Announcing our second new wild beer release of 2015:
The Lunatic – a Biere de Garde style ale, refermented with blackberries in oak barrels.
A ‘Biere de Garde’ is a French-style farmhouse ale. Unlike Sasion, which is a typically light bodied Belgian-style farmhouse ale, a Biere de Garde is a sturdy, high gravity beer that’s more conducive to aging (Biere de Garde means “beer to keep” or “beer to store”).
The Lunatic began its life as a base example of this style, then got the “wild” treatment. We racked it into oak and pitched a slurry of microflora that includes wild yeast and souring bacteria native to Coastal Virginia. The influence of native microflora is central to all the wild beers we’re creating. It’s important to us to tie these beers to our local environment and give them a sense of place.
An aside on oak aging: the oak barrels and puncheons we use for our wild beers do more than simply impart character from the wood. White oak is naturally water-repellant, which makes it very suitable for holding liquid. But it’s also porous and allows a slow diffusion of oxygen into the beer over time. This small amount of oxygen is important, particularly to Brettanomyces, and aids in the prolonged process of refermentation. But this also means we have to top barrels of with fresh wort occasionally; headspace allows the top of a barrel to dry out and invites acetic bacteria (vinegar producers) to the party. A small amount of acetic acid can actually be pleasant in some cases. But in large proportions, it’s undesirable and we prefer to avoid it altogether.
Blackberries being prepped for refermentation
As with Alchemical REM, The Lunatic was refermented with fruit – blackberries in this case. The fruit imparts prominent flavor and aroma, but little color. It seems counterintuitive that a fruit that’s such a deep purple when crushed adds so little color during refermentation. Strange? Maybe. Delicious? Absolutely. It’s worth mentioning again, that such a fruit addition is not meant to result in a sweet fruit “cooler”. Refermenting fruit with an active wild beer results in very high (usually complete) attenuation of the sugars present. This results in new, unique flavors in a very dry beer.
The Lunatic is 7.8% ABV, 18 IBU, and has a Final Gravity of 1.002. It will be available on draft and to go in 750ml bottles at the brewery on Saturday, March 7th.