeah, they will change,” Brian says. “They’re gonna evolve. But we’re releasing them as a finished product and we want people to enjoy it in that regard. These beers are meant to be consumed, so drink them. Don’t stash them in the back of your cellar and come back to them in a year, five years later. Buy a couple and do that, but drink ‘em!”
Don’t wait for a special occasion to drink this beer. Or, better yet, re-evaluate what you consider a special occasion. Maybe these beers shouldn’t only be on the marriage-of-a-loved-one level — a night spent drinking with a good friend is more than special enough.
And will be made even more special with the addition of Temporarily Permanent.
We took a delicious golden sour ale and tossed it into some recently-used red wine barrels for a year-and-a-half with some Brett, turning it into an even more delicious golden sour ale.
“There was still some character in the barrels to extract,” says Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm. “There is this great oak character from the barrels being they were first-use there was still some extractable lignin in the wood to impart that onto the beer.”
A new word has entered our vocabulary: lignin. Apparently, it’s the polymer in wood that makes wood hard. For our purposes, it also imparts those wonderful oaken flavors that we’re looking for when we barrel age.
“After the second or third use,” Jimmy says, “this lignin starts to run out and the barrels become just a holding vessel and don’t really contribute to the overall flavor, but here we got the perfect level of oak to complement the complex secondary Brett fermentation characteristics and the mango and apricot we added. It’s very well balanced and just lovely.”
This was one of the first beers we began barrel-aging, and Brian was curious to see how different secondary fermentations would play out — something like Temporarily Permanent, The Skeg, and The Scupper, all of which use only Brett, versus a beer using a mixed culture with Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus, such as The Keel, Phantom Crew, and The Topsail.
“The Skeg was all about the Brett playing off a simple golden base with an intense dry-hop interaction,” he says, “and the Scupper was a focus of what Brett would do with an expressive base beer like a Saison, but for this one I wanted to focus on the Brett playing off the fruit. With the microbes being just Brett, in this case, I knew we’d want some more complexity, and that’s where the fruit comes in. Rather than smashing you in the face with an acid bomb, I wanted a more delicate touch of acidity, so without any Lacto or Pedio creating that acidity, we’re relying on the fruit’s natural malic acid character to carry the sour load.”
And the fruit is really what brings this entire beer full circle. The puréed mangoes and apricots bring out the funkiness of the Brett, the oaken nature of the barrels, and the fruitiness of the base beer.
“With the focus of this beer being on Brett playing off a simple golden base beer,” Brian says, “we knew we wanted to add a bunch of fruit to it to really paint a richer picture. There was a really pleasant stonefruit thing going on while we were sampling it from the barrels, so we knew we wanted to amplify that character. I find mangoes and apricots to be extremely complimentary to golden sours, so that was pretty much my first and only choice. We got a bunch of samples and tried out different fruits, but these two quickly jumped to the head of the pack.”
The result is tart, funky, and fruity, superiorly refreshing and surprisingly drinkable. With over two-and-a-half years of aging, the time spent mellowing in oaken heaven has produced an extraordinarily well-balanced beer.
“I think it is quite possibly our most complex sour yet,” Jimmy says. “It’s fruity, sour, funky, oaky, rustic, tart, tropical, and completely crushable, too — even at 9.2% ABV!”
Brian is excited about this beer, but for an entirely different reason.
“It’s really freaking cool that we can-conditioned a barrel-aged fruit beer that’s been aging for almost three years,” he says. “I’m totally excited about this beer and I’m thrilled to see it finally come to fruition. Pun intended.”
So, be sure to grab your cans in the Brewtique on Thursday, August 30th. $9.99 a can, limit of one case per person.
This one won’t be around long. We open at 11am on Thursday — we strongly suggest arriving early.