Wall art inside the Blendery's tasting room. Photos by Jason Ruiz
When Beachwood BBQ and Brewing’s newest project, The Blendery, releases its first ever “Propagation Series” batch of beer Sunday morning, it will stand as much more than the end of a countdown on many beer-geeks’ calendars.
For the side project aimed at making Belgian-inspired brews right here in the middle of Downtown Long Beach, it’s a step toward bringing an American spin on Senne Valley craftsmanship to the company’s already established roster of beers.
The November 1 bottle release won’t be for the lambic and gueuze-inspired beers that the company announced it would start producing when the Blendery opened shop just under a year ago. However, the petite saison and berliner weisse that are the Propagation Series numbers 001 and 002 are made with the same lactobacillus and brettanomyces wild yeast strains that could eventually constitute a sort of foundation for the sour, Belgian-inspired brews the Blendery aims to produce.
The company is careful not to call its anticipated beers lambics or gueuzes outright, as its wishes to respect the protected European tradition that stipulates those particular Belgian beers must be produced in the Senne Valley with specific hops and fermented with wild yeasts that grow in the region. Similar laws exist in Mexico—tequila production is limited to Jalisco State and select municipalities—and in France—champagne in Europe can only originate from Champagne region of the French countryside.
“Just out of respect for the Belgian brewers we’re not going to use the words Lambic or Gueuze to describe our beer at all,” said barrelmaster Ryan Fields, the man who does most of the tending to the Blendery’s beers in its 1,000 barrel capacity site located east of the Promenade. “To make those beers you have to do it in Belgium, in a specific region in a certain traditional way and if you don’t do it that way it’s not a lambic or gueuze.”
Fields said that when Beachwood owner, Gabe Gordon, approached him about the project it was no-brainer, given his prior experience with barrel-aged beers at the San Diego-area brewery The Lost Abbey. The self-proclaimed science experiment will shoot to allow wild yeasts and existing bacteria to build its own sort of climate in the barrel room over time, hopefully creating a beer signature that will be passed through generations.
That aspect is admittedly well down the road as the Belgians have a few centuries in terms of a head start in creating that environment, and even under the best conditions, would most likely take years to attain. This in part inspired the brewing of the Propagation Series, a much faster process that would not only yield a product quicker, but also help work out any unknown production kinks and help isolate flavor profiles for future projects.
As much as Fields says the Blendery will strive to be as traditional as possible, with the facility being equipped with the technology and currently trying to facilitate yeast cultures that will mimic the conditions of a Belgian barrel room, it will incorporate its own take on classic recipes.
He said that once the operation is up and running at full-steam, the Blendery will try to incorporate non-traditional fruits like pineapple, guava and other tropical offerings in its production. But that time is admittedly in flux, as the nature of barrel aging is unpredictable.
“I think we’re going to have two sides to it where you kind of have a really consistent, traditional product and the other side where we’re definitely going to be creative and do experimentations,” Fields said. “I’m looking forward to experimenting with stuff, but I”m mostly looking forward to just dialing in the process right now.”
Part of the dialing in process is the production and release of the Propagation Series, which will help perfect the barrel-aging and bottling processes, while also helping brewers identify the strains of wild yeasts they’d like to carry over for their sour production line. Fields said that each barrel will taste different because no two barrels are the same and the wild yeast element also ensures variety in the end product. The products will be blended to create the finished product before they’re bottled and distributed.
“That’s the reason we’re called the Blendery, because we’re going to have lots of different flavors and lots of different variation in barrels and we’re going to go through and blend them together to try and create a product that we like,” Fields said.
The problem is that these things take time, and a lot of storage space. The storage question was solved when Beachwood built out the Blendery’s 4,500 square foot facility that sits adjacent to its brewpub location on the Promenade. The time factor will still require a bit of patience on the part of Beachwood fans curious to taste local barrel-aged sours.
Fields said that he doesn’t anticipate bottling any product that hasn’t been aged for at least a year, with some taking closer to two or three years. For now, Sunday’s bottle release will serve as a sort of tangible proof that the Blendery science experiment is well underway.
The Blendery is located at 247 Long Beach Boulevard. The tasting room is scheduled to open at 11:00AM for the bottle release. Customers are limited to 3 bottles per person per beer.