Instinctive Travels was one of the first beers brewed at Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery in Newberg, Oregon. The goal was a fruity and balanced, classic, dry-hopped saison. But, after two years and around 18 different variations of hops, barrels and fruit from around the world, Instinctive Travels was retired.
“It had become more rote than renewal, perhaps,” says Wolves & People founder & head brewer Christian DeBenedetti. “We had versions that knocked our socks off and versions that fell short.”
But with a new brewer joining the team last spring, Wolves & People wanted to bring Instictive Travels back as a mixed culture, all-Oregon malt farmhouse ale fermented in oak with brettanomyces. This Saturday, December 14th will see the reinvented Instictive Travels be released in cork-and-crown 750ml bottles with an updated label by award-winning artist Jason Sturgill.
“We’ve experimented with the grain source and grain bill, mash temps, whirlpool hops, primary yeast strains & blends, and especially the Brett aspect,” says DeBenedetti of Instinctive Travels.
The latest iteration of Instictive Travels is a showcase for Oregon craft maltster Mecca Grade Estate, and tropical and bold Galaxy Hops. It was brewed with 100% Pelton malt, bittered with Nugget hops, Citra hops in the whirlpool, and a heavy Galaxy dry-hop with Citra thrown in for dimension.
DeBenedetti is inspired by the micro maltster revolution, so much so that he hopes to grow his own barley on the farm. For now, he is a huge fan of Seth Klann’s work at Mecca Grade in Madras.
“His entire line of malts is super consistent, delicious, and lends a lot of depth to our beers. It’s like a fourth dimension of flavor,” says DeBenedetti of Klann’s work. “People are just beginning to think about malt — especially local, super fresh, not-at-all-stale malt — in a new way.”
Instictive Travels is fermented in oak puncheons that formerly held Pinot Blanc; it sat for 2 months with saison yeast and wild brettanomyces yeast. In the earlier bottled version, the beer was just dosed with brett at bottling so that the funky character would take more time to develop in the bottle. That technique was a delicious, cellared approach to the beer but presented over-carbonation challenges from hop creep and continued attenuation. Keeping the original on track while juggling other brands with just 7-barrel fermenters for production was a challenge.
In the last few years W & P has upgraded its equipment and procedures. They purchased hand-built tank heaters from Rex Hill Winery, added quick disconnects to the fermenters for more temperature control. At the same time, the brewery has welcomed Alec Klassen to the brewing team.
“One of our shared missions has been to reinvent our entire saison program to focus on all oak primary fermentations, for a series of releases we’re calling simply ‘From the Oak’,” says DeBenedetti.
The evolution of Instinctive Travels has marked a new beginning for Wolves & People’s saison program. With non-farmhouse and clean ales like Honeycone IPA, Neuberg Kellerbier and Kismetic Stout taking off, they wanted to draw a clear line between the programs. This will free up steel tank space for the clean ales and lagers; the farmhouse “From the Oak” series won’t ever touch those tanks.
Instictive Travels kicks off the From the Oak series this Saturday with a release at the brewery. Try it on draft for $3.50/$7 (6oz/12oz) and $15 for a 750ml bottle; 500ml bottles will come in early spring for $11. This makes it a perfectly unusual entry into our Barrel-Aged Beer Advent Calendar, timed well for a winter-holiday release.
“The flavor profile of this new version beer has a delicious and complex malt character, a balanced but rewarding fruity aroma from its Galaxy, and a super soft and rounded mouthfeel. It is balanced, classic sort of beer that nods back to more reserved times but glances at a bright present and future,” says DeBenedetti.
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.