beer release

The Making of The Commons Brewery’s The Croze

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The Commons The Croze
Sean Burke, Head Brewer at The Commons Brewery, had been kicking around ideas for a barrel-fermented beer when he was asked to brew the official beer of this weekend’s Portland Farmhouse and Wild Ale Festival. The unique fermentation concept for the beer that would ultimately be called “The Croze” is an embrace of the rustic quality that originally defined farmhouse ales and saisons. As Sean notes, “‘The Croze’ is the groove on the barrel that the head sits in.”
While barrel fermented beers are not new, they are rare, and this is the first time I had heard of one being fermented vertically rather than horizontally. Sean Burke explains: ” We had been kicking around this idea of fermenting in barrels for a while, so this seemed like the perfect beer to try it with. The idea with the barrel ferment is to A: ferment in oak, and B: change the geometry of fermenting vessel to enhance certain fermentation by-products. By having a shallower vessel and no back pressure, we change the ester profile of beer quite substantially.”
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The Commons team took the heads off of the oak barrels and used them as lids with a mesh cloth over the top to keep fruit flies out, and the lid was placed back on top to limit what microbes could fall into the beer. “I coated the outside of the barrels with a food safe mildewcide commonly used the wine world,” explained Sean. They the pitched the brewery’s house yeast into the barrels and fermentation took off immediately. While The Commons did not pitch any other wild yeast or bacteria into the barrels, Sean reported, “I plated a sample of the beer and found a very small non-saccharomyces yeast cell. It’s pretty hard to tell just what it was, and I didn’t do any more lab work on it to try to identify it, but I’m pretty certain it was a wild yeast of some sort.” It’s all perfectly farmhouse rustic and should equal a beer that exemplifies the style that the Portland Farmhouse and Wild Ale Festival showcases.

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The Croze is brewed with a base of Pilsner malt and malted wheat to keep it light but not thin. It’s dry-hopped with a German variety called Smaragd. The tasting notes from The Commons state to look for a grassy lemon hop note and a slightly fruity ester profile from the yeast. It’s dry and effervescent with bottle conditioning.

Sean Burke notes, “The bottle should hold up quite well for quite some time. With that “other yeast” I found in the beer, there is a good chance that this beer will funk up over time. We think we are starting to taste it, but it’s still pretty young so we will see.”

The Croze bottles will be available only at Saraveza and the Portland Farmhouse and Wild Ale Festival this Saturday and Sunday, March 26-27th for $10 a 750ml bottle. Only one keg of The Croze exists that will also be on tap at the Farmhouse Fest this weekend.

Portland Farmhouse and Wild Ale Festival 2016

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com

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