April 18, 2018

2018 Beer Schedule

There are a lot of beers conditioning in bottles at Funk Factory and some special projects in barrels or foeders soon to be bottled.  Releases are subject to change as beer are ready when they tell us, but this shows you what we have in the works and when we plan to release them.

We will be putting up further description of each beer, and I'm sure there will be other beers added.

For those of you who have followed this blog, you know how true it is when I say "this has been a long time coming".  We are finally at a point where we have a mature and revolving stock of Méthode Traditionnelle barrels and will release a 3 year blend!  We filled 116 MT barrels this year (7,000 gallons).  We used ~60 from previous years to blend, fruit, cut (more on that to come), or rest in spirit barrels.

February 8, 2018

Cervino Update

Two years ago I started an experiment of blurring beer and wine together, dubbed Cervino, by blending Chardonnay juice with spontaneous beer.  This last year's season we continued it by trying a couple more grape varieties, but by also focusing on incorporating wine techniques and was very encouraged by the evolution of Cervino.  For these larger batches, we blend barrels of already aged spontaneous beer together, and then add either whole grapes, or the juice after pressing grapes.  (Ferment the beer, add grapes, secondary ferment.)

I've wanted to experiment with the timing of fermenting the parts versus when they get combined.  What impact does it have to ferment the grapes alone and then blend it with fermented beer?  Or what about adding grapes to wort and doing primary together?  There are endless iterations of the same ingredient combination, and that's what excites me the most about the Cervino project.

This last season we were able to test out a few areas on interest.  We sourced 4 different local grape varieties and built a punchdown barrel for each of them.  The punchdown technique has been amazing in our fruited lambics.  Given that it's a wine technique, it only makes sense to bring that into the Cervino series.  To make the punch downs legal, and to help kick off fermentation, we added 5% Meerts beer to each barrel.  Punching the grapes down twice daily during fermentation brought out so much flavor, aroma, and crazy color for the two reds.  After fermentation we tasted each, experimented with blends of each other, with blends with spontaneous barrels, and in the end dumped one barrel and blended and packaged the other three.  Bluebell was the grape variety we dumped.  It wasn't bad, it just wasn't something we were excited about.  The other three were blended with 18 month old spontaneous barrels and bottle conditioned.

The three pictured above are the 3 we packaged.  La Crescent is "White".  King of the North is "Red".  Frontenac Gris is "Rosé" because the grapes themselves were a pinkish color.  It's really hard to explain the richness and complexity of flavor in these Cervinos.

After the Cervino Sangiovese, we expected the King of the North variety to result in a similarly rich and bold beer.  To our surprise, it drinks closer to the profile you'd expect from a traditional white wine.  It's quite delicate, but has the tannins you'd expect and a bright fruity flavor.  The Frontenac Gris resulted in a super funky and fruity aroma, and the flavor is very bold.  It's one part tropical fruit juice and another part this marriage of oak spice and rich earthy minerality.  The result of the La Crescent surprised us all in how clean and sophisticated a beer can be coming from a raw and seemingly uncouth fermentation process.  A clean, pure brett funk with strong citrus and floral notes.

I speak about Cervino as a project and one that is evolving.  This is certainly the next evolution. Unfortunately, these pilot batches are quite small and so bottles will only be available to the public for on-premise consumption at the taproom.

September 28, 2017

Méthode Traditionnelle

From this point forward, we will be using the term "Méthode Traditionnelle" as the style name for our lambic inspired beers.

This is, hopefully, the end of our journey to find a style name for these beers. Personally, I can't say that I've terribly enjoyed this journey. Looking back there have always been two competing goals at the root of every conversation; 1.) To respect the Belgian producers, and 2.) To respect the beer we're making.

For us this discussion started formally in 2012 when we proposed and adopted "American Lambic" as the style name. My belief was, and is, that this term clearly indicated what the beer was and what it wasn't. There were, however, some who disagreed and this topic was discussed and debated ad nauseum. Our stance has always been that we need a term that respected what we we're doing more than "American Wild Ale", and more concise than "Spontaneously fermented ale brewed in Wisconsin following the traditional methods of Belgian lambic brewers".

Fast forward to 2016 and there is more interest in this topic amongst industry members and a more formal discussion has started led by Jeffrey Stuffings at Jester King. My entrance to the conversation was down in St Louis during the Midwest Belgian Beer Fest where a group of us discussed the nomenclature and expressed a desire to have a single term by which we all agree to use, and further a standard by which we all agree to adhere to. This was music to my ears! I no longer felt like a crazy person on an island. There was excitement in this group. Taking inspiration from the wine/champagne world, "Méthode Gueuze" was suggested and we all agreed to it. There was support from our Belgian brethren. There was a healthy discussion amongst industry members as to what the criteria should be. Jester King announced their beer SPON and in that announced Methode Gueuze to the world. And it was good.

And then it wasn't. Call it a mental lapse, or caught up in the excitement, or something lost in translation, or a combination of all three. HORAL felt they were not adequately consulted and they had issues with the term "Méthode Gueuze". And I found myself back in the same debate. Respect the Belgians...but respect what we're doing. Two steps forward, one step back.

But, all good things take time. After 6 months of discussions with HORAL we have a much fuller grasp of each other's priorities and desires. Their main hangup was using the word "Lambic" or "Gueuze" as part of the style name. The resolution is that we will use "Méthode Traditionelle" for the style name, but they agree using the word "Lambic" or "Gueuze" to describe the inspiration of the beer is appropriate.

Not only that, but there was a core group of industry members that continued and completed the effort to define a standard by which "Méthode Traditionnelle" can be used. If you are interested in using the mark or reading the standards, you can find them here: https://methodetraditionnelle.org/standards/

A big thank you to James and Sarah Howat of Black Project, and Jeffrey Stuffings of Jester King. Two steps forward.

June 12, 2017

Taproom Grand Opening

Taproom Grand Opening Weekend June 23rd-25th!

Mark your calendar- The weekend of June 23rd we will be opening the doors of the new Funk Factory Taproom!

Friday: 4-11
Saturday 2-12
Sunday 11-7

1602 Gilson St
Madison, WI 53715

The details:

As you know, all we do are wild/funky/sour beers, and we've been busy packaging a lot of new beers to fill our new lines! Tap list so far:
Cherry Meerts
Peach Meerts
Blood, Sweat, and Unicorn Tears (Cranberry sour)
Cervino (Chardonnay/Sour ale hybrid)

We will also have some bottles available for on-premise consumption. However, we will not be doing a bottle release during the grand opening. There are enough moving parts with a new space, new staff, etc, that we don't want to confuse it more than need be for the opening weekend.

We're excited to show you our expansion and the new taproom!

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.
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