SFBW'10 - Funky Fairfax
One of the more popular bumper stickers of the "local pride" variety refers to Fairfax as "Mayberry on acid". It's a town that prides itself on waving its freak flag high, and, to the extent that it's possible in a place like Marin county, being a funky little joint.
How appropriate then, that today, the first Monday of SF Beer Week 2010, marks the release of Iron Springs' first foray into the funky and freaky world of brettanomyces-influenced beer, with a somewhat unexpected choice from the house line-up as the guinea pig: their Chazz Cat Rye, an amber, mildly spicy rye beer that's been a mainstay on the draught list since the pub's inception. Dubbed "Rye the Funk Not", the name nicely sums up the degree of experimentalism the brewers invoked in putting this batch together. Head brewer Christian Kazakoff explained it thusly:
I was impressed with the flavor of a Rye beer I did in a firkin with oak chips soaked in Chardonnay; so, I decided to purchase a Zinfandel barrel from a local winery in Oakland and fill it with a new Rye beer I brewed that was in the pre-chill conditioning stage. It took a little over two barrels of Rye to fill the barrel. I inoculated the beer with some brettanomyces and buried it in "The Brett Farm" at Drakes brewery in San Leandro for seven months. When the secondary funk fermentation finished out in October, Persimmons were just being harvested and I love Persimmons. I added twenty pounds of chopped Fuyu Persimmons to the barrel and let it stand for another three months.He describes the result as a pale, 7% alcohol, oaky beer, with rye spice contrasting with a slight sourness, and a lingering sweetness from the fruit. Besides the limited run RTFN will have on tap at the pub as part of their barrel-aged beer month, there are a dozen or so cases of 750ml bottles that were hand-corked and caged in the Belgian style which are conditioning with champagne yeast and awaiting label artwork for a small release in another month or so. Compared to its second cousin twice removed, it's drier, fairly stronger, and plays its hops much further in the background, letting each of its unique qualities come out to play in distinct order: a spicy, leathery aroma leads into an initial taste of old barrel, ceding to hints of the rye and West Coast hops before the fruity persimmon finish (which I wouldn't have been able to distinguish if it hadn't been for the multiple sessions of a friend's persimmon wine I've had the joy to experience over the past year) cleans up the palate, dryly, with that slight sourness that stirs the appetite and warrants a second taste.
It's warming to see experimentation such as this taking place so close to home (even if the intentional "infection" occurred in Contra Costa), and with today's news that Mill Valley Beerworks got their brewer's notice from the TTB, it might not be long before we're seeing the first spontaneously brewed Marin beer. Perhaps I'm fantasizing a little. But it's a fun fantasy to harbor when enjoying something as wickedly complex and time-consuming yet blithely titled Rye the Funk Not.