Not so long ago, microscopic beasties like lactobacillus and Brettanomyces were what brewers strove to avoid at all costs infecting their beer, causing them to turn sour, tart, or generally funky. Now it's a wildly popular style of beer that more and more people are acquiring not just a taste for, but a passion. And NOLA Brewing, after a series of incredibly well received test batches served in their tap room, is the first local brewery to bring these beers home.
Kirk Coco, President and CEO of NOLA Brewing, reflects, "We started with a blonde ale and a very mild brown ale, really approachable beers. Six years later, our newest projects is a sour and barrel aged beer program, which is so far off from what I would have imagined we would get to in six years."
With the wide release of Lowerline, a lactobacillus-fermented, 4% ABV beer fermented in stainless tanks, NOLA Brewing is bringing sour and funky beers brewed with lacto and Brett to the New Orleans market, and it's just the beginning. The acquisition of the large warehouse next to the brewery which will be the brewery's new and improved tap room serving beer and BBQ also netted the brewery a small building in the back, far enough away from NOLA's regular production beers so not to infect them with their wild bacteria.
Derek Lintern, NOLA brewer and "director of funk" who's been brewing sour beer for ten years says, ""We knew we wanted to step up production, but we didn't want to risk contaminating the rest of the facilities. The real reason we were able to do it is because we got the building next door. So we have a whole separate location, all separate equipment, nothing here comes into contact with the wild cultures."
According to his brother Dylan Lintern, NOLA's Chief Operations Officer, "It was like a bonus room. We didn't take that building over for that reason, the main building is what we're building out for the tap room. But it had this extra great space that was kind of lagniappe. It made perfect sense to us, it was great timing, we wanted to do it, it was just the right place at the right time. And Derek was definitely the person to put in charge of that. It all made sense."
The three other regular beers in the Funk series are barrel aged, so they take a little longer to produce than Lowerline (which itself takes three months, whereas a regular batch of beer takes between 2-4 weeks.)
Arabella is a lacto beer aged on peaches, Piety is a lacto/Brett blend aged on cherries, and Sauvage is a dry hopped, 100% Brett (a strain called Dirty Dozen, which Dylan loves to inform drinkers of the beer of) version of the Rebirth Pale Ale. They're all named after the streets of New Orleans and will be sold in 750ml bottles with intricate label artwork by Monica Kelly.
Derek says of the collaboration with the artist, "She usually does a lot of concert posters, music themed artwork. She did the mural at the Frenchmen Dat Dog. She did the flag for OZ this year. Definitely a New Orleans artist that's in the music scene. And it's our funk series. We love the base label that she came up with. You have the center part, which is each individual beer, but the background is an actual map of the city, that she drew out by hand, like a little funky version. I think it looks really good on there. We're really happy with everything she's doing. We give her ideas, and she turns them into reality, it's great."
According to booze mistress Laura McKnight's excellent article about NOLA's sour program, bottles of the Arabella can be found at Stein's Deli, Avenue Pub, Bin 428, Breaux Mart and Elio's Wine Warehouse in New Orleans, as well as Martin Wine Cellar in Mandeville, Acquistapace's Supermarket in Covington, and local Whole Foods Markets.
On draft, it's hard to come by. Keep an eye out for it at the Avenue Pub or at NOLA Brewing's beer events during American Craft Beer Week, May 11-18.