Oakshire’s Hellshire II has some infection issues

Oakshire BrewingOakshire Brewing‘s recent release of Hellshire II—a barrel-aged imperial stout—appears to be dealing with a lactobacillus infection. Brewmaster Matt Van Wyk posted on the Oakshire blog:

We regret to inform you that our recently released Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Coffee, Hellshire II, has been found to contain some flavors that we did not intend. Through our own QC/QA program, we suspected there could be a problem. It has now been discovered through lab results conducted by our colleagues at Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland that this beer may contain lactobacillus. In most beers, this is known as a beer spoiler and can lead to acidic and tart flavors.

Again, I’d like to apologize to you for not meeting the mark we set at Oakshire in terms of quality and consistency. We’ve assessed the situation and are confident that we can avoid similar challenges in the future. Also, please be patient with us as we traverse through this first time situation and correct it.

This sort of thing happens from time to time, even with the big breweries; remember that Deschutes Brewery’s 2009 Reserve Series (The Abyss and Mirror Mirror) dealt with a brettanomyces infection—and they’re one of the largest craft breweries in the country. It’s an inherent risk is dealing with barrels, and for my money it’s an entirely forgivable situation (unless of course it’s repeated over and over again).

Oakshire is stepping up to honor returned bottles of Hellshire II for unsatisfied customers, as well, offering the following options:

1) Keep your bottle, but consider storing it cold so that it doesn’t build more acidity.
2) Bring your unopened bottle to us at the brewery during the next Hellshire release and give us another chance. We’ll swap it out.
3) Bring your unopened bottle to the tasting room during open hours and we will trade you for an equal dollar amount of our regular bottled beer.
4) Bring your unopened bottle to the tasting room during open hours and we will reimburse you for your purchase.

You will need to bring your bottle in person, however, and do not ship it—the brewery can’t accept bottles shipped directly. Nor should you return it to your retailer, unless they accept returns on bottled beers.

I’ve had the Hellshire II (split a bottle with friends) and found no flaws with it. Though personally, in the same way that I actually liked a bit of brett in the Deschutes beers, I think I might well like a bit of lacto in this one—for me sometimes the unintentional flaws result in something new and not entirely unpleasant.

Regardless, I certainly commend Van Wyk and Oakshire for the handling of this situation—there undoubtedly are (or will be) the predictable complaints from some people about “bad” beers, but Oakshire has gotten out in front of it and is willing to accommodate folks without question, and that’s a class act.