How does a blood orange infused saison spiked with Himalayan salt sound? That’s the brew that Henry Nguyen and Ron Jeffries, founder and Brewmaster of Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales have put together on their recent collaboration brew day, and there’s something else that makes this wild beer special (and marks yet another phase in the development of Monkish Brewery).
Monkish, and their Belgian-inspired ales, have come a long way since we first wrote about them in 2012. I wrote a bit about the brewery’s shift away from abbey styles and botanical ingredients in this piece for Craftbeer.com, but things have progressed even since that post was published in April 2015. That post talks about how Monkish founder Henry Nguyen was focussing on alternative fermentations and wood-aging beers, and the first fruits of Nguyen’s oak foeders are currently offered for presale. Fans can pick up bottles of HAIKU DE SAISON starting on Saturday, November 7th. The beer is tart and complex with a lovely layered oak character and a distinct tinge imbued from the foeders that previously held 25 years worth of Sauvignon Blanc vintages at Markham Vineyards in Napa. Early buzz about the beer is already building (I got to sample a glass, and it is remarkable), and I expect this will be a sought-after bottle and at the top of many ISO and year-end lists.
The foeders are an important part of the future for the young brewery, but Nguyen also added a stainless steel koelschip to his brewery. These open-topped vessels are traditionally used by Belgium’s lambic brewers as a way to both cool the freshly brewed wort and to collect the various wild microfauna (yeasts and bacteria) that give lambic its sour, funky characteristics. Traditionally, the wort was pumped into the wide and shallow koelschip while the brewery’s windows were opened and the liquid left to cool (and become inoculated) overnight. Nguyen hasn’t yet run a batch into his koelschip to gather the wild microbes of Torrance, but he decided to use the vessel as an open fermenter during the collaboration with Jolly Pumpkin.
After the brew was knocked out, the wort was pumped over and Nguyen pitched the Monkish house culture — a blend of several strains of the wild yeast brettanomyces, among other sugar-hungry bugs. As the not-yet-beer bubbled into the vat some final measurements were taken before Nguyen and Jefferies added a couple liters worth of blood orange puree.
Jefferies said that the collaboration has been in the works since he first met Nguyen at last year’s The Festival organized by the Shelton Bros in San Pedro. Nguyen, a big fan of Jolly Pumpkin’s wild ales, has been asking Jefferies for tips and advice on working with wild yeasts, using oak and bottle conditioning for nearly as long as Monkish has been open, and Jefferies was happy to finally be able to make it out to southern California to brew with Nguyen. Both brewers share a passion for alternative fermentation and wood-aged brews, and now their collaborative brew is quietly bubbling away in Torrance. No word on when the fermentation will be complete, or what kind of conditioning it will receive, but we’ll update this post as we find out more.
Until then, stop by the brewery on Saturday, November 7th for the release of the new HAIKU DE SAISON (pre-buy your bottles first, we hear there may be some special treats for people who join the presale).