Mixed fermentation masters

Barrels with individual cultures

Burning Sky Brewery, The Kernel Brewery, Oliver’s Cider and Mills Brewing have begun collaborating on a brand new mixed fermentation culture beer that is set to use individual cultures from each of the barrels from the breweries and cidery.

Mark Tranter, founder and head brewer at Burning Sky brewery, who is leading the collaboration at his brewery in Firle, Sussex insisted the beer is being created by people who “all care about flavour.”

Mono-release & mixed fermentation blend

Tranter said: “We’re using everyone’s mixed cultures in the barrels. The Kernel sent down their barrels, Tom [Oliver] sent down his, Jonny [Mills] and Gen [Kaye] sent their mixed culture and so we’ll have all these barrels that will have the mixed cultures in. Then, when the beer’s ready, we’ll do a mono-release from each of the barrels and then a blend. After that, we will decide what will happen with it.”

Intellectual snakebite

Tom Oliver, founder and cider maker at Oliver’s Cider explained: “I don’t really know whether to call it a beer – because the things that we are doing are half beer, half cider – really, it’s ‘intellectual snakebite’. It will taste great in the barrel, then when it goes into the bottle and we condition it, I know it will just keep moving. Wait another six months or even a year it will just get better and better. This kind of drink will always keep changing.”

Tranter admitted this was an exciting venture and one that would adapt in a way that none of them could anticipate: “It’ll have some complex sugars to eat over time and then we will add some more hot liquid to the mash tun to bring the temperature up again. Later, we’ll have more turbid wort and then we’ll add it back to the mash tun to mash at about 83. The copper, right now, is completely filled with liquid.”

Decisions based on taste and not marketing

While openly pondering whether people would understand the complexity of the resulting drink or feel overly-purist about a blur between drinks categories, Oliver said: “People get far too particular about categories of drink. The more decisions we make based totally on taste, the better. All of the people here working on this make decisions based on taste and not economics, necessity, speed or anything else. Some people forget that if something tastes great then that’s the validity for its existence.”

Oliver added: “Creating this drink is deeply personal. From the minute Jonny [Mills] and I met – I mean, we’re all completely different ages and have different experiences and we create different drinks, but we got on like a house on fire and we still do. It’s the same with Mark [Tranter] – it’s a little strange thing – you go: ‘Do you know what? I get you. And they get me.’  I’m really comfortable with these people because they understand what matters. That’s huge. When you trust each other and can appreciate and respect what you all do, it’s a wonderful thing. I don’t know about everyone else’s collaborations, but I think collaborations are meant to be meaningful. Really, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Because drink is supposed to be sociable.”

Gen Kaye from Mills Brewing agreed, stating: “We’d definitely all be doing this regardless of any sale. We would be doing it because we wanted to, not because we think we should. But, also, we’re doing it because we believe in it.”

For Tranter, he reminds how everyone involved in this project is “an actual friend,” reiterating: “this isn’t something that has just been arranged on the internet, we’ve talked about for a long time. Jonny and Gen from Mills Brewery have been brewing some amazing mixed fermentation brews, Tom Oliver from Oliver’s Cider makes some of the best cider in the UK and he’s brought his mixed culture with him from the cider barrels and the guys from The Kernel here -Tanya Marsh and Ben Landsberry – we have known for a long time and they have also brought their mixed fermentation culture with them. It’s a good day.”

And the resulting beer? “It’ll be our approximation of a Belgian turbid mash like a Lambic which will go into our coolship overnight and then into everyone’s different barrels and then be aged with everyone’s different yeast in four equal portions. Then, when we deem the beer is ready – which might be in 6, 12, 18 or even 24 months – we will get everyone back in to sample the individual barrels and choose one from each place. These will be released as a mono-blend and then the rest will be blended as a collaborative release,” said Tranter, hinting how “this continues to be exciting – mostly because we’ll all learn so much from each other.”

A passionate collaboration

“A lot of collaborations seem to be a day out with marketing with big-named breweries just doing something that they would normally do together. I think that the spirit of collaborations has really gone out of the window over to the boy’s club and many have forgotten that everyone is meant to bring something to the table. Here, we’ve got a group of people who are all interested in long term barrel ageing and flavour. There are lot of people collaborating and saying they’re doing things differently, but lo and behold it’s another IPA they’re making.  Well, that’s great – fine. But everyone here is interested in drinks and we’re all individuals. This is about flavour and how beer production will age differently with each different culture and how all of these individual mixed cultures affect things. Plus, in the coolship there will already be some wild yeasts in there too so it’ll be completely different from anything else” explains Tranter, adding: “We are quite excited and passionate about mixed fermentation.”

The beer will probably be available in Autumn next year, but maybe a little sooner,” he added, joking that it was tempting to “not sell any of it. Maybe let’s pretend it’s all just a myth. That this isn’t actually happening and it’ll be uploaded to The Cloud as a virtual drink instead.”

Oliver agreed, laughing: “The thing is, if it’s really good, then we’re going to want to all drink it ourselves anyway.”

Drinks Maven