We were able to sit down with AC Golden brewer; Troy Casey, and gain some more insight behind the beers that will be part of the AC Golden Hidden Barrel Collection; Peche and Apricot. A great read for those with an interest in wild ales of any sort and a teaser as to what can be anticipated in the future for Colorado produced sour beers.
1. Can you give a brief introduction of yourself and your history at AC Golden?
I’ve been with AC Golden for about 4 years now. I started right after I finished my Masters degree from the University of California at Davis in Food Science.
2. Where did your interests in the sour/wild beer styles first arise? Can you recall your first experience with a beer of this nature?
The first time I tried a sour beer was when I worked for Bristol Brewing Company in Colorado Springs back in 2004. They were experimenting with their Skull and Bones sour beer line and using different amounts of sugar to bottle condition. They gave me a couple cases(!!!!) of bottles, but my palate wasn’t quite ready for sours yet. I stored them in my parent’s basement after that, but I think they were thrown away. Now that I love sour beers, I kick myself every time I think of how naive I was!
The first time I remember enjoying sours was drinking Eric’s Ale at New Belgium in college during a trip home from California. After that I researched other beers like it and learned that Russian River Brewing Company was very close to my school in northern California. Before I drove back to Colorado after my program was over, I picked up a bunch of early batches of Temptation, Supplication and Beatification. I had no idea how amazing these beers were when I bought them, I just new they were special. Once I really got into sours, I realized what I had. After that my sour obsession just started to spiral and hasn’t slowed down yet.
3. With Herman Joseph's and Colorado Native being the familiar names most
associate with AC Golden, was it difficult to begin a barrel-aging program that would focus on beers completely different in nature to the flagship brands?
We’re an incubator brewery and so we get to play around with a lot of different styles of beer. We occasionally test these beers outside of the brewery to gauge consumer's reactions. No one told us to make these beers; we just started experimenting with them around 3 years ago. Sour beers are really gaining in popularity and we’re happy to have finally gotten on the shelf alongside some other phenomenal sour beers.
4. With the first bottles from this program to finally be released, can you give specifics on how many physical barrels were filled and total bottle counts for each style?
All of these beers had the fruit added directly to the oak barrel. We aged the fruit in the Apricot for 3.5 months. The Peche had the peaches in the barrel from the initial fill, so for about a year. We did one oak barrel of the Peche, and two barrels of the Apricot which we then blended to get the apricot flavor we wanted. If we didn’t add fruit we would get around 20 cases of beer, but the fruit displaces and absorbs a lot of the beer. We’re releasing 8 cases of the Peche, and 14 cases of the Apricot. We’re saving the rest for festivals and beer dinners.
5. Where did the inspiration come from to dedicate in making these sour fruited beers? How much fruit is generally used to fill each barrel and where was it sourced?
We love using local ingredients whenever possible, just like in Colorado Native Lager which uses all Colorado ingredients. We also love the great fruit that our state produces, so making sour beers with them was a natural fit. We added 95 pounds of Palisade peaches to the Peche barrel and 120 pounds of Palisade apricots to each barrel of the Apricot.
6. How do you think time through aging or “cellaring” will interact
with these beers?
These beers were bottled through
out last year, and we’ve been storing them at cellar temperature ever since to allow bottle conditioning to occur. We find that we get full carbonation at around 3-4 weeks when using our strain of brettanomyces for conditioning. What I’ve been happy to see happen since then is the settling of the pectin haze that we got from adding the fruit. The beers are getting brighter and brighter as they age. I think since we used so much fruit that those flavors will last for a while. I suspect that as the fruit flavor fades over time, the acidity will continue to grow. We suggest enjoying these beers fresh!
7. What is your approach when concerning Brettanomyces as a major
flavor contributor? Do you intentionally add Brett or will it
naturally take over with time?
We do some type of primary fermentation in stainless steel tanks using a regular ale or lager yeast. After the beer is ready in the tank, we’ll transfer to oak barrels and add multiple strains of brettanomyces to the barrel once we fill it. A few months later we’ll than add a combination of lactobacillis and/or pediococcus. We’ve learned not to add too much brett at the fill or else those flavors can dominate. We don’t like one thing to be too dominant in our sour beers, so we try to keep everything in balance.
8. How much does blending play a part to the beers of this nature? Is
there a certain character of flavor that can only be achieved by the
slow process of blending?
I have no idea. We’re very new to the sour game, and blending is a skill that can only come with time and the available beer to do it. I’m excited to learn more about blending as our barrel program matures and we have the opportunity to do more blending.
9. For the conceptualization of different sour beers, do you utilize different base recipes depending on the projected outcome? Will different wort give different results, or more intriguing; will the same wort give different results upon aging?
We consider the base beer recipe to be the canvas in the work of art, with time, barrels, yeast and fruit to be the different paints. It’s amazing how the exact same inputs to different barrels can yield considerably different flavors. Just the positioning of the barrels in our area with respect to the temperatures can cause different flavors. That’s what’s so fun about these beers – as a brewer you’re constantly being challenged by things you can barely control. When we test something in our program, maybe a new yeast strain, we don’t expect to see results for a year. It takes that long to learn the outcome.
10. What is the current size of the barrel-aging program? Is there a possibility of it growing?
We added a lot of barrels last year so that we’d have more barrels to choose from in blends this year. We’ve got a few dozen barrels aging right now and we hope to add a couple more this year for some other experiments. We hope to do a larger release of beers of this nature later in the year.
11. On a level similar to what is being released currently, what other beers can be expected to come from AC Golden? Will they all be sour or barrel aged in nature? What does the near future hold?
We’re always experimenting with new beers, but won’t even think about releasing anything until we’re 100% happy with them, and that can take some time. We’ll let you know when we have something next!