March 29, 2017


Meerts is a nearly forgotten style underneath the lambic umbrella category.  Meerts, meaning March, is the low alcohol (2-4%) "table" or "field" beer traditionally made from the second runnings of lambic's turbid mash. I refer to it as Lambic's baby brother. Recently it has been resurrected in Belgium by Boon (who supplies Tilquin's) and Cantillon, though there is very little information as to how exactly these breweries are producing their Meerts today.

Instead of trying to write a detailed description of Meerts production, I'm going to direct you to read Hors Catégorie's write up.  As far as I've found, it is the most complete description of Meerts and was the primary resource I used in trying to recreate this beer.

In this article, the 1800's brewery's poor efficiency rate is mentioned, which was echoed in other conversations I had. I was told that modern brew systems/grain are too efficient to create Meerts from lambic second runnings and that the brewers making it today have a dedicated brew day (again, I don't know the details of Boon and Cantillon's Meerts production).  Last year I tested this out, and on a 50 bbl brew house, I hoped to get 20-30 bbls of second runnings to create a Meerts the old way. About 4 bbls into the second runnings, our pH jumped and gravity dropped to near zero.  We were pulling water at this point and I called it off.

Still fascinated by what this style of beer could look like, this year we dedicated a brew day to Meerts, and in February filled 2 foeders. I believe we are the first to make Meerts in the US. To make it, we essentially took our turbid mash recipe and scaled it down to target 4%, and slashed the amount of hops since Meerts traditionally received the post boil spent hops from lambic.

Sample of Meerts from the foeder.
And wow am I happy with this beer!  At 4% abv, it is refreshing and clean, lightly tart lemon citrus with some rustic earthiness.  I'm very excited to have a beer that I can put out at a lower price point and with more frequency.  Cheers!

November 22, 2016

Punch Down Beer

This is a follow up post to the "Modifying a Barrel" post.

In the beginning of October I put 40 gallons of 18 month old "Méthode Lambic" beer on to 80 lbs of wild blackcap raspberries. These berries were foraged from the woods of the Driftless region by the crew at Forager Brewing. I can only imagine the dedication that is required to harvest 80 lbs of these tiny little berries.

In preparation for making this beer, I had to figure out how to fruit it. With only 80 lbs of fruit, I knew I needed a ~50 gallon vessel for fruiting. Using a modified barrel would be a perfect vessel, but presented a set of its own hurdles. The biggest of which were 1.) how to empty the beer when it's finished, and 2.) how to prevent too much oxygen exposure.

The fruit screen pictured in the previous post was my answer to issue #1, and it worked perfectly. I was a bit nervous about how much these small berries would disintegrate during secondary fermentation.

I attached an in-line strainer to make sure the beer came out clean and to get an idea of what would make it through the fruit sieve. As hoped, the fruit bed itself becomes a strain and captures most all of the fine particulates. 

I was able to completely empty the barrel without the strainer clogging, and this was all that made it through. Just a collection of raspberry seeds. If you've ever emptied beer off fruit, you know this is pretty incredible. The fruit bed was completely dry, which means I probably captured a good 5-10% more beer than I would have otherwise, and with a beer this expensive, that is going to pay off immediately.  We have made these available through Stainless Brewing and can be ordered here:

Issue #2, oxygen exposure. This was my biggest fear, and the aspect beer people voiced concern about the most. I know punch downs are common in the wine world and O2 exposure is as much of a concern for them as it is us. I also believe the wine world has much more experience when it comes to to fruit and there are lessons that the beer world can learn from them, even if they are scary at first.

So, even though I was afraid I'd ruin the beer, I trusted the concept.  During the secondary fermentation, I punched down the cap twice daily. It was a very gratifying experience. I did CO2 blanket the top prior to fermentation starting, and at one point after fermentation even push CO2 through the drain port.  

But maybe most importantly, after fermentation was finished and I was done with my daily punch down regimine, I put a sheet of plastic over the top of the barrel and used extra barrel hoops to secure it to the sides of the barrel.

While I know gas was able to escape, I was very encouraged to see water droplets form on the top of the plastic sheet inside the barrel. I believe this means the gas mixture inside the barrel was not exchanging with the air outside the barrel at any significant rate. More to the point, the CO2 was staying inside the barrel.

The result.

Look at that color! The aroma and flavor are equally as amazing. I am 100% sold on punch-downs as well as black-cap raspberries. It was an incredibly expensive and laborious process, but the resulting beer is mind blowing.

Thank you again to Forager Brewing for this collaboration experience and the idiotic amount of trust.

(This beer will be ready Spring of 2017 and due to the limited amount will not likely see public release, sorry)

November 15, 2016

Working Title - Cervino

I'm a huge fan of what grapes bring to lambic (and sour beers in general). In my mind, the flavor profile of lambic is more akin to wine than it is regular beer. Adding grapes just further blurs that line and it's so fun to see people's reaction to that experience.

Experimenting in this blurred region of beer and wine is fascinating to me. I want to push this to the legal limit and create something that is as much wine as it is beer. It also opens a new world of wine techniques that I can incorporate into beer. On the wine side there are a near endless combination of grape varieties, using whole grapes, crushed grapes, or juice. One could add the grapes right to the wort and have them primary together. Or add juice to already fermented beer. Ferment them separately and then blend. Oak aging. Pump over and Punch down. Délestage. MLF. On lees/off lees. Carbonic maceration. And on and on and on...

What do we call something like this? It's not right to call it a fruited sour ale. My working title for this has been "Cervino" (an amalgamation of cervisia and vino). Maybe Méthode de Vin? Domaine Flou? This is a style name, not an individual beer. There is so much that can be done in this blurred region, so this is my call out to other breweries (and homebrewers), let's start exploring!

I know some breweries have already played close to this territory, so I'll define what I'm looking for. This new style I'm proposing, while legally beer, is 51% beer and 49% grape/wine. The purpose of this style is to create something that, from an experiential basis, can not be defined as simply "a beer" or "a wine". And, much like the "pét-nat" style, this can look/taste/feel very different from example to example, but they all share a common core.


My first venture into style is a blend of sour ale base that spontaneously fermented and aged for 6 months.  I then went to Wollersheim winery and picked up some Chardonnay juice.
Arriving to Funk Factory with Chardonnay juice to blend. (Instagram)
The aged sour ale and Chardonnay juice were blended in equal parts allowing the yeast from the beer to ferment the juice.  This has aged for another 2 months and will be bottled in the next month.

What I like about this beer is the connection to the seasons.  The beer was brewed in the winter when spontaneous fermentation is possible.  The wine juice was added at grape harvest.  It is something that I can, and will, repeat each year and it becomes part of that season.  It is also a great "base" to start at. From here I can look at incorporating different wine techniques and judge their impact.

September 26, 2016

Modifying a Barrel

I want to be able to do some smaller batch fruitings.  You can fruit right inside a barrel (which I have done), but you have to get all the fruit in through that tiny bung hole, hope the beer/fruit doesn't foam out the top, and then figure out how to get all that fruit out.  It's a pain.

I've seen some friends who have converted a barrel to stand vertically with the top off and act as a primary fermentation vessel.  Most recognized would be Casey Brewing and Ale Apothecary.  My goal here is to take that concept and use it for the secondary fruiting process.

Here is the parts list for the bottom drain:
Parts for the barrel drain
1.5" Male NPT to 1.5" TC
1.5" TC 90° Elbow

Place your barrel on end.  The head facing up at this time will be the head that will be the bottom in the end.  Pick the head that is flat and uniform.

Mark location for barrel drain

Place your parts on the barrel head and dry fit them to find the location of your drain.  Mark it with a pen.  Make sure you find a wide stave so your hole is entirely in one stave and not in-between two.

Drill 1 3/4" hole for barrel drain

Drill the hole with a 1 3/4" hole saw.  This is your drain.  I did consider putting the drain in the center of the head and adding a 12" TC extension.  I decided against it because it's an extra seal and gasket that can leak.  In water testing this, the edge location is best for getting that last 1% to drain out by simply tipping the barrel. 

Screw 1.5" male NPT into barrel

Insert your tap.  This is the hardest part.  1 3/4" hole is probably 1/16" too small, so that piece goes in hard.  I found by cutting a 45° on the top 1/8" edge of the hole, that the threads were able to rest partially inside.  No matter what, it's a beast.  But that's good, it won't leak!

Remove top 3 hoops from the barrel

Next, flip the barrel over.  Your drain is at the bottom now and you need to remove the top head.  You may want to mark the head's orientation by putting an arrow on it where the bung lines up.  With the top 3 hoops removed, you'll be able to pull the head out.  Drive the hoops back into place.

Inside of the barrel with innerstaves

This is what the inside of my barrel looked like.  Innerstaves.  I removed all the innerstaves and the wires holding them in place. Spray out the inside of the barrel and scrub/scrap away all the bulk organic material from previous fermentations.

Tip the barrel up and install the elbow and shut off valve.  Continue cleaning the inside of the barrel and draining.  I'd recommend filling the barrel completely with water to make sure your staves are in line and hoops are tight.

Final modified barrel

And voila!  There it is.  I took one of the innerstaves and made a little handle for the lid.  On the bottom side of the lid I screwed another innerstave across all the head staves to keep them in place and one solid piece.

This is what others have done for primary fermentation vessels.  For me to use it as a secondary fruiting vessel, I want to go one more step.  

Fruit sieve for barrels

I worked with my welder to fabricate this last piece.  It's a fruit sieve made out of stainless steel screen material.  This piece will rest at the bottom of the barrel during fruiting.  When I go to drain the barrel, this will keep the fruit from clogging the drain line.  It's 20" in diameter, which fits perfectly inside a wine barrel.  The side is made out of the same perforated material as the top and is 2" tall.

My plan is to do a small batch of raspberry beer in here first, which is typically a 3 month fruiting process for us.  During the initial high fermentation stage that the introduction of raspberries creates, I'll be resting the lid on top of the barrel to prevent bugs/debris from falling in.  The large opening will allow me to punch down the fruit periodically.  After the initial sugars are consumed and CO2 production tapers off, my plan is to lay a sheet of plastic over the top of the barrel and use an extra hoop to seal the plastic around the side.

January 3, 2016

The Start of a New Season

Things are moving along quickly at the Geuzeria this time of year.  We've started laying down the barrel track for this year's barrels and will be scheduling brew days here shortly.

We also will be releasing this year's batch of Door Kriek on January 29th, and tickets go on sale this Thursday at noon.  Given how things went last release, we reduced the bottle limit to 3 instead of 6, though I imagine it will go just as fast.

There are also a couple articles I wanted to share with you all (though if you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you've likely already seen these).  The first comes from Imbibe Magazine who publishes their Imbibe 75 list each year and we're honored to be amongst their selection for 2016.

The second comes from Paste Magazine and is available online.  It's a Q&A and answers some of the common questions I get asked.

So, Cheers to 2016! We're excited to see what it brings.

August 5, 2015

Open House and Great Taste Pre-Party

Funk Factory Geuzeria
Madison, WI 53715

We have the Geuzeria cleaned up and have invited some friends to bring beer for an amazing Great Taste Pre-Party.  O'so Brewing Company and Penrose Brewing will be there, and our friends at Yazoo/Embrace the Funk have sent a couple treats including our collaboration beer "OSO U FUNK TOO?".  Oh yea, and our friends at Underground Food Collective will be there with food!

April 1, 2015

Pyramid Technique to Stacking Barrels

Picture: barrels stacked at Cantillon.
I knew I wanted to stack my barrels in the fashion I saw on images of Belgian breweries.  I've had this image of Tilquin's barrel cellar on my computer for the last couple years.  There are a few factors that went into my decision to pyramid stack; my space is relatively small, I want to store as many barrels as possible, and the barrels don't get touched for 2-3 year spans so moving them around isn't a huge concern.  The benefits, as I saw it, of the pyramid stack is that you can fit more barrels into the same space, and you don't have to buy metal barrel racks.  The drawback is that, once in place, there is no moving them.

The concept is pretty straight forward, but there are small details you can glean my looking at the images other brewers have posted (and some details you just have to learn by doing).  First, you don't put the barrels on the ground, but on top of wood beams which are elevated off the ground themselves.  The message there, if a barrel is going to sit in one place for the next 2-3 years, it better not be in a puddle of water!

Barrel Track

The first step is laying out the track.  I used some reclaimed 4x4 timbers and propped them up on cement blocks.  I think you could use 2x4 boards just the same, but I preferred the additional strength of a 4x4.  As you can see from the pictures above, Tilquin uses large cinder blocks to lift up their timbers, where Cantillon uses much shorter blocks.  I opted for a shallower, patio paver block.  It is high enough to allow water to drain freely beneath it, and that is all that really matters.  You want the blocks to be spaced out enough to allow water to escape, but not too much space that the barrel weight will bend the wood beams.

Wedges cut for stacking barrels

Barrels get placed in line along the track.  The next part is stacking the barrels.  To do this I needed to cut wedges.  Each barrel requires 4 wedges, so there was a lot of cutting to do.  As you see in the picture above, there are two types of wedges.  The wedge on the left is a straight cut and a 25° cut. This is used on the bottom row atop the 4x4 timber track and lock those barrels in place (image).  The wedge on the right is two opposing 10° cuts and go on top of one row of barrels to lock in place the barrel resting above it (image).

The details of actually stacking the barrels is one of those you just have to learn as you go.  I thought it would be pretty simple and easy, but unless you have perfectly identical barrels (I would recommend purchasing barrels from the same cooperage/winery), they aren't going to stack perfectly simple.  It took a bit of figuring, but eventually we got the hang of stacking, centering, and leveling one barrel at a time.

Pyramid stacked barrels at the Geuzeria.
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