15 October 2010
OK, here's the first official announcement I've put out. We've finally decided to release 2010 Riserva, likely in early to mid-November. I'll follow up with an exact date on the Beer Releases board here as soon as we know it.
We're currently waiting for neck tags to arrive, which we'll drape over the necks on the bottles with the following info printed:
Though its in the nature of a wild ale to be different each year, this years vintage is exceptionally different, and may not occur again. Riserva 2010 is a full fledged sour ale. Its tarter than ever, with notes of cider vinegar mingling with a more assertive raspberry palate than years past. The stronger acidity (tartness) of the beer has inhibited the bottle conditioning yeast, thus carbonation is scarce to low at best. But the beer is fantastic! Similar to what an Oud Bruin with raspberry might be like. Cheers!
We've been waiting months and the carbonation hasn't increased. Its about what you would call cask level carbonation. A pH test confimed its too low for the yeast to be active, they worked for a little while, but have been on siesta ever since June.
The thing is, if you like traditional sour ales, you'll love this beer! Just expect light carbonation. Its very full-bodied and full-flavored this year. I guess the third year of using the barrels has finally established a large enough microbe community.
Now you ask, "why might it not be like this again?". Good question. Answer is that every barrel is different. We had 38 barrels this year (52 gallons each) and we taste each one before we move it into the tank for bottling (I know, it is a tough job...). Five of the barrels were extraordinarily sour and the rest were just nicely sour. This is where many brewers (including traditional Belgians) decide whether or how to blend to produce the beer the way they want it to taste. We added these last 5 barrels one at a time and tasted the overall mix before adding the next one (yes, it is a great job!). We ended up adding all 5 barrels and thought this is the best Riserva yet.
You know the rest, too much tartness may lead to trouble carbonating.
So next year, we may only put in some of the extra sour barrels, keeping the pH where we need it to carbonate properly. Any sour barrels not added may be bottled as a different version, perhaps grand cru, of extraordinarily sour beer.
We agonized over the decision to release, but the beer tastes incredibly good. Love to hear any and all feedback right here. Thanks!