Any time a new brewery pops up, it generates a fair amount of curiosity as people wander in wondering what ideas they were able to ferment into beers. When a brewery specializes in sour beers, however, most people wander in wondering what in the world a sour beer even is.
At Blue Owl Brewery, owners Jeff and Suzy have made their passion into an educational mission. Although their beer is sour, it is not a lip puckering experience. Instead, it is a refreshing sip to complement a hot Texas summer. "What we're trying to do here is make our beer a little more approachable, a little more recognizable in style," says Steve DeLeon, the brand manager at Blue Owl.
In fact, the crew at Blue Owl believes that "If you're drinking one of our beers you should recognize the style of beer you're drinking." So, in an effort to continue interesting, identifiable, yet palatable beers, the crew has just hosted their second special release brew: Saison Puede.
What Is A Saison?
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Historically, a saison - which literally translates to "season" in French - was often used as payment in kind for farm workers during the summer harvest. When paid in beer, workers were paid handsomely with most being allowed up to five liters per workday. Today, this farmhouse style pale ale continues its legacy, but focuses on quality rather quantity as aficionados more often enjoy it in pints than liters.
For brewers, saisons remain a fascinating beer. "Saison is a style of beer you'll see messed with a lot," explains DeLeon. According to him, "Saison naturally is a funky style of beer," and its sour taste and subtle nuances are what attract brewers to this farmhouse ale.
To the un-indoctrinated, "funky" may seem like an odd term to describe a summertime brew. The term makes it seem that either the brewers are listening to a lot of funk while they're getting down to business or there is something inherently off with the fermentation process. Neither of these assumptions is true.
"Funk" simply refers to a specific strain of yeast that is added to the hops and grain to give a unique taste to the amber liquid. DeLeon chuckles as he clarifies, "I think it's a technical term! You hear that a lot in the sour beer world. In a positive way."
Blue Owl's Saison Puede
Unlike many of the other Saisons on the market, Blue Owl likes to spice things up a bit.
Like all their beers, Saison Puede undergoes a souring process prior to fermentation to help avoid some of the unpredictability that you'll see in post-fermentation soured beers. "The way we sour beer," explains DeLeon, " is in the initial stage of the beer with the grain and the water - the mash - we sour that. So, it's actually before the fermentation process happens."
Even more interesting about this particular brew is the use of two strains of yeast, a classic saison yeast and an additional wild strain. This produces a spicy, fruity aroma with a pronounced funk.
The natural fruity and peppery aromas that the yeast draws out inspired the head brewer Jeff to amplify the flavor profile by recirculating the beer through Meyer lemons and pink peppercorns toward the end of fermentation.
The end result is a light, sour beer with a complex aroma that is an unmatched when it comes to weathering a sizzling hot Texas summer.
What's Up Next
Propelled by the success of their inventive brew, the crew at Blue Owl decided to extend their manipulations of a traditional saison to its limits.
"The next batch of this we did we left out the peppercorn and lemon and we're fermenting it all in wine barrels," says DeLeon as he motioned to a stack of white oak Cabernet barrels wedged into a tiny corner office.
That is an alternative Saison Puede that we cannot wait to try. Apart from their current saison experimenting, DeLeon's eyes sparkled as he delivered on what's to come.
"Our next few beers that are coming out will include our Czech Czech, which is our sour pilsner." So even if you're unable to make it to Blue Owl's East Austin brewery for the limited bottles of Saison Puede, mark your calendars for the release of Czech Czech. You won't want to miss it.