In August of 2016 we poured the last glass of BCT Brewing Project beer in Riverside California. But don't be sad. All the beers we poured were designed by Beancurdturtle Brewing LLC, who still designs award winning beer for craft breweries internationally, and will be brewing small batch in Orange County California.
BCT Brewing Project was a Beancurdturtle Brewing Venture. From August 1st 2015 to August 1st 2016 we kept three taps flowing at Brew Crew Inc., a Craft Brewing incubator in Riverside California. To learn how to brew for a market. To brew test and pilot batch beers. To learn by working in a small batch brewing environment the idiosyncrasies of keeping taps flowing. We made some great beers and learned some good lessons. Then it was time to move on...
So, one may argue that this is a question that ladies and dudes with doctorates in theology should be debating - I'm just a brewer. But one may - and I daresay, one has - argued all sorts of nonsense. However, Tingle me Pink is not really about "one".
Tingle me Pink is about many. Many people who are effected by breast cancer. Many who have it, or who have recovered from it. Many who are family, friends, and loved ones of those who have beat, are beating, or who have been been beaten by it. Many who simply care for fellow folk who are or have been impacted by it in one way or another.
Why? Because 8% of my profits from sales of Tingle me Pink, for as long as it is brewed and enjoyed, will be donated to organizations advocating awareness and research for the cure of Breast Cancer. That means that even if you don't like it - you should drink it. Seriously - buy crap-tons of it and force me to make a boat-load of contributions to charities for the cause.
Having said that, I'll add that if you are a beer connoisseur with a discerning palate, you will find this beer to be amazing. The balance of hibiscus, rose hips, Szechuan Pepper, a proprietary wild yeast, and acidulated malt, pulls together a beer of crazy cool character that dances and tingles on the tongue like no other beer. No BS, it will get your attention - as it is intended to do,
I'm hoping to collaborate with other breweries, as many that are interested, to brew as much as possible. Because it is not only an amazing good beer, but every pint brewed will benefit a great cause.
Think about it... what's better than making stuff you love, to benefit something good? Does that really make Tingle me Pink equal to Jesus Christ on a Popsicle Stick? Well, not having a doctorate in theology I can't answer that. But I will say that if you need a good reason to enjoy a great beer, for an even greater cause - I just gave you one.
There seems to be a common misconception that if a beer is fermented with wild organisms that it will be sour. This is actually not the case at all. Perhaps it's time for a brief discussion about what makes an organism "wild", and what makes beer sour. Which are actually two different things.
First let's tackle "sour", and sour beers - which is incidentally a new marketing term for a style of beer that is also new. The super tart, tooth enamel stripping, pucker power beers currently in vogue were considered to be egregiously flawed up until this 21st century. A beer is soured by certain classes of bacteria that create acids (and very little alcohol) as a byproduct of fermentation. Examples of these bacteria would be lactobacillus (think yogurt), acetobacter (think vinegar), Pediococcus (think sauerkraut) and the like. They are often cultured in labs from banks that have been selectively isolated for a number of generations. Unless you are drinking a spontaneously fermented beer from Belgium or Flanders, or a true Berliner Weisse from Germany, you are most likely not drinking a wild beer - even if it's labeled as such.
Now let's tackle "wild". First we'll have to understand that most beers brewed in the United States with "wild" or "wild yeast blend" on the label or in the marketing materials are not truly wild. They are fermented with organisms that are propagated from carefully controlled banks of yeasts and bacteria that have very likely not seen any environment other than a lab for many generations. This isn't a bad thing, but it isn't "wild" by any means. A true wild yeast or bacteria would be a bug that is (i.e. the bugs in true Lambics), or has been surviving in the wild by virtue of its own tooth and nail - perhaps on the skin of a fruit - within the last few years. A true wild beer might be fermented with a yeast, or yeast and bacteria blend, that has been isolated and propagated by a lab. But it should be an organism that has been harvested from the wild very recently. Click on this link for a perfect example.
So, here's a few bullet points to ponder:
Most sour beers - other than true Lambics, Flanders Reds and Oud Bruins, and true German Berliner Wiesse - are not wild.
A true wild yeast fermented beer will probably not be sour - maybe a little funky or slightly tart - but they are not sour.
For a beer to be sour (wild yeast or not), it must be "infected" with bacteria that create acids as the by product of fermentation - and most of these bacteria are now propagated from laboratory banks. They are not wild.
So now that the cloud of misconceptions about wild and sour are all cleared up, let me say - we make a beer that is wild to the core, but not even a tiny bit sour. This beer is Wild in the Sacc. The yeast used to ferment the beer is a wild Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain harvested from the skin of a tangerine in the Beancurdturtle Brewing pilot brewery yard in 2015. The yeast is professionally isolated and propagated so I can be sure it is clean, not infected, and healthy. The base beer is very clean and light so you can discern the subtle contributions from the esters of the wild yeast - flavors and aromas that are slightly fruity with citrus characters, peachy chardonnay aromas, and hints of an earthy “farmhouse” funk.
Wild in the Sacc is a special Pale Ale that will be most appreciated by beer drinkers with sensitive palates. Probably not the beer drinkers who favor beers with characters like yogurt water, vinegar, and Jolly Rancher candies. But I shouldn't be such a sourpuss as I have sour-head friends who also have sensitive and discerning palates. I hope you get to try it because it is unique, refreshing, and subtly complex. If you do try it, just remember - it's not sour, it's wild.
For Wild in the Sacc, which has been in the fermenter for a week - I'm checking gravity (remaining maltose not fermented), taste, and harvesting yeast off the fermenter for the super special beer I'm brewing next week. The gravity is 1.005, so the beer should be super crisp and refreshing. The taste is like grapefruit peel and spicy peppery. The yeast looks healthy and I harvested a nice pitch.
For Robin's Red - the brew day has not been without a couple challenges, but when the wort (unfermented beer) comes out a gorgeous garnet color, who can complain? A sneak taste of the wort delivers the lovely toasty slightly roasty profile that makes the beer so drinkable.
All is well at BCT Brewing Project this fine Saturday.
What's on tap this weekend? Robin's Red is back on tap.
Yes I know I promised to have Robin's Red on all the time. Yes I know it tapped out late last week. Yes I am ever so sorry, so very sorry. But, this is partly your fault. No, no - I'm not blaming you for drinking it. I'm thrilled that you like it so well that I may have to brew it every three weeks.
I just didn't realize you would be so thirsty for a damn good Irish Red Ale. It's like it's the one of the very best Irish Red Ales you've ever had. I brew it, and you drink it all within a few weeks.
So, keep up the good work - and I'll really truly try to keep it on all the time.
Hanging out after brewing Berry’d Alive® yesterday the question comes up again, “Is it really one pound of berries per gallon of beer?” My answer, “Yup!” I could add, “Yes, $70 worth of berries for two kegs of beer.” To which you may respond, "Really?"
The reason is, if I’m going to make a beer named “Berry’d Alive”, you should feel like you’re buried in berries when you enjoy it. See, there’s this old cliché phrase in brewing, “go berries or go home.” Well, actually there isn’t, I just made that up – and it’s not really very funny.
But the point is. Berry’d Alive is a Belgo-American Wheat Ale base that’s buried in mixed berries, and (pun warning) berry delicious! I brewed it yesterday, you can expect it to be on draft on April 9th.
I brew an Irish Red Ale because the character of a Red suits the tastes of my son Robin, and I use an enzyme in the process that removes gluten. Robin doesn’t consume things containing gluten. I also brew an Irish Red Ale because, done well, it's a really satisfying pint for Craft Beer newbies and old timers both. For newbies because it’s just a really comfortable imbiber, and for old timers because we know how hard it is to get it right.
Now I’ve had a pretty good idea of what I liked in a Red Ale for a long time. But it was really tuned on May 31st 2014 when I enjoyed a pint of O’Hara’s Irish Red at Vaughan's Eatery in Dublin Ireland with my first dinner of a three-week European holiday.
O’Hara’s Irish Red has everything this style is supposed to bring to the table. A comfy smooth malt backbone well balanced by restrained hop bitterness, and a lovely garnet color offered as a feast for the eyes. When I brew a Red Ale, that’s what I’m aiming for. O’Hara’s hit the target bang on.
So fast forward a couple years and I’m brewing an Irish – Ok, Irish American – Red that my son can drink. Working the recipe, and I remembered that first beer of my holiday. I decide to craft a beer with the character and color of O’Hara’s, but tuned to the tastes and temperatures of Southern California. An Irish Red Ale carrying the comfort and satisfaction of the classic style, with a body that suits enjoying a pint, or two, or three (you can see where I’m going) on a 90F degree Southern California afternoon.
Now we’re on Batch #3 of Robin’s Red, and I brew batch #4 in five days. Time to side by side it with the beer that provided some inspiration, O’Hara’s Irish Red. Not a competition mind you, because if you have two good brewers making the same style of beer, you should be equally satisfied with the results, but in slightly different ways – and that’s what I find in this case.
There’s an extraordinary similarity to these beers. The O’hara’s has all the comfort and satisfaction I recall. Robin’s Red has very similar characters, great balance and lovely color, and yet a lighter body suited to our warmer climate – plus the bonus of gluten removal (lab tested less than 10ppm).
Robin’s Red is a lovely, enjoyable, and quite quaffable beer. Thanks to the want of brewing a beer my son can drink, a little inspiration from Carlow Brewing, and some tips on getting the color right from my friend Chris at Nocturna Brewing Company in Ensenada Mexico (they also make a terrific Red Ale).
Batch #4 will be the way it will be done from now on. An Irish American Red Ale, with American base grains and yeast, specialty grains from the Isles west of Europe, and a bit of brewing wizardry to remove the gluten.
You may ask, “Why do you watch your ratings on Untappd.com?”. Well I have a good answer. Untappd is where the market meets the mug. Folks from Craft Beer neophytes to nationally ranked BJCP judges weigh in with a zero to five rating on your beer, and the web site ranks you in relation to the rest of the beer universe.
So, how are we, BCT Brewing Project, doing? Well, I watch the brewery’s overall rating in relation to other highly regarded breweries in the local-ish market (OC and Riverside counties in So Cal), and the overall rating for the “most popular” beer we brew. Now we don’t yet have enough ratings to land in the global ranking for an individual beer or a brewery, but beer and brewery overall ratings are still calculated.
As a brewery, for the popular Orange County and Riverside County California breweries that are our market peers, we’re just about in the top of the mix of the best ranked. Not bad considering Orange County CA has some of the highest globally ranked breweries.
Our “most popular” beer (seems to be a mixed measure of the number of check-ins and rating) right now is Robin’s Red, a Red Ale (surprised me too). If Robin’s Red had enough check-ins at the current rating to get global ranking, it would be among the top ten rated Red Ales on the planet on Untappd. Now you may ask me, “Why is that cool Mr. Turtle?” – and of course I would have an answer.
You’d think a Red Ale is easy to brew, but no…
Achieving a comforting balance between malt characters and hop bittering is tricky.
Balancing malt and hop characters, and achieving a deep garnet color at the same time is even more challenging.
Then add the fact that Robin’s red is crafted to reduce gluten and lab tested to be less than 10ppm gluten.
Robin’s Red basically bleeds the BCT charter “Nothing Fancy, Something Special”. This of course makes me happy as I crafted this beer mostly to please the tastes and preferences (he’s gluten sensitive) of my son Robin.
So some day, Robin’s Red might get enough ratings to be in the global rankings – that would be nice. But even without that, I’m making a Red Ale that my son Robin enjoys and can drink without the typical next day challenges a gluten sensitive person might experience after a few pints of beer.
Top 10 on the planet would be nice. Top 1 for my son – even better.
Well, maybe if we kissed first, or at least a bedtime story? Ok then, a bedtime story – and it starts like this… Once upon a time there lived a little patch of wild yeast (and of course bacteria), on a Tangerine, on a tree, in a brewer’s back yard. That brewer was me.
I saw the patch of wild yeast and I was intrigued. Should I harvest it, propagate it, and test it in a beer? My answer? “Hell no!” Nearly everyone I know who tried something similar ended up with a crazy funky nasty beer. And I didn’t have time for that kind of stuff.
Yet a couple days later I found myself at The BrewHouse in San Juan Capistrano, and Ron had given me a taste of a Wild Pale Ale from The Wild Beer Company in Somerset England. It was a very nice simple ale, a little earthy and funky, slightly tart with a nice dry finish. Nothing fancy really, but quite special. …and I thought of the patch of wild yeast.
It just happens that it had rained like the dickins that day, so the patch of wild yeast had a good cleansing. If there ever was an opportune time to harvest wild yeast – this was it. So I went home, cooked up a bit of a malt sugar starter solution, sanitized a knife and a stainless steel worktop, clipped the tangerine, sliced the skin with the wild yeast off, and dropped it in a sanitized container with the starter.
There was a brief period of fermentation, then the starter settled. So I stepped up to 1-liter on a stir plate. That cleared and I moved the settled yeast to a 2.5-liter starter. That should give me enough mixed culture organisms to brew a 5-gallon batch of beer and keep some aside for lab analysis if the beer turned out well.
The first 5-gallon batch I called “Ordinary Wild” (a pilot batch under the Beancurdturtle Brewing LLC umbrella) because the base beer is about as simple as you can get. One type of malted barley base malt, one hop for a balance of bittering, and the wild yeast mixed culture. Lucky for me, Ordinary Wild turned out to be a truly wonderful beer. So what to do next? Well, time to brew a 1-barrel batch with the wild yeast mixed culture for BCT Brewing Project, and take the mixed culture sample down to White Labs in San Diego for analysis and banking,
The 1-barrel batch I called “Cali Native”. It was my typical grains for a hoppy Pale Ale, slightly aggressive hop bittering, a nice bit of Sorachi Ace hops for dry hopping, and the mixed culture with Wild yeast. Cali Native was frankly a fantastic beer, evidenced by the fact that it sold faster than any beer yet at BCT Brewing Project.
Meanwhile White Labs has isolated the predominant organisms in the mixed culture and had them genetically sequenced. They (and I as well) are surprised to find that there are (but for insignificant numbers) predominantly two organisms. A very large percentage being a wild Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain, and the second being a strain of Lactobacillus casei. As far as yeast for brewing goes, I hit the jackpot – a wild Sacc strain from my own back yard. I have my very own native house yeast that the lab tech at White Labs named “Beancurdturtle Sacc”.
But will Beancurdturtle Sacc (without the Lactobacillus casei) have all of the great characters that made Cali Native such a fantastic beer? Only way to know is to make a beer designed to be all about Dat Yeast. Similar to Ordinary Wild – one malt and one hop – and ferment it with the Wild Sacc isolate to see what we get. This beer is done fermenting, and tastes off the fermenter are very promising – meaning very delicious. It will go in kegs this week, and be on draft at the Brew Crew/BCT Brewing Project tasting room this coming Saturday February 27th.
I’m very excited about Wild in the Sacc. It totally embodies the BCT/Beancurdturtle brewing philosophy – nothing fancy, something special. Beancurdturtle Sacc expresses lots of citrus characters, peachy chardonnay aromas, an earthy “farmhouse” character, and drops for a beer of amazing clarity even unfiltered. I do hope you’ll enjoy this beer very much as this is the simplest representation I will brew using Beancurdturtle Sacc.
As you might expect, I’m already formulating more exciting ways to use Beancurdturtle Sacc in future beers.
What's on deck? Two really, really good Belgian styled beers.
Ok, I know - people want the hoppy pale beers, the big stouts, and the super sours. And you're maybe wondering, "why classically styled Belgian beers?"
Because the beer world needs nuance. Because a beer doesn't need to be more bitter than a bad breakup, blacker than moonless midnight, or sour enough to etch tooth enamel to be good.
So when Cali Native taps out, we'll put on Bon Souvenir - a classic Saison that's about crispness, astringency, peppery spice and herbal noble hop goodness.
And when Captain Jack Turtle taps out, we'll put on The Dub - a Belgian Dubbel touched by dried black figs and candied ginger.
Your task is to slow down, enjoy the aromas, savor the flavors - metaphorically, stop and smell the roses.
Bon Souvenir and The Dub are both wonderful beers, enjoy them.