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San Diego City Beat

By | cwa-blog

This article was written by Beth Demmon and originally published in San Diego City Beat

Despite significant delays resulting in late entry into an already crowded craft beer scene, California Wild Ales (4202 Sorrento Valley Blvd.) hopes to soon launch a surprisingly original concept in Sorrento Valley: San Diego’s first all-wild-ale blendery.

“We will dive into all facets of wild ales, [which are] what we love first and foremost,” confirms Zack Brager, one of California Wild Ales’ co-founders. “[We’re] focusing mostly on a couple different sour bases for now and branching out as opportunity presents itself. We would love to do some coolship brewing (a fermentation process that uses open, shallow vessels to cool wort) as well someday, but have no idea when that might happen.”

Wild ales are brews that use “wild” yeast (like Brettanomyces) and/or bacteria (like Lactobacillus and Pediococcus). Due to the unpredictable nature of their fermentation, consistency is difficult to attain, but they often result in funky and sour flavors. Basically, wild ales can be sour ales, but not all sour ales are wild. Terroir (the unique flavor of the surrounding environment) is crucial, so it’ll be interesting to see how Sorrento Valley’s terrain affects the final products.

Other breweries like Toolbox Brewing Company committed themselves to completely wild brews long ago, but California Wild Ales aims to focus on solely barrel-aged wild ales.

“We thought even with all the breweries in San Diego, there was room for much more barrel-aged wild ales,” remarks Brager.

By collaborating with breweries who will provide the wort (unfermented beer), California Wild Ales will be able to ferment and age it in different barrels to eventually blend the ever-funkifying fluid into unique wild offerings. Less time in the barrels will result in milder styles such as Berlinerweisses and fruity wheat beers, while lambics and other longer-aged brews will come later (in some cases, years from now).

The three founders—Cameron Pryor (head of brewing operations), Bill DeWitt (design), and Brager (business management)—plan to use more traditional fermenting equipment such as puncheons and foeders (wooden fermentation vessels typically used to ferment or inoculate sour, farmhouse and wild ales) in lieu of kettle souring. California Wild Ales’ 1,700-square-foot barrel house and forthcoming tasting room may be open by this summer after nearly two-and-a-half years of planning and permitting, but that’s a hopeful estimate.

“We are going to have our first member party and bottle release soon and hopefully a public sale shortly after,” says Brager. “The tasting room will come when we feel we have enough beer to keep it stocked. Until then, it will be all retail bottle sales with a few scattered kegs in the wild (see what I did there?). We may go the route of The Rare Barrel and have a small tasting room only open a few days a week with plans to open a full time off-site location in the next few years. With Cam’s chef background, we may be moving towards a brewpub down the road.”

In spite of the opening day delays, the team’s attitude remains optimistic.“We are still on the path to becoming San Diego’s first 100-percent wild ale blendery,” confirms Brager. “No clean beers in sight.”

– See more at: http://sdcitybeat.com/food-drink/final-draught/getting-wild-with-california-wild-ales/#sthash.ndhtXZtD.dpuf

The First Contract Brew

By | cwa-blog

Get by with a little help from your friends.

As most of you are aware, our brewery model is built following in the footsteps of breweries such and The Rare Barrel and Casey Brewing and Blending, using another brewery to contract our wort.  We had announced that New English was going to do our wort. However, in great news for them, but unfortunate news for us, by the time our permits came through they were too busy to fulfill our needs. We were left to reach out to the many other breweries in San Diego for help.

To be honest, we thought with so many options it would be a bit easier to find a new brewery. However, the nature of the demand in San Diego for incredible craft beer leaves most of the breweries around here brewing at capacity all year round. We reached out to some friends and found out that with their recent purchase of Twisted Manzanita, Groundswell was entertaining contract offers. They had a new, pretty 30BBL system that they were willing to use to help some of the community.

After a small negotiating period, we had reached an agreement and set March 22nd for our first batch. The next task was scaling up our small batch recipe for their 30BBL system.  Zach, the head brewer at Groundswell worked with us to order the grain and set up a brew time.

The brew day was exciting.  Seeing a brewhouse of that size at work for the first time, and being around other professional brewers is a perk of contract brewing, which is not talked about much. Zach and their assistant brewer Brent, are incredibly knowledgeable. While they were showing us the system, it also presented a chance to bounce ideas off one another.

The first run went according to plan on the brewing side, however our transportation option fell through and a last-minute fix was needed. The quickest solution was to simply rent a truck from the Home Depot around the corner. It was not the most efficient solution as it only held one full tote at a time, and having three full totes, the trips took a while.  (Something we would remedy next time)  However, it was an all-around success as we filled 16 barrels of our first version of our sour base, and we were ready to go again….

To Be Continued!

San Diego Reader – May 30

By | cwa-blog

There’s more than one way to start a beer company, and some take longer than others. California Wild Ales has been in the works nearly a year, and secured a Sorrento Valley warehouse in January. However, rather than build a brewing system and producing fresh beer, Wild Ales’ focus will be the longer process of fermenting and aging beer in barrels.

“We’re more of a blendery I would say,” says cofounder and barrelmaster Cameron Pryor, “We’re in the aging and bottle business, aging beer and souring it.”

Pryor says the plan is to source wort — aka unfermented beer — from other local brewers, like Sorrento neighbor New English Brewing Co., for starters. “There’s a ton of talented brewers in town,” Pryor adds, “We want to bring them in to our barrel house, bring in their wort and see what they come up with under our guidelines and recipes. Almost like a collaboration…they’re doing the brewing and we’re doing the fermenting.”

Ales are considered wild when fermented with Brettanomyces, a naturally occurring strain of yeast that yields unpredictable results relative to domesticated brewers yeasts. In addition to funky flavors brought about by Brett, California Wild Ales aims to develop sour flavors using bacteria such as lactobacillus and pediococcus. The company’s branding depicts three cartoonish beasts representing each of the three microorganisms.

At a private tasting event in May, Pryor and founding partners Bill DeWitt and Zack Brager introduced early samples of beer styles they plan to market once they finish the permitting process — which they’re hoping to do by late summer. Early on, their focus will be fruited versions of beers that sour quickly, such as tart German wheat beers. But Brager points out this will just be a necessary first step in a long-term plan that involves pursuing Belgian-style blends.

“We want to get to the point where most of the beers we put out are one-, two-, and three-year aged — geuze and lambic styles,” Brager says, “But you can’t do that without releasing the lower turnaround Berliner weisses and goses, and stuff like that.”

Several breweries around the county have established significant barrel-aging programs, but usually by keeping beer in oak barrels behind the scenes while growing their companies around fresh brewed styles. Since California Wild Ales is only producing aged beer, it will remain a small operation with very limited availability for several years while it sits on future releases.

“Right now we have 16 [barrels],” says Pryor, “and we’re in the buying process.” The plan is to fill their small warehouse with aging beer, with sporadic releases to fund the company’s slow growth.

“It’s going to be retail bottle sales at first,” adds Brager, “just to build up and grow into what we hope will be a tasting room and then a brewpub.”