When the Schlafly Tap Room began the Schlafly Reserve Series back in 2006, they bought a few bourbon barrels to age the Schlafly Reserve Imperial Stout in. As the beers grew in popularity, so did the number of barrels needing to be purchased.
The problem with using barrels to age beer in is that it’s a one time deal. When the barrels arrive from the distillery the woods has been exposed to the high-alcohol bourbon so any microorganism, such as wild yeast or bacteria, has pretty much been killed off, leaving the barrel clean and ready to be used.
But once you’ve used the barrel for aging beer, it’s a different story. The alcohol in the beer isn’t high enough to kill off these micro-pests so they’re forced to buy new barrels.
As you can imagine, being able to use these barrels only a single time is not only wasteful, but expensive. But what if you could use the wild yeast to your benefit? I’m proud to announce the debut of the first step in the Schlafly Sour Beer Program.
As part of a half-million dollar upgrade to the Schlafly Tap Room, the very rarely seen boiler room, which is located under the beer garden, will be cleaned up and will be the home of this exciting new program. New equipment will be purchased, new racks for barrels will be installed, and new draught lines will be put in to accommodate these new beers.
The first step of this new program began back on 03/31/2010 when a special blend of Belgian Single (which had already been fermented out) was added to four different bourbon barrels that underwent a cleaning and a conditioning. It was at that point that three different strains of Brettanomyces were each added to separate barrels, with one barrel being left alone as a control.
The three different strains of Brett that were added were: Claussenii, Lambicus, and Bruxellensis. It’s important to note that Brettanomyces doesn’t necessarily add sourness to a beer, it usually adds a layer of funk. But, that doesn’t mean that certain lactic acid producing bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Pediococcus couldn’t possibly show up as the beer sits.
As for the release of these beers, that’s going to take some time. “From a brewing standpoint, I really want to give our folks some time to do it right. I want to make sure our guys have the tools to do this the right way,” says Schlafly Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Kopman.
For more information about sour beers in St. Louis, be certain to check out the September issue of Feast Magazine. Feast will be offering up a look at this very interesting beer style along with additional information about Schlafly’s Hop in the City festival beer, the Oud Bruin.