Barrel Ageing and ‘Louche Series beers’ - Magic Rock Brewing

Barrel Ageing and ‘Louche Series beers’ - Magic Rock Brewing

As we expand we have been setting our sights on new challenges, trying to stretch our capabilities and develop our talents in new areas. Two specific areas that we’ve been quietly working on have been developing our understanding and expertise with barrel aging and sour beer production.

At the moment our barrel store is confined to the area that you’ll have seen toward the back of our taproom, which currently houses around 100 barrels. However, we are close to agreeing the lease of an additional 5’500 sqft of storage across the road, where we expect to be able to expand our barrel offering to around 300 barrels. Going forward this should give us the ability to put a little more focus on all things barrel aged.

Most of the barrels in our current area are first-fill bourbon, containing Bearded Lady (more news on these soon), however there are a small number of barrels in there we’ve been working on since last year. These are the fun beers which we obsess over, beers that take time and patience to get right.

In the interests of cataloguing this output, the plan going forward is that they’ll be released under the format ‘Louche Series’. These beers are all about us pushing the boundaries of our beer knowledge and learning about barrel ageing and maturation. There is no set format for this production but expect a lot of wild and mixed fermentation beers using a variety of different production methodology.

There’s also no time scale on future releases in the series. As the continuing theme is one of time and maturation, the beers will dictate to us when they’re ready to be released. We are delighted that the first of these beers is now packaged and ready.

‘Louche Cerise’ is an 8% barrel aged cherry sour, which used rye and wheat in addition to our house Golden Promise malt. After we ran off the wort and boiled it to sterilize and drive out oxygen, we cooled it down to the temperatures that favour lactobacillus, put it under a blanket of CO2, and kettle soured the whole batch using a completely wild mix of bacteria and yeast from grain husks.

When we tasted the soured wort we didn’t detect any off flavors, so rather than take the normal and sensible approach of boiling the soured wort we decided to see what the resident bacteria and yeasts from the wort, our brew house, and some barrels could do for us.

We racked the still-live wort into fresh bourbon barrels and some white wine barrels that previously held Pina Collision. We only pitched our house yeast into half the bourbon barrels (in case the others didn’t ferment out properly), and set the barrels aside to ferment in oak. Primary fermentation took a few weeks as it was early winter, and once the bubbling slowed right down we capped the barrels and set them to mature.

After a further 6 months we tasted the barrels and they were delicious, the light bourbon character and brett from the Pina barrels blended together to create a flavor we found reminiscent of cherries… so naturally we bunged the barrels into a stainless steel tank with around 450 kg of both fresh Piedmont cherries and dried sour Morello cherries.

The finished beer which has been 12 months in production has now been bottled into beautiful foil screen-printed cork-and-caged 750ml bottles designed to let the wild aspects of the beer develop and protect from additional bottle fermentation. The yield of this first ‘Louche Series’ batch will be around 700 bottles in total.

As the quantity is so low, all of these bottles are destined to be sold direct from our Taproom (from 4pm on Wednesday 26th October) and online from our website (from 5pm on Friday 28th October). In the interests of letting as many people taste the beer as possible there will be a 6 bottle limit per person.

The beer is very red, very fruity and (we think) very delicious. It should continue to mature and develop in the bottle for several years, so is a good candidate for ageing at home for as long as you like.

Bottle tasting notes below…

Malt, Rye, Wheat, Sour Morello Cherries BA in White Wine and Bourbon

As beer lovers we are always interested in challenging our perceptions of what beer can be – investigating the balance between sweet and sour, the science of yeast and how fermentation develops flavor, and of how interactions between time and wood can transform beer.

‘Project Louche’ is an exploration in using a variety of fermentation techniques and barrel maturation to allow wild yeasts and bacteria to bring out the best flavours of fruits and spices in our beer.

Our first beer in the series is a kettle soured cherry beer, fermented with wild yeast and bacteria in white wine and bourbon barrels, then aged on Sour Morello Cherries. Deeply fruity with a vinous oak body and a refreshingly sharp acidity. Consume fresh or age indefinitely.

“Louche – disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way”

Bottles will be available from the Tap Room on Wednesday 26 October at 4pm and online via our webshop on Friday 28 October at 5pm. Priced at £14.50 per bottle (please note orders are limited to 6 bottles per customer)