SPIRAL LIGHT | Toolbox Brewing and Vesper Vineyards
Here’s what Ehren Schmidt - Headbrewer of Toolbox Brewing Co. - has to say about the beer:
"Spiral Light is a blend of two different beers. 75% of which is American Wild Ale aged for 6 months in French Oak Chardonnay Barrels. It was fermented with Brettanomyces Lambicus, Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Saccharomyces Fermentati, a wild Saccharomyces Cerevisiae strain isolated from Californian grown fruit, Lactobacillus Delbrueckii, Lactobacillus Brevis and Pediococcus Damnosus.
The other 25% is 13 month old spontaneously fermented beer that came out of our “koelschip” that was fermented and aged in neutral French Oak barrels.
We blended the beers and then racked it on top of 1.25 pounds per gallon each (2.5 pounds per gallon total) of Grenache and Carignan grapes grown in San Diego at Vesper Vineyards (Pauma Valley).
The aroma of the beer after being fruited is grapes all day including bright cherry, mild raspberry and a hint of elderberry. It is backed up with a nice French oak aroma. The base beer was fruity to begin with. It has a solid stone fruit flavor and aroma backed up with a strong acidity that commingled with the spontaneous beer perfectly. It has some nice oak flavors and a strong white wine character.
The flavor is fruity grape, musty funk, and oak. Black currants dominate, but only slightly over raspberry and cherry flavors. A hint of tobacco follows, but is out competed by the acidity. It has a wonderful texture in the mouthfeel brought about by the contact time the beer had with the grape skins. It’s not mouth puckering sour, but balanced. 13.2 g/L TA isn’t too sour, but enough acid to be considered “sour” and not tart.
This beer is a perfect harmony between wild ale and wine. It has the qualities of each, all while doing so without compromising the integrity of the beer that could come about with a wine/beer hybrid (overly acidic, boozy, too fruity, lacking complexity, etc).
"This particular style of beer is one of my favorite to make, and my favorite fruit to drink in a beer."
Working with Vesper and their winemaker, Chris, was great. We went and tried some of his finest wines out of barrels. His best selling wine, and our favorite of the day (Tie-Dye Lollipop), is a blend of the two grapes found in this blend. So naturally we decided that was what we wanted to use in this blend.
The grapes (besides the obvious fruit grape character) really brought a nice tannin flavor and texture to the beer. It has a mouthfeel that is often looked past in the beer world, and I’m reminded of it every time I drink wine. While the strong tannins found in wine would be too much for a beer, this blend has just the right amount.
About Toolbox & Ehren
Toolbox Brewing Company is an all wild ale brewery/ blendery specializing in Old World Farmhouse Ales and New School American Wild Ales influenced by the spontaneous ales of Belgium. We focus on using locally grown fruits, vegetables, and spices (when possible and necessary). We use mixed and alternative fermentations to create every one of our creations. Besides being the brewer and blender, I’m also the house microbiologist. I work diligently in our house microbiology lab to isolate wild yeast and bacteria from sources such as fruit skins, or the air. After rigorous purification steps, I take the pure cultures and test them for their ability to make beer (attenuation, alcohol tolerance, flavor, stability). If they pass my tests I will grow to commercial quantities and begin to incorporate them into beers where I feel they will fit in best. You can follow along my microbe wrangling shenanigans in the lab and other brewery tomfoolery on Instagram @TheSourScientist. I'm always posting informative photos with captions explaining the isolation process and other lab stuff. I also post some behind the scenes brewery stuff you won’t be able to find on the brewery’s social media."
Ehren Schmidt, left, Chris Broomell (Vesper Vineyards), right