In the summer of 2017, in collaboration with the folks at Union Square Cafe, we began to experiment with training sourdough yeast culture to ferment Sour Farmhouse Ale in oak.
When we visited USC to pick up the sourdough starters, their baker greeted us in the Cafe’s dining room with two very large cardboard boxes.
One was filled with:
Six or seven different starters in clear plastic kitchen pints.
The same number of whole grain flour blends in brown paper bags that corresponded to the starters.
A hand-written list of instructions on how to properly hydrate the flour to feed the starters, should they become hungry.
The other box was filled with:
Twenty five pounds of bread (we ate as much of it as we could).
Over the next few months, we put each starter through a number of trials to select for the most desirable combination of yeast culture & fermentation environment:
In hopped & un-hopped wort.
In the presence of Oxygen or C02.
At room temperature, or in the Boiler Room (which is as hot as it sounds).
Every combination of the above.
We then used this culture to inoculate a Sour Farmhouse Ale, which we transferred to oak wine barrels for long term maturation.
Almost a year later, the team from USC came up to visit the brewery, bringing along with them a knapsack full of fruit & botanical tinctures they developed for the Cafe’s cocktail program. We tasted through samples from all of the barrels and all of the tinctures.
Eventually (after a significant amount of drinking), we landed on the arrangement used on this year’s version of Bread:
And Rose Petals!
Bread is the result of countless decisions made over the course of the last year, hand in hand with the team at USC, who we have found to be as kind and passionate about their craft as the stories would lead you to believe.
Available exclusively at Union Square Cafe.