My latest print article for the local newspaper came out last week: Ale Apothecary and GoodLife get together to make Brett Lager. A bit more in depth on their Brett Lager collaboration that was two years in the making.
The beer was brewed in GoodLife’s production brewery, where it fermented and cold-conditioned for two months before being transferred into Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir wine barrels. Once it warmed up to ale temperature (around 65 degrees Fahrenheit versus lagering temperatures of 35 to 45 degrees), they added The Ale Apothecary’s wild house yeast culture.
This is a unique blend of wild yeasts and bacteria that Arney cultured and developed at his small-batch brewery west of Bend. It’s the same culture that you taste in his flagship ale, Sahalie.
The lager aged for 18 months in the barrels with the wild yeast further fermenting and evolving it. At bottling time, they krausened the beer with fermenting Sweet As, a process by which fresh yeast and sugars from the fermentation help to develop natural carbonation in bottles. They then conditioned the bottles for an additional three months before release.
As part of getting quotes for this article I had reached out to Paul Arney, owner and brewer behind The Ale Apothecary, with a few questions about the collaboration. Paul went above and beyond with his email reply back, going into much greater depth about the beer and working with GoodLife than I was able to cover in the article. I asked if could publish the contents of that email here, and Paul graciously agreed.
Here are Paul’s words about the beer, and working together:
The collaboration was something that just grew out of the working relationship that Curt and I formed when my brewery moved into the Century Center.
Curt and Goodlife have a non-compete agreement with the landlord, Dave Hill. Meaning that when they signed on to locating their brewery in the Century Center, Dave Hill agreed to not allow any other brewery on the premises. When I inquired with Dave about our current location for our barrel cellar, he brought this up and we brought Curt into the conversation. He was very supportive of my project and communicated to Dave that our businesses would be complementary, so we were able to acquire the initial suite thanks to Curt. For about a year, Curt and the Goodlife team allowed my brewery to ship our grain and bottles to their truck dock because we didn’t have one. They’ve always been extraordinarily supportive and helpful. When Curt asked if I would help them out regarding a nitro stout project, I gladly agreed. I had experience from my Deschutes days and was happy to share what I learned. When the collaboration came up, I was totally in if only because of the past generosity of Goodlife, but with their desire to begin barrel-aging beer and producing a new line of specialty beers, this was another way that I could share my experience and knowledge as a way to continue our existing collaboration.
This has been my favorite part of this project, is that the beer we made together is a real symbol of a working relationship that goes much deeper. Our breweries are very different, and this beer reflects that in a way that bridges those differences and produces something pretty amazing.
The original idea for this beer came from my very first employee, Jeffery Gomber. He was not a brewer and had no experience in the industry. I had him doing stuff like grinding the malt, making deliveries, labeling the beers. Often we’d be working in my tiny brewery together and get into brewing-related conversations. During one of these conversations, we had been talking about industrial beer and lager and what happened to the American brewing heritage with the industrial revolution and prohibition. When explaining how lager beer is made, he asked me why you couldn’t do that instead of how The Ale Apothecary makes wild ales. Why not a wild lager??? Of course, I had no way to make this beer happen, but it stayed in my mind as a really wonderful idea. When Curt asked about the collaboration, I immediately thought that this type of beer would be a perfect way for us to unite our vastly different breweries, giving each brewery a rather specific and important role in the development of the beer we were creating together. Curt loved the idea and gave me full rein to direct the brewing efforts at Goodlife to carry this project out. At the time, Nick Soulias was the brewer in charge of special projects at Goodlife, so he and I worked closely to pull it off.
I decided on a Dortmunder lager due to the fact that it has relatively low IBU’s (good for our wild microbes) and relatively high alcohol (good for aging and our wild culture can handle higher alcohols). We worked with Imperial yeast to select the yeast strain, you’ll have to find out from Goodlife which one it was. Nick brewed the beer and cold-lagered it appropriately over 8 weeks. At that time, we transferred it into Sokol Blosser barrels and left about 5-10 gallons of headspace in the barrels. We allowed the beer to warm to ale temperatures over about 3 weeks, then topped the barrels off with our actively fermenting Sahalie containing our wild culture. Over the course of the next 18 months, the yeast and bacteria worked on the carbohydrates left over after the lager ferment. We topped the barrels off 3 times with more fermenting beer and once with sour wort to get the ph down to where we wanted it. Then, Goodlife packaged the beer with their house yeast culture and liquid sugar for the bottle ferment. I believe the bottles sat for 3 months prior to the release.
Goodlife doesn’t help out with our logistics unless it’s an emergency these days. We unload trucks either with our forklift or we use Silipint’s dock that is right across the alley from our new tasting room. As far as helping out Goodlife, yes, I’ll do anything I can for those guys! Ty and Curt were wonderful to work with as was everyone else on their team. Ty West, Curtis, and Cooper have always helped me at a moments notice. These guys are the best neighbors anyone could ask for!
I absolutely love the finished beer! As with all our other brews, I try hard not to have a predetermined outcome at the beginning of the process so the beer can become whatever the fate of chance brings. In this case, I’m glad that the beer retained some lager characteristics (grainy backbone, lager yeast esters) while showcasing the barrel ferment from our micro-organisms (fruity acidity and additional stone fruit esters). All in all, it’s really amazing. I often scoff at collaborations because everyone and their mom seem to be doing them and for no real reason other than to slap the ‘collab’ title on it to maximize marketing. This project goes much deeper and I’m very proud to have been a part of it.