The following was largely written by Joe Mohrfeld with assistance from Zach Turner, both brewers on the Odell Brewing team, and edited by yours truly. In addition to brewing, they also keep a blog of what’s going on in those tanks and barrels. Without further ado, here is the lowdown on Odell Deconstruction Golden Ale.
Drawing on a background in 20th Century Continental Philosophy and a motivation we had for breaking previous brewing “structures,” we, the brewers at Odell, developed a Golden Ale inspired by Jacques Derrida’s theory of Deconstruction, and we applied our interpretation of this theory to the brewing process. Where his philosophical theory works to expose the intricacies of a text, we worked to expose the individual complexities of a beer through the brewing process. Deconstruction Golden Ale is the result of a brewing process that first deconstructs the “complexities” desired in the finished product, thereby revealing how to achieve these characteristics through the process of brewing, and then reconstructs them by altering the fermentation process to create desired complexities.
These complexities are achieved through brewing various pilot beers (along with one large production size beer). This process has provided us with a new understanding of the role that our five-barrel pilot system plays in recipe development. In the past, we have always used the system as a way to develop and refine recipes. In this case, however, we brewed differing yet similar beers for barrel-aging purposes so that certain amounts of the final product had different and specific times to age and achieve desired complexities. Some complexities that make up this beer have been aging in barrels for just under a year while others have been aging for around three months.
Each pilot beer is a Strong Golden Ale and, aside from the first one brewed back in fall 2009, has a similar malt and hop bill. That first beer, De Oogst or “The Harvest,” was the pilot beer that we used to develop the base recipes we wanted and each subsequent beer followed in that vein. It is likely that we will release more information on these pilot beers in the near future but, for now, here are some details compiled from our own blog . . .
De Oogst is a hoppy 7% ABV Belgian-inspired Pale Ale with three different yeast strains (two Belgian and our House). Malts include Belgian and Pilsner. Hops used in the kettle include Gold, Tettnanger while Saaz is used in the Hopback.
For the second pilot beer, dubbed “Golden,” we substituted Canadian Base Malt for the Belgian Malt to achieve a richer malt base as opposed to the drier malt profile in De Oogst. We did, however, keep the hops the same so you will still be able to enjoy the spicy floral Saaz hop character contributed from the generous hopback addition. More importantly, in January, we added bacteria (Lactobacillus and Pediococcus) and wild yeast (Brettanomyces) to the beer as it ages in a French Oak Cabernet Barrel in our barrel room.
The third pilot beer was aged in old steamed-out Bourbon barrels and one Cabernet barrel. Pilot #4 went into second-use Woodcut barrels.
The “Fester” Yeast Strain
As alluded to in the De Oogst description above, each pilot beer and the base beer underwent primary fermentation with both our house ale strain and one to two (of four) different Belgian yeast strains. For Pilot Beers #2 and #3, we inoculated those barrels with a local culture of wild yeast we refer to as our “Fester” strain. Fester was cultured from a Berliner style mash we created in our lab with our silo malt. Since wild yeast is essentially everywhere, we were able to culture it from right outside the brewery. After isolating Fester from other yeasts living in the small culture, we propagated it until we reached desired pitching quantities for each inoculation. Fester has proven to give us a uniquely tart, grapefruit-esqe sourness we have never had from any other wild yeast with which we have worked. It is quite pleasant in a strong, complex Golden Ale such as this.
As an additional note, the Drie Fonteinen Brettanomyces strain was also used in the process for certain Pilot #2 and #3 barrels.
Blending a.k.a. Reconstruction
The final step is to blend each of the pilot parts together with our final batch creating the finished beer. Since we had a pretty good idea of how we foresaw the blend from the beginning, along with consistently tasting barrels throughout the process, we were able to keep notes, allowing the blending process to be fairly straightforward for this beer. The blending is unique in that, unlike a Lambic project where you have many barrels at various stages of the souring process, this project was set up so that each component was brewed in the amount we desired for the final blend. As mentioned, the final blend has been more a reconstruction of the elements rather than a traditional blending of them.
Deconstruction will be packaged in the same fashion as past Single Serve Series beers (750 ml, cork and caged). The distribution will be similar to our very limited Woodcut Series. We are only producing 36 barrels of this beer and, of these 36 barrels, 95% will be bottled with the remaining being kegged for our taproom and a limited number of local beer-centric accounts. Being as limited as our Woodcut series, we expect just under 5,000 bottles to be available.
Because of the bottle conditioning process, we do not have an exact date of release but the final blending of all vessels happened during the first week of July. Expect to see it in stores sometime between late July and mid-August. We will announce the release date once it is finalized on Facebook and Twitter as well as on our blog.