Today I brewed another beer in the Master Series, maybe the most interesting one of all. Warden’s Lament will be a sour barrel-aged tripel, made with several unique methods to produce something totally interesting.
Warden’s Lament starts as a tripel, a Belgian style of ale that is very strong and dry, pale in color with yeast-driven flavors and an effervescent body. In addition to the normal Belgian yeast that I use, this beer also is inoculated with wild Brettanomyces yeast, lactobacillus, pediococcus, and several other strains. Over the course of many months, these organisms work together to break down the beer nearly completely, a process called super-attenuation. They also produce lactic acid and a variety of esters and phenols, giving the beer a tartness and great complexity.
The full-size version of this beer will undergo this slow fermentation process in a used wine barrel, courtesy of my friend Stefan Mehl at Doukenie Winery outside Purcellville. After about a year, I will pull a third of the contents of the 60-gallon pinot oak barrel. I will replace the missing portion of the barrel with fresh beer, in a method called solera, traditionally used in the production of sherry and balsamic vinegar. I will then take the aged beer and blend it with fresh Hopsail single to taste, and bottle it. After carefully monitoring the taste and carbonation, I will release the beer.
These types of beers are very interesting because of the way they evolve and the unique microflora that develops in the barrel. In the past, I have used dregs from bottles of Jolly Pumpkin and Russian River beers to add their unique strains of microbes to my beers, and I plan on continuing to add to the mix as time goes on. For this batch, I added some microbes from Monk’s Cafe Flanders red ale and Mikkeller Spontanale. The group of strains living in the barrel will grow larger and more diverse over time, producing a very unique beer that will continue to change.