Tuesday 18 February 2014

Blood Orange Red Wine Oaked Sour

The drive down California's State Route 1 (SR1) is surely one of the world's most beautiful, with its amazing views of the pacific ocean and dramatic landscapes. It's a drive I've had the pleasure of doing four times now and will never tire of it. Last October we returned to what I consider my second home, San Francisco (having lived in the area for a couple of years in the late 90s) to spend some time revisiting old haunts and discovering new ones. Of course, the itinerary was planned to take in several brewery visits as we ambled our way down towards San Diego. We drove north to Russian River, east to Chico (home of Sierra Nevada) before heading south to pick up SR1 in Monterey Bay. I could (and should!) write many blog posts about this adventure but I'll save that for another day.

When doing this drive, there's always the dilemma of where to stop in order to avoid staying in Los Angeles. This time we'd decided on having a short day's driving after staying overnight near Firestone Walker's incredible tap room, in order to spend the day and evening in Morro Bay before tackling the long drive to take us south of LA into Orange County (The Bruery!).  This relaxing day was most welcome and we spent the afternoon on the beach, taking photos of the beautiful views and lapping up the ocean breeze and late summer sunshine. As the sun set, I took the took the above photo, which captured one of the moments of the holiday as we stood there basking in the complete serenity that surrounded us. By this time we'd worked up quite a thirst, so walked into the nearest bar right there on the seafront. That was a place called The Libertine Pub, a small cosy bar which has a larger dining area to the rear. We pulled up a seat at the bar to be confronted with a wall of taps. These taps were pouring some of the finest beers we'd enjoy on our holiday and given I know my readers would want to know exactly what those beers were, as luck would have it I captured that moment too!...

Now I'm sure you'll agree with me that if every pub you happened to stumble into after a long hard day doing very little had a list like this, you'd be pretty happy. We settled in for the evening and sampled a good number of the above, chatting to the locals we were sitting with, as you do. As it got towards the end of the evening, my eyes drifted towards tap 11 on the board - Ruby Slipper. I asked the bartender about it given the name. "Oh yeah, we brew some stuff here. That's a beer made with blood oranges that we fermented with wild yeast in a red wine barrel" she said, thankfully failing to notice me dribbling a little bit as the music of what she was saying serenaded my ears. "YES PLEASE, THAT ONE!" was my response. 

Given the brewery names I've mentioned above, you can rest assured that we consumed some of the world's finest beers on this particular adventure and yet this beer, made right here in the basement of this unassuming pub, turned out to be one of the absolute best I've ever had, let alone on that holiday. It was simply sensational. Not massively sour but plenty of funk and fruitiness from the brett. The blood oranges were hard to miss both on the palate and the aroma and the oak provided a delicate finish that was polished off with smooth red wine notes and hints of vanilla. I think I had three glasses but it could've been more. You may have read my previous post where I wrote about the things that inspire me to brew. Well in this case, it was simple - I wanted to drink more of this beer!

In constructing the below recipe, the first thing on my mind was not to create something that was massively sour. I figured a straight primary fermentation with brett followed by a bit of ageing in the bottle might get me somewhere near. I wanted to throw a LOT of orange flavour in so zested ten blood oranges and added that late in the boil followed by an additional steep post flameout. The juice from the oranges was added before pitching and as I write, the beer is fermenting aggressively at 28 centigrade and smelling very nice. Once primary is done I'll sit the beer on American oak that has been soaked for a few days in a fruity Merlot. I plan to taste the beer a week in and see how the oak is taking hold.

The OG was 1.045 and I'm expecting the yeast to dry it out, perhaps getting down into low 1.00x territory which'll mean this beer is heading towards 6% ABV.

One final note on Libertine. Having 'liked' them on Facebook after my visit I was delighted by a recent post that suggested brewing operations are going great guns (Parabola barrels - whoah!). If this beer is anything to go by, that's great news for the already healthy beer scene in Southern California and a situation I'll be monitoring closely, albeit, sadly, from afar.

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