So other than the first few experiments and test batches, it’s been a solid year that I’ve been brewing and aging sours. With a little experience, I’m making some changes to the barrel program at New Braunfels Brewing Company.
Essentially, I’m slowing everything down and making process changes to improve our beer, making it more consistent from bottle to bottle and batch to batch.
At the end of last year I stopped aging Cosmic Dancer, the barrel-aged weizenbock, in 15gl neutral bourbon barrels and instead switched it to 60 gallon neutral wine barrels. And we doubled the time the beer ages and ferments in the barrel. The smaller barrels impart oak and character quicker and more dynamically, which I felt didn’t blend well with the palate of Cosmic. With the larger barrels, Cosmic just needed more time to mature. The flavors are more integrated, the mouthfeel smoother and the final beer is much more fun to drink, which is always the point for us.
With Black Fury, the barrel-aged dunkelweizen, I extended the barrel time by 6 months to smooth some (by no means all) of the edges from the mouthfeel. This is a beer that ferments fairly quickly and the oak character imparts almost immediately. With the extended time we’ve found that the beer is more balanced with the oak character being very prominent.
We also won’t be filling bottles and the occasional keg from individual barrels anymore, which I did solely to ensure that our retail partners didn’t run out. Instead, once each year for Cosmic and twice per year for Black we’ll be transferring all of our barrels to a brite tank and allowing a few weeks for the flavors to blend into a tightly consistent batch. The bottles are then individually hand-conditioned with fresh wort and allowed to carbonate.
So now for the bad news:
Neither of these beers will be coming out of barrel until December this year at the earliest. Which means we’ll have bottles no sooner than late January. As of right now there are about 30 cases in the brewery and a few on shelves at retailers from Spec’s to ATX convenience stores, with a few bars and restaurants, as well. And we’ve got 2 Black Fury kegs and one Cosmic Dancer. So we’ll run out of both of these beers this year. And I do apologize. As I write this, it freaks me out a little to admit that we’ll have empty slots on our retailer shelves. But it’s what’s best for the beer and, ultimately, you-the loyal consumer.
The good news:
Our other sours and barrel projects will be available to fill the Black Fury/Cosmic Dancer hole.
Sangre de Shiva Blend3 will come out late September. This is our wet wine barrel-aged weizenbock. The first 2 blends were great and, in my opinion, we get a little better with each release. This one was the first beer where I had the winery dump the barrel an hour before I got it and I had them leave the lees and sediment in the barrel. The grape is the only red grape that grows well in Comal County (where the brewery is), the Black Spanish. A deep, tobacco and spice-flavored wine, it paired seamlessly with Shiva’s Tears to create Blend3. Look for release details later this month.
Sangre de shiva Blend4, which used William Chris Syrah barrels, is targeted for a mid-November release.
Mexican Cannon has a new release. On 9/2 we bottled 20 cases of our limepeel/seasalt sour wheat beer. Just in time for that period in TX where we think it should stop being so freaking hot but it just keeps trucking along.
Saison de series. Our first fruited saison, Saison de Nefle is now completely sold out. Saison de peche, our Fredericksburg peach sour saison, was bottled on 9/2 and will be released in the brewery in 500ml bottles late September. Saison de Pasteque, our watermelon saison will also be released later this month on draft only. Saison de Roncier, the raspberry/blackberry sour saison, will be released in the brewery only in 500ml bottles on 10/15. And as of right now, we have no idea when Saison de Lenior, our sour fruit saison refermented with Black Spanish grapes that grew 20 minutes from the brewery, will be ready. But it’s fermenting away nicely.
And there’s a rumor that Contusic Impetus (in the key of e) will be making a December comeback in the brewery with 20 cases or so. That’s the bright red beet, apple and ginger sour that most of you didn’t even get to taste.
So don’t despair, I’m working on keeping your palates and imaginations satiated. Thanks for your support and for enjoying the fruits of our creativity.
Owner & Head Wood Fondler