Welcome to Budding Cells, our new beer series dedicated to brewing sour beers from barrel-ageing and mixed culture fermentation. It’s the process that happens when you barrel age beers and leave the wild yeast and bacteria to work their magic!
Barrel-ageing beer is a much slower and more difficult process to make sour beers than the modern ‘kettle souring’ technique that enables brewers to sour a beer in a matter of days, but we think it’s worth it. We mature our beers in barrels supplied by renowned Canberra Region winemakers such as Helm, Eden Road, Four Winds and Nick O’Leary; with future iterations to experiment with spontaneous fermentation and indigenous yeast.
Budding Cells is the culmination of nearly two decades’ experimentation with barrel ageing and mixed culture fermentation by BentSpoke‘s Richard Watkins. In 2005, Richard toured leading American craft breweries such as Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California, best known for its iconic Pliny The Elder Double IPA. But it was the mysterious sour ales pouring from the Russian River taps that left the biggest impression on the visiting Australian, who at that stage was head brewer at Canberra’s Wig & Pen Tavern & Brewery.
Here were beers that presented not like any other; clear, golden, and effervescent. But as Richard lifted the glass to his nose, the aromatics gave away an unconventional fermentation regime.
After undergoing a typical primary fermentation using standard brewer’s yeast, these beers developed most of their character over nine months or longer spent resting in barrels. The bacteria and wild yeast present in these vessels had gently soured the beers, which had developed a strikingly complex array of aromas and flavours. “With every sniff and taste I was picking up different flavour notes,” Richard recalls. “I had to take the time to comprehend how they all worked together. Fifteen minutes later it was like, ‘now I get this beer!’” Read more about Rich and Tracy’s adventures into barrel-aged beers at their website.
BentSpoke Brewing Co.
Address: 38 Mort St, Braddon, Canberra
Call: (02) 6257 5220