Agrarian creates a diversity of beer styles throughout the year showcasing the bounty and whimsy of the season we happen to find ourselves in. Many of these creations are destined to be on tap at our tasting room and beyond at local taphouses and restaurants. We revel in our connection and cultivation of ingredients harvested at their peak of ripeness. In this effort we often strive to capture the freshest flavors possible to provide the brightest expression in our farm fresh brewing.
Agrarian Barrel Program
Another side of Agrarian involves a more patient and trusting approach - one resulting in flavors that develop only after careful conditioning for several months, or even several years. With almost 40 unique wine and spirits barrels and several special vessels designated for wild fermentation, we always have an abundance of projects in our barrel program at various stages of transformation. Part of this cellaring alchemy involves never quite knowing exactly what is going to happen when beer goes into a barrel for 6 months, or 12 months, or 18 months… Aging beer in oak yields remarkable and complex results - unique to each barrel and to each beer.
Each of our barrels evolves its own persona from its composition and history: Is it tending towards more nut and clove or cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla or caramel, honey or butterscotch, funky earth or dusty straw?… There are variations in wood type and their toast level as well: Is it French oak or American oak, a Gin barrel or a Rye Whiskey barrel, medium or heavy toast?... Then begins the the discerning, yet inconclusive personality test: Just how expressive or neutral is this barrel?, What beer was in this barrel previously? Wild fermented microflora or pure culture?, How much fruit did we add?...
With a myriad of variables, blending barreled beer is a journey of trial and error coupled with some directional experience of knowing what flavors compliment and contrast. Many measured samples are proportioned and swirled, and many exciting flavor fusions are scribbled down. After a relatively short period of sampling, the palate will inevitably fatigue and it is wisely decided to revisit all of those favorite blends another day. This alchemy may stumble upon brilliance within a few sessions, or, more often the case, certain barrels will simply need revisited over the course of several months and beyond.
Once a barrel project reaches a point of absolute wonder we move the beer over to a blending tank and hand bottle it. These bottles are then placed in our warm room where they condition and carbonate for a minimum of one month. The most exceptional barrel projects end up in our Root Cellar bottle line, representing some of the finest beer we offer.
Root Cellar Release
With long awaited anticipation, we are proud to debut two Root Cellar releases: Brevity and Eärendil. These two masterpieces are a gift of nature and nurture...
Brevity: French Barrel-Aged Bière de Garde
7.8% Alc/Vol - 750mL Cork & Cage Belgian Bottle
Time In Oak: 16 Months
“Concisely built with an exacting use of adeptness, this orange-hued barrel-aged delight emanates aromas of toasted malt, light toffee and zesty citrus. Matured with three distinct strains of Brettanomyces; potent flavors of golden raisins and apricots mingle elegantly with funky wild yeast complexity. With a creamy mouth feel that finishes dry and smooth, this sustaining ale is sure to finesse any gusty disposition. Enjoy with company.”
A Little History...
The origin of French Bière de Garde (beer to keep/store) is similar to that of Belgian Saison. They both share a seasonal and provisional kinship, being born and brewed on farms when conditions were admissible and farm fresh ingredients abundant. As nourishment and reward to thirsty farmhands, these two styles provided for and sustained the agrarian lifestyle.
Historically, farmers in Northern France brewed during the cooler fall season, utilizing their fresh ingredients soon after the hustle and bustle of harvest. This cooler time of year kept the fermentation in check and helped prevent spoilage organisms from taking hold. Beer made for daily consumption tended to be light in alcohol and consumed fresh; whereas Beire de Garde was built with a higher alcohol content, providing more stability for keeping until the early spring.
With a similar history unfolding for Saison in Belgium, these two styles diverged from each other as regional preferences developed. Over time, Belgian brewers leaned towards warmer-fermenting yeast strains that produce more spice and fruit, and the French brewers tended towards cooler-fermenting yeast strains that emphasize malt. Beire de Garde was often made with a German top-fermenting Kölsch or Altbier yeast, or less often, a bottom-fermenting lager strain.
Brevity is made with organic wheat and Munich malt, and fermented with Kölsch yeast. Shortly after primary fermentation, it was transferred to three neutral French oak wine barrels, where it rested for the next 16 months. Each wine barrel was inoculated with a different strain of Brettanomyces, fusing three different wild yeast profiles. With careful consideration, all three barrels were blended back together.
After bottle conditioning in our warm room for 3 months, Brevity rested in the bottle for an additional 9 months before release.
Eärendil: Oud Bruin
7.8% Alc/Vol - 750mL Cork & Cage Belgian Bottle
Time In Oak: 24 Months
“With an extended maturation in French oak barrels, Eärendil has a soft sherry-like sourness, offering up ripe aromatics of fig, sour cherry, and hints of vinaigrette. Deep garnet in color, with a fleeting beige head, this full-bodied experience finishes with layers of toffee and a touch of fruity sweetness. The soothing light of Eärendil's star shines bright in this special offering - share the light with friends.”
A Little History...
Oud Bruin (Old Brown) is a style of aged sour beer originating from the Flanders region of northern Belgium. Similar to the old-world style of Lambic, Oud Bruin is created with a mix of souring microbes and yeast. The difference lies in the practice of pitching these browns with known souring cultures, rather than letting the whim of nature fall into your beer - as is the case for brewing Lambic.
Used oak wine casks were commonly used for storing and aging beer for many of Flanders breweries. With its semi-porous nature, oak provides an excellent inhabitable surface for microscopic organisms. Oud Bruin was typically fermented with brewer’s yeast then inoculated with a combination of bacteria - Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. Oak’s porosity also enables barrels to “breath”, letting low levels of oxygen into the maturing beer. This exchange of oxygen provides a vital nutrient for Acetobacter and Brettanomyces - both of which play a nuanced roll in the final flavor characteristics of classic Oud Bruin.
Eärendil was crafted with organic Munich and CaraMunich malts, and pitched with a Belgian yeast. After its initial fermentation, this beer was transferred to neutral French oak barrels and dosed with our house Lactobacillus culture. With an extended barrel aging totaling 24 months, Eärendil naturally developed a population of Brettanomyces and Acetobacter. Careful and frequent barrel top-up kept the development of acetic acid and Brett funk subtle, allowing the softer lactic acid brightness to shine bright.
This lengthy maturation and multi-organism fermentation coupled with oak nuances is, in the end, sublime. Eärendil is a true wonder of nature who’s journey we are proud to share.