No waves today..
Every single time we blend a beer we debate about how carbonation is going to change it. Carbonation may seem like a forgotten, or peripheral, consideration but with beer it can sometimes make or break a product. Even with some of our own blends I have tasted after bottle conditioning and thought it was just shy of where we wanted, whether too low or too high. We tend to think of stouts as lower and IPAs as higher, and higher still saisons, sours and wild ales. Brews that came from the Belgian and French farmhouse traditions are almost synonymous with that champagne-like “Pop!” but this doesn’t necessarily need to be the rule for every single beer.
I think some of this thought process, or at least the standardization of it, comes from the wine world. Wine, like beer, has to follow certain conventions lest it be too confusing for the consumer. Red wines should be heavy, fruit forward with a robust body. White wines should be lighter, floral and spritzy. This is true of beer too whether we notice it or not. Dark beers are robust, high in alcohol with deep complexity and a lower carbonation. This wasn’t the case historically, but American brewers have changed the conversation. The flavor components are far different, this is obvious, but the similarities exist. Also, these are quick and dirty takes from a marketing standpoint, not from the vantage of making these fine concoctions.
What does this have to do with us? Well every time we make a beer we drink it flat, and we contend with these conventions. If you ask us, we prefer certain wild ales uncarbed and we have to contend with those consequences. You have no idea how many times we have told someone it tasted so much better before we carbed it. Bottle shock is what it is called when a wine tastes different after it has been put in a bottle, we just refer to it as bottle conditioning. We expect new fermentations to take place, in fact we encourage it.
This beer was blended in three different parts. First, we brewed a version of our Central Coast Saison, using grain that was grown and malted at Enney Farms in Paso Robles. This was a dry run, and a favor to Kenny, to see how he might key in his own process. The beer was good, the malt tasted great and we figured in a few months the world would get a taste of a truly local Central Coast Saison.
Well, fate stepped in in the form of Sextant Wines. They had some infected barrels they wanted to get rid of.. they also had some Cabernet juice available. We asked them to combine the two and send them to us and they graciously obliged. Once they got to us we talked about what we could blend it with and a thousand other questions all while we stood in front of the tank of Central Coast Saison that was waiting to be put into barrels. Things tend to happen around here in a serendipitous way like that, quite a bit in fact. It gets a little tiresome trying to pretend like we aren’t just lucky with our timing sometimes. We blended the juice into the tank with the Saison and then right back down into those very same barrels. Plus a few extra because not everything can be so ‘on the nose’.
So here we are, nearly a year later and (hopefully) in your hand is a glass of Flat Spell. You open that cork and expect that champagne ‘Pop!’ but instead, nothing. No fanfare, just a Red Wine Hybrid showcasing some of the fine attributes of our Coastal landscapes. Find your favorite wine glass, give it a pour and a swirl.
Ok fine. We couldn’t help ourselves. We liked this beer so much we went two ways with it. On draft only, for a limited time, you can try some side by side and compare Flat Spell with its carbonated counterpoint, Possibly Ornamental. When I asked a woman where she found a bowl of grapes, that she was casually throwing off a clock tower, one by one, at unsuspecting passerbys, she simply responded that they were, “Possibly Ornamental.” To be honest, I can’t get that comment out of my head sometimes and that woman may or may not own one of the top ten largest independent breweries in the nation. Which I feel, only makes it that much better of a comment.
Flat Spell will be available to our bottle club and on draft March 30th. Possibly Ornamental is on draft the same day.