On day 2 of American Craft Beer Week, I’d like to take a look at our year-round kettle sour, Raspberry Empress. Raspberry Empress is a sour with Mosaic hops and raspberries. Empress turned into a huge hit for us, but it was a bit of a sleeper.
The first time we brewed this beer was back in 2016. We were first messing around with kettle sours back then and had just made a sour IPA base. I split some off on some raspberries. The resulting beer was nice–kind of like a raspberry mimosa. Empress today is largely unchanged. We sour using lactobacillus bacteria to achieve a pleasant level of lactic acid, and then boil. The beer gets a whirlpool addition of Mosaic which contributes some bitterness and a Mosaic dry-hop. Once we scaled up, we started using large stainless IBCs to sour the beer in before pasteurization, which has allowed us to brew large batches rather than just a single kettle full of beer.
I like Empress for a variety of reasons. First, it’s not too sour. It usually finishes at around 3.2 PH, with a mild perceived acidity and fruit flavor from the bacteria we use. It’s a sour beer you can drink quite a few of. Second, it’s very clean. We’ve brewed a lot of this beer, and I’ve never had any issues of off-flavors that can creep up in quick-soured beers. Lastly, we’ve created some cool variants. A month ago, we released Orange Empress in cans, which did pretty well. Next month, we’ll release Razzz, a double-fruited version, and after that, Rosé Empress with grape must.
Empress was really interesting for us in distribution. Last summer when I was doing a lot of our sales, I didn’t have a lot of luck with Empress. First, before we got our souring tank we couldn’t produce a lot of it, so it wasn’t available often enough for the people that wanted it. Second, it was a hard sell to a lot of beer buyers. They were not familiar with a fruited kettle sour, and were skeptical that it would sell. It always sold really well in our taproom, and I was confident it would do well on tap at most bars, but it was difficult to convince buyers. Things really changed as soon as warm weather hit this year. Now we cannot make enough Empress! In a month, our second souring tank will arrive and we can begin canning large runs of Empress!
Empress is available year-round in both cans and draught. Look for it on tap or at some Virginia and D.C. bottle shops!