In the crowded landscape of craft brewing some aspect of your business should differentiate you from the competition. Maybe it’s your location, or your branding, but ideally the beer itself can stand out from the crowd. With over 200 breweries in Ohio that task is easier said than done, but breweries such as Zaftig (high-gravity beers), Rockmill (Belgian-style ales), and Hoof Hearted (hazy IPAs loaded with late addition hops) have successfully managed to do this. When Gahanna’s Kindred Artisan Ales launched back in the early days of 2016 they set out to be the go to place for sour beers, the Cantillon of central-Ohio so to speak. Here’s a quote from an April 2016 Columbus Business First story by Dan Eaton:
Kindred is going to market with a two-pronged product plan – a line of beers for the masses, as well as an assortment of sours and wild ales that will be aged and blended over time.
The challenge with that approach is that barrel-aged sours take a long time to make, and the microbes that make sour beer are highly unpredictable. Belgian lambics are famously made by blending “young beer” (aged for one year) with more mature beer that has been aging for three years or more. It’s a challenging business model for a new company, which may in part be responsible for Kindred reorganizing operations, right sizing their brewing facility, and rebranding itself as Kindred Beer earlier this year.
I’m happy to report that the first two Kindred sours are finally ready for release. Wanderlust is a saison aged over peaches and Riesling must, while Spring Thaw is a golden ale aged with pinot noir grape skins. Both beers are products of mixed fermentation, meaning that a combination of conventional saccharomyces yeast, brettanomyces (Brett for short) yeast, and souring bacteria (lactobacillus, pediococcus, …) were used during the fermentation process, and both were aged in oak barrels previously used to make chardonnay wine. I was invited out to the brewery Tuesday evening to learn a little more about these two beers, which fortunately included breaking open some bottles to sample the product.
For the non-sourheads out there, Wanderlust (6.3% abv) is the more approachable of the two. According to Patrick Gangwar, who runs the barrel aging program at Kindred, Wanderlust was initially fermented with a French Saison yeast strain, then transferred to chardonnay barrels where Brettanomyces Clausseni was introduced. After several months of Brett doing its slow steady work, hand sliced peaches were added, a total of 50 lbs of peaches per barrel. After several more months had passed the beer was transferred to a stainless steel fermentors, Riesling grape must was blended in and the beer was given more time to mature. There’s a little Brett funkiness on the nose, and the taste is pleasantly tart but not terribly sour, really more of a Brett beer than a true sour. The peaches, which have a delicate flavor that is not easy to extract into a beer, come through beautifully in the taste. When you add in the soft mouthfeel and the clean, dry finish this is a beer that peach lovers and oenophiles alike can appreciate.
Spring Thaw (5.7% abv) is a more of a true sour, with a healthy but not overpowering dose of lactic acid from the bacteria used in the mixed fermentation culture. Last fall Gangwar went down to Slate Run Winery in Canal Winchester and brought back the skins of pinot noir grapes left over from the wine making process. He added the skins, which bring their own mix of wild yeast and bacteria, directly to the golden ale that had already been aging in barrels for several months (30 lbs grape skins per barrel). I suspect most people would have a hard time picking out the contribution of the grapes (at least I did), but sour beer aficionados should enjoy the complexity of this beer, which makes for an interesting contrast to the kettle sours that are much more prevalent in today’s market.
The beers, both of which come in 16.9 oz bottles, will be available for sale at a special taproom release party this Saturday, June 3 starting at noon. Wanderlust and Spring Thaw retail for $15 and $13 per bottle, respectively. As you might imagine quantities are limited, with approximately 900 bottles of each variety available for sale. Limited quantities of both will also be available on draft in the taproom (505 Morrison Road), which opens at 12:00 pm as well. To celebrate this long-anticipated day there will be live music from 1-4 pm (Shawn Snow) and 7-10 pm (Outlaw Soul Band).