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The First Contract Brew

By cwa-blog

Get by with a little help from your friends.

As most of you are aware, our brewery model is built following in the footsteps of breweries such and The Rare Barrel and Casey Brewing and Blending, using another brewery to contract our wort.  We had announced that New English was going to do our wort. However, in great news for them, but unfortunate news for us, by the time our permits came through they were too busy to fulfill our needs. We were left to reach out to the many other breweries in San Diego for help.

To be honest, we thought with so many options it would be a bit easier to find a new brewery. However, the nature of the demand in San Diego for incredible craft beer leaves most of the breweries around here brewing at capacity all year round. We reached out to some friends and found out that with their recent purchase of Twisted Manzanita, Groundswell was entertaining contract offers. They had a new, pretty 30BBL system that they were willing to use to help some of the community.

After a small negotiating period, we had reached an agreement and set March 22nd for our first batch. The next task was scaling up our small batch recipe for their 30BBL system.  Zach, the head brewer at Groundswell worked with us to order the grain and set up a brew time.

The brew day was exciting.  Seeing a brewhouse of that size at work for the first time, and being around other professional brewers is a perk of contract brewing, which is not talked about much. Zach and their assistant brewer Brent, are incredibly knowledgeable. While they were showing us the system, it also presented a chance to bounce ideas off one another.

The first run went according to plan on the brewing side, however our transportation option fell through and a last-minute fix was needed. The quickest solution was to simply rent a truck from the Home Depot around the corner. It was not the most efficient solution as it only held one full tote at a time, and having three full totes, the trips took a while.  (Something we would remedy next time)  However, it was an all-around success as we filled 16 barrels of our first version of our sour base, and we were ready to go again….

To Be Continued!

California Wild Ales - San Diego Sour House - Sour Beer

San Diego Reader – May 30

By cwa-blog

There’s more than one way to start a beer company, and some take longer than others. California Wild Ales has been in the works nearly a year, and secured a Sorrento Valley warehouse in January. However, rather than build a brewing system and producing fresh beer, Wild Ales’ focus will be the longer process of fermenting and aging beer in barrels.

“We’re more of a blendery I would say,” says cofounder and barrelmaster Cameron Pryor, “We’re in the aging and bottle business, aging beer and souring it.”

Pryor says the plan is to source wort — aka unfermented beer — from other local brewers, like Sorrento neighbor New English Brewing Co., for starters. “There’s a ton of talented brewers in town,” Pryor adds, “We want to bring them in to our barrel house, bring in their wort and see what they come up with under our guidelines and recipes. Almost like a collaboration…they’re doing the brewing and we’re doing the fermenting.”

Ales are considered wild when fermented with Brettanomyces, a naturally occurring strain of yeast that yields unpredictable results relative to domesticated brewers yeasts. In addition to funky flavors brought about by Brett, California Wild Ales aims to develop sour flavors using bacteria such as lactobacillus and pediococcus. The company’s branding depicts three cartoonish beasts representing each of the three microorganisms.

At a private tasting event in May, Pryor and founding partners Bill DeWitt and Zack Brager introduced early samples of beer styles they plan to market once they finish the permitting process — which they’re hoping to do by late summer. Early on, their focus will be fruited versions of beers that sour quickly, such as tart German wheat beers. But Brager points out this will just be a necessary first step in a long-term plan that involves pursuing Belgian-style blends.

“We want to get to the point where most of the beers we put out are one-, two-, and three-year aged — geuze and lambic styles,” Brager says, “But you can’t do that without releasing the lower turnaround Berliner weisses and goses, and stuff like that.”

Several breweries around the county have established significant barrel-aging programs, but usually by keeping beer in oak barrels behind the scenes while growing their companies around fresh brewed styles. Since California Wild Ales is only producing aged beer, it will remain a small operation with very limited availability for several years while it sits on future releases.

“Right now we have 16 [barrels],” says Pryor, “and we’re in the buying process.” The plan is to fill their small warehouse with aging beer, with sporadic releases to fund the company’s slow growth.

“It’s going to be retail bottle sales at first,” adds Brager, “just to build up and grow into what we hope will be a tasting room and then a brewpub.”