Buellton, CA—Cover your eyes and hide the children, as Firestone Walker Brewing Company is set to release the 2015 vintage of the Feral One—a rowdy sour ale blend that commemorates the second anniversary of the brewery’s Barrelworks wild yeast facility.
“With last year’s Feral One and now this year’s second batch, the goal was to sleuth out a winning blend from our best and most mature barrels,” said Barrelworks Director Jeffers Richardson. “We see this beer as representing the improbable saga of Barrelworks, from its origins as a secret ‘skunk works’ project to our present-day cathedral of barrels.”
The 2015 Feral One is a blend of Vintage Solace (43%), a wild wheat ale aged between 16 and 48 months in French and American oak; Agrestic (43%), an American wild red ale aged between 24 and 28 months in French oak; and Lil’ Opal (14%), a brett’d saison aged for 26 months in French oak. Microflora accomplices included Brettanomyces Lambicus, Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and Lactobacillus Brevis.
“The bulk of this blend has been aging for two to four years in oak barrels, and the resulting complexity really shows on the palate,” said Master Blender Jim Crooks.
The 2015 Feral One begins with an earthy funky nose that gives way to estery notes of dried apricots, strawberry, guava and slight orange zest. Mature toasted oak, lavender, vanilla and cinnamon lurk in the background. Mouthwatering acidity and soft tannins are punctuated by firm carbonation.
The 2015 Feral One (6.7% ABV) is a limited 375-milliliter bottling that will be released at Barrelworks on February 14 at the Feral One Liberation party. Tickets will be available starting on January 5. Only 500 cases of 2015 Feral One were produced.
Next Up from Barrelworks in 2015
The Feral One is the first of several limited bottlings to be liberated from Barrelworks in the first half of 2015. Coming soon are:
Lil Opal was originally created nine years ago when master blender, then quality control manager, Jim “Sour Jim” Crooks peeled away from his regular brewery duties and began aging wild yeast (a.k.a. sour) beers in Viognier barrels acquired from local wineries. This illicit brett’d saison and Barrelworks progenitor returns in early 2015 with its second limited bottling. Maturation in barrels refines Lil’ Opal’s spicy and fruity yeast notes, and refreshes the palate with a soft, light acidity.
Bretta Rosé begins as a low-alcohol Berliner Weisse-style ale, acidified and matured in French oak puncheons for six months. Then, the barrrelmeisters ramble up the road to the nearby Santa Maria Valley to grab 1,000 pounds of fresh raspberries, which are then added to the beer for secondary fermentation. Voilà, Bretta Rosé—a crisp effervescent concoction bursting with raspberry perfume and flavor, a rosé color, bracing acidity, and a clean and refreshing finish.
Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks is a story of beer, barrels and unintended consequences, of renegade brewers, and of a pet project turning into a wild beast: