May 23, 2018

Bière de Coupage


“Bière de Coupage” is a phrase that first shows up in French brewing texts from the 1800’s, and is used to describe the process of blending old and young beer together. Over the years, this method of making beer has taken many forms and has been utilized for a variety of reasons. One of the oldest notable examples comes from England and Ireland, where porter brewers would age a portion of their product in oak tanks until it developed vinous characteristics and reblend it back into fresh porter to add complexity. Another common example is the blending of darker sour ales around the Flanders region to control the acetic acid content and flavor profile. Perhaps the most well-known is the blending of old and young lambic in Belgium to deliver a consistent product and balance the complementary flavors present in different vintages of beer.

In recent years, “Bière de Coupage” has become synonymous with a style of beer as much as the historical method, and is most typically used to describe a blend of young, hoppy saison with older spontaneous beer. Because most lactic acid bacteria (particularly lactobacillus) is sensitive to the presence of hops in beer and will not produce acid when the IBUs are too high, the bitterness derived from hops and the complex flavors and acid profile from a mixed culture are rarely found together. One way around this is to blend a hopped beer (typically a saison) with a more mature sour beer (often a spontaneous one). This is exactly what we’ve done with our Bière de Coupage, and what others in America (Jester King, Perennial, Zebulon, American Solera/Evil Twin, Amos Browne, etc.) have been experimenting with over the past few years.

We are pleased to be part of the resurgence of this method, and are particularly excited about this one particular style of beer that it’s able to produce (and thankful we now have the barrel stock and foeder capacity to attempt it). For the blending, we began with 250 gal of our Foeder Saison and added to it a blend of four barrels of 1 year-old 100% spontaneous MT (Méthode Traditionnelle) beer, and a small portion of 3 year-old MT beer. The result has a fresh liveliness, brightness, and mild supporting bitterness from the young foeder beer, and a mature acid profile, musty oakiness, minerality, and overall flavor complexity from the old spontaneous beer. Despite being unfruited, we also get big notes of under ripe peaches, stone fruit, and a grassy earthiness. It should continue to develop for years in the bottle, and we hope you enjoy this beer as much as we do!


Yield: 1,278 bottles, 15 kegs
Release: June 8th 2018

Foeder Saison - Boysenberry


One of our 40hL foeders (“Foeder Black”) was initially utilized as a Meerts foeder, but in October of 2017, it was converted into a fermentation vessel for beers that fill in the gaps between our Meerts and Méthode Traditionnelle programs. The 2018 “Foeder Saison” series represents the first beers to emerge from that switch, and this beer is the first fruited variant to be bottled from that fill. It has a delicate mouthfeel from the use of white wheat and flaked oats, as well as a refreshing acidity and complexity from the saison strains and cultured microbes that accompanied the wild yeast already present in the walls of the foeder.

After six months of fermentation, this beer was refermented on 1.75 lbs/gal of boysenberries, which is a cross between the red raspberry, blackberry, loganberry, and dewberry. The fruit itself is from the Pacific Northwest and has an extremely well-rounded flavor profile that bursts with vibrant jammy-berry characteristics. These qualities make it one of my favorite fruits to use in sour beer, and certainly come through in full force in this release.

Yield: 624 bottles, 14 kegs
Release: June 8th 2018

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!

GRAND OPENING HOURS:
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:
Meerts
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

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!
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