Friday, February 3, 2017

Adit - First Bottle Release at Kelly Green Brewing Co.


It really wasn't that long ago that I announced here on the blog that I would be managing a line of mixed fermentation barrel aged beers for Kelly Green Brewing Co. in Pitman, New Jersey. However, this has been a project I have been working on with Justin and crew for about year, and finally we will have something to show for it. This Saturday February 4th at 12pm we will be releasing the first bottle from that line. Adit is a Saison brewed with wheat & rye, then fermented & aged in red wine barrels from Amalthea Cellars for ~6 months with our house mixed culture. After which the beer was packaged in 750ml bottles and laid down to achieve a natural carbonation.

I am both excited and I'll admit, terrified at the idea of people coming into the brewery to purchase bottles of the beer we have spent so much time and energy producing. I've kind of been through this before with Riverwards IPA, but I had a ton of hand holding with John pulling all the strings, this is me pulling the strings this time. On the other hand, the beer is tasting great, and I think will be enjoyed by many, but we will see what the masses think!

By definition, the word Adit means the horizontal entrance to a mine, which is what the back door hatch to the basement at KGBC looks like to me. So Adit is the theoretical entrance for everyone to our line of weird barrel aged aged beers. Pretentious BS maybe? I dont know but I think its fitting *Shrugs*. 
Photo courtesy of Jeff Giampaolo. Click the link for more of his photos.
I will let folks be the judge of the beer, but I find it very satisfying. It exudes aromas of pineapple, citrus zest, and hay all wrapped into the finest horseblanket South Jersey has to offer. Its bone dry, tinglingly prickly carbonation with an acidity that hits the tip of your tongue then gives way to a light spice note in the middle of the mouth. The beer tidily finishes with a balancing act between acidity, barrel and spice, very white wine like. Really a solid expression of how I want our beers to taste, so what's there to be afraid of? Untappd? Pfft!


Hope to see some folks at the brewery tomorrow, should be a super fun time. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Solera Year 3 tasting: Bluebs and No Bluebs

Its Solera season 'round these parts, it's time to taste some bottles from last year, brew top-off batches and package some new variations. Every year before I plan out the next top off batch I like to sit down and taste through a few vintages, as well as pull a sample from the aging vessel to evaluate where it's been, where it is currently, and decide what I can change to steer it in a direction to suit my tastes. When I do these tastings it really is amazing to me how apparent the subtle difference are when tasted side by side. If I wasn't trying them right next to each other I may not notice the differences, but side by side the subtle changes do stand out. A testament to those changes I've made over the last couple of years, but still, I wouldn't call any vintage of the Solera my favorite sour beer I've done.

Blueberry refermentation.
I made a some changes in the second years (2015) top off to get a more barnyardy Brett character and amp up the aged hop profile to hopefully subdue the acid and bring a little complexity. I mentioned in the top off post  that I got what I wanted from those changes, more funky, a bit more complex but still had a bit of ethyl acetate that bugged me, but you never know what will happen during that magic of bottle conditioning. Not to be forgotten was the portion of the 2015 bottlings that was aged on some organic Blueberries my family and I picked in a very rural part of Central NJ. The farm was a self pick organic farm, my wife and I took the kids along with some friends to head out picking. The blueberries tasted awesome, and it was a really fun experience picking them together knowing they would be aged on some of the Solera, the wait on this one was excruciating due to that build up.
Purple Pellicle.

Here are my thoughts on bottling year 3 (2015) of the Solera, Unblended first.


Unblended Solera: Bottling Year 3 

Bottled 11/29/2015

Appearance: High carb, had the glass ready when I opened it but there was no concern of a gusher, however when I opened one a few months ago it did gush. It's been awhile since I have had a beer from the Solera and forgot how great the color is on this beer, it's like a copper-ish yellow, like the color of some really dark yellow urine. Yum? Head for days, and days, and days, frothy head and it last with 1/4" on top throughout the entire glass. Pretty remarkable for a glass of dark yellow urine "Blegh*.

Stockings hung by the chimney with care...
and then my 1 year old rip them down and stomped on them.

Aroma:
 
Minerality to the aroma, maybe even slightly metallic, notes of tree bark and sap from a pine tree almost coming across as sweet, no nail polish, quite earthy with subtle pear skin quality and an underlying pineapple aroma thats come out as the bottle has aged for a year.


Flavor: When these bottles were young it was bracingly sour, but as they have aged it has seemed to meld a little better, or maybe perception has. There is some body to the beer, an almost fluffy texture that gives way to an assertive acid note, slightly acetic but dominated by the lactic. A little bit of a spice tinge on the tongue, earthy but mostly dominated by the fluffiness and the acid. Really very drinkable for how old and sour the beer is. It's considerably less sour than year one, more complex and much more enjoyable. 

Overall: I am actually happier with this than I had expected to be, young bottles were sharply sour with a background sweetness that distracted and frankly put me off. The acid has melded well and seems to be a bit more restrained, however that "sweetness" (not sure thats the best descriptor) bothers me a little. I enjoy it but do I like it? I don't know that I can say that exactly, but I don't hate it. The struggle is real.


Blueberry Solera: Bottling Year 3 

Bottled: 11/29/2015

Appearance: Big pop of carb when I opened the bottle, some foam grew in the neck but no Gush, love the geometry of these bottles for high carb. This beer actually has significant legs, like a red wine, there is a nice body to the beer. 


Beer poured with a white-ish pink head, fading quickly to virtually nothing at all, the complete opposite of the "unblended". It's an amazing color, deep Crimson/purple, almost the color of a light red wine. Carbonation is visible in the glass, clarity is good. 

Listen, I get it, Die Hard is set during Christmas time,
but it is NOT A CHRISTMAS MOVIE!

Aroma: There is a touch of a solvent/ethyl acetate note in the nose upon first whiff, but the second time I jam my nose in there I'm adjusted and get a remarkable blueberry, cherry aroma. Either I needed to adjust or became numb to that aroma but at first I thought "Oh crap, this is a stinker" but once I did adjust the blueberry and dark fruits really popped.

Flavor: Whew, very tart, very blueberry jam like. Silky smooth body with a lactic and carbonic bite. Super refreshing jammy blueberry thing going on here. 

Overall: This turned out pretty great, much better than the "unblended" version. Maybe the Blueberry is playing well with the underlying sweetness of the base beer or the refermentation blew that out of the beer. This is without a doubt the most enjoyable beer to have come out of the Solera yet. However, the fruit beers coming out of my barrels are much better.

Solera Overview to date

After the first year I felt the beer in the Solera was pretty one dimensional, overly sour, apple-y, with a slight troubling ethyl acetate note. At that point it would have worked better as a blender than bottling up unblended but I stayed the course and packaged it untouched. I still have a bunch of bottles left from that first year, most recently I have been blending those finished bottles into fresh Saison for Bier De Coupage, more on that down the road. The changes I've made over the years, both in wort production, fruiting, and blending, have resulted in some solid beers but I would be lying if I reach for the bottles super often. Looking back at the project I feel like I have been making those changes to fix issues, not to take something that is solid and make great but to rectify issues. A fun exercise, but feeling like throwing good money after bad at times. While the Blueberry turned out quite nice here, my excitement for the Solera is waning, I plan to brew a new top off beer and age it out another year but if it's not considerably better I will likely end the project.