Hello there. Hope you’re having a wonderful day.
We’ve got a new beer to tell you about, and we’re super excited about it. Sit back. Relax. Don’t even trip dog.
About a year ago we started brewing batches of sour beer inspired by the the lambic tradition. We aren’t doing any spontaneous fermentation or turbid mashing, but we are doing a long 3.5 hour boil, using raw wheat, and aged hops. And this beer is the first barrel of the five batches we’ve done to be packaged.
The wheat we use is a local heirloom variety from Weisser Family Farms’ new adventure, The Tahatchapi Grain Project. And the hops are whole cone which we bought and aged ourselves.
Lately I’ve been really interested by the idea of using alternative sugars in the bottle conditioning process. As you probably already know, all of our beers are bottle conditioned using honey, which I think sets us apart in a cool way. As far as I know, we’re the only brewery in the world doing this for all of their beers. The honey we use is from a local farm called Bennett’s, and I’m partial to their orange blossom honey.
Lately we’ve also done experiments with Miel de Maguey to condition our collaboration with chef Eduardo Ruiz, and our collaboration with Unseen Creatures, Alethia Ascended, used beet juice, pomegranate juice, and blood orange juice to condition (congrats, now you know all our secrets).
I love root vegetables; they’re a great source of natural sugar. So to me, it only seemed obvious to give carrots a crack at carbonating some beer. Plus, I hoped that the juice would make a beautiful orange beer (it did!!). And what better way to do it, than use some really high quality local carrots form the same farm that grew the heirloom wheat for the lambic inspired base. We recently had the amazing opportunity to pour The Carrot King at said farm for an event called, Outstanding in the Field, with famed chef Virgilio Martinez from Peru.
The result is objectively awesome (inspiring of awe). After doing a few test bottles, and examining the sugar content of a few different carrot varieties, we settled on orange Nantes Carrots. To get enough sugar to properly carbonate the beer, we used 200lbs of carrots for less than one barrel of beer (a ridiculous 4:1 fruiting ratio) . After juicing, we yielded roughly 15 gallons of juice, which we added to 45 gallons of beer. So, The Carrot King is about 25% juice and 75% beer by volume.
There is some separation of the juice from the beer in the bottle. Think of when you drink pressed juice. The water and the juice separate in the bottle, but a quick mix fully incorporates the juice back into solution. The same concept happens here. The Carrot King bottles need to be roused before opening. Gently rotate the bottle upside down two or three times until you see the cloudy carrot concentrate dissolve back into the beer. Open the bottle and have a glass ready to pour into.
Brewers reading this may think that I have lost my mind. Most people would never take such a risk. Aren’t you worried about over-carbonated bottle bombs? What about the insane amount of sediment leftover from the juice re-fermentation? What about larger sediment pieces creating nucleation points causing the beer to foam out of the bottle immediately after opening? Why the fuck would anybody want to drink carrots in their beer!?
When I think about the art of beer making, I keep 2 things in mind. The first is a lyric from a Talking Heads song. “Stop Making Sense.” To me this means to think outside of the box. Stop copying what the other primates are doing and create something truly unique. Highlight the absurdity of life. The second things I keep in mind is to not do anything gimmicky. Admittedly some might think that a carrot beer is a gimmick, or dangerously close to one. But I have to disagree. Just because something is different doesn’t make it a gimmick. Carrots are a natural flavor. Used shamelessly in the culinary world. Saisons and sours have lots of natural earthy and funky flavors and aromas, and at least to me, seemed like a perfect mate for some delicious vegetables that are literally grown in the dirt of the earth. “Strange but not a stranger.”
The Carrot King was made in collaboration with Hop Culture Magazine for their invitational beer festival called Juicy Brews in Richmond. Their amazing artist, Sam Taylor did the artwork and design for the label. I’m writing this blog on a plane headed for Richmond, Virginia, and you wouldn’t be wrong if you drew some similarities between this beer and some infamous beers “made” by a popular Virgina brewpub. I’ll admit that I sort of despise these beers, and how they’re made. And how popular they apparently are. And I’ll admit that part of the conceptualizing of this beer was to make fun of these guys a little bit.
We did recently end up doing a second batch of The Carrot King. We haven’t opened any bottles yet, but if all goes well, we’ll have bottles available for members within a few weeks. But, before that, we’ll be pouring this beer at our Sour Friends Fest on 6/23. So buy a ticket!! And come hang with us.
We really hope you enjoy this beer. Please let us know what you think, because if you like it we’ll make more next year when carrot season comes back around. And even more so, we’ll feel motivated to keep pushing boundaries and innovating novel ways to make beer. Cheers.
(Pairs well with Inter-Dimensional Cable and Neutral Milk Hotel)