The CAlambic Series

2010 Napa vintage BarrelsAs we put the finishing touches on our CAlambic series with our upcoming Montmorency cherry brew, we wanted to share some background on how we got here. Sours are a big part of High Water and there’s some history behind it.

Going back to the 90’s, Brewmaster Steve was experimenting with sour barrel beers thanks to his love of Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen. Not everyone is a fan of the hop bitterness that comes with the all-popular IPA style and as Steve points out, the sour taste profile pairs nicely with a variety of food. It’s also refreshing thanks to all the fresh fruit used. He and his wife, Barri, First Lady and Flavorologist of High Water are longtime fans of sour beers and have stayed on the leading edge of innovation with this style.

The ball got rolling when Steve was working with some pretty wild (literally) small-batch brews…

Phil’s Wild Mild
This beer started as an English Mild, prior to hopping the wort it was cooled and transferred into a fermenter and a blend of three Belgian strains of Pedio, Brett and Lacto were added. The beer was entirely fermented in the wild state and aged for 2 years. The initial batch of 1 BBL was followed by a second 1 BBL batch.

Freaky Kriek
This brew started with a base of 60% Freaky Kriek, which is a pomegranate and cherry ale aged and exposed to resident bacteria in a six-year-old white wine barrel, and then blended with 40% other “assorted” ales.

Olallieberry Sour
An American Style Sour would best describe this beer.  Luna Blanca, was soured in white wine barrels with 80 pounds of fresh olallieberries in each barrel. The beer was allowed to re-ferment and sour for 1 year before release. Pouring with a beautiful pink color and small thin head, this sour was the predecessor to today’s Ramble on Rose, with blueberries replacing the olallies.

Decadence Grand Cru
Brewed in 2007 and 2009, this Grand Cru was the first of Steve’s sour blends. The 2009 release was a barrel aged sour. The base beer was a Wheat Wine and the barrel used was a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Port barrel from Costamonga winery. It featured big flavors of fig, pumpernickel and plum with a tart finish.

DysFunktion really gets out there. First, the imperial Black Cat Stout in a cask was dosed with a “local wild” and firkin conditioned with hops and dried mango chunks. The secondary fermentation was provided by the wild critters as well as a dose of fermenting witbier gyle. Additional blends of Bourbon Barrel Russian Imperial Stout and a Barrel Soured Black Lager went in the mix.

Mutha Pucka
This Beer Advocate review from Floydster sums up Mutha Pucka nicely:

One of the sourest beers I have ever drank, it is a Pomegranate wild ale produced using a Belgian Golden Strong ale and Brettanomyces Lambicus, it has been aged in oak barrels for nearly forty months at the time this was packaged.

When I poured this brew…the color was a mix between an amber and medium orange…smell consisted of strong nail polish, pomegranates, cherries, tartness, citric acid, lemon juice, and vinegar…great fruit flavors all identified in the smell, tarty finish is most admirable part of the beer leaving a crackling on the tongue with acidic pomegranates and cherries, liked how the fruit took over as it warmed and the sourness mellowed slightly …would love to try this again in a few years, especially because the same culture is used and just added onto, I think it is already three or four years old, highly recommended. 

After these highlights, with Steve now running High Water, the sour movement continued towards today’s CAlambic lineup with these beers.

Le Petit Diablotin
Released in 2014, Le Petit Diablotin or “The Little Devil” is a barrel aged sour version of Pom Cherry Bomb. The beer was aged for three years in American Oak with a blend of various souring cultures prior to its official release in July 2014. The beer is a delicate and precious treat for those who enjoy the subtle nuances of things from “the wild side”.

Blind Spot
From Steve:

Blind Spot began its life with the intention of being a standard Winter Warmer, in fact I developed the recipe originally as an Old Ale. As the brew day got closer I decided to add some surprises in the whirlpool. I ended up adding in some dried ginger, cardamom, grain of paradise and a little star anise. Not being a big fan of heavily spiced beers, I hope you enjoy the amount I have chosen for this recipe. Cheers!!! Steve

Left Hand Monkey Wrench
Our dark winter specialty beer Blind Spot was aged in 21 year old Brandy Barrels with a Belgian Sour blend. The beer was brewed using dried ginger, Cardamom, Grain of Paradise and Star Anise in the whirlpool.

Nyctophiliac Dark Sour
A blend of Stout and Imperial Porter aged in second use Bourbon Barrels and first use Brandy Barrels for 18 months.

All of which brings us to the current lineup of CAlambic beers.

Central Valley Breakfast Sour
Sour Ale with Grapefruit, Pear and Lychee aged in used French Oak Wine barrels. The first release in our CAlambic™ Series, “California Lambic”, beers inspired by and paying homage to the masterful artisans of the Lambic region of Belgium and their unique spontaneously fermented beers. Our Central Valley Breakfast Sour is a beer adventurer’s dream come true. Aged in used wine barrels for one year with the finest fruit added from our very own San Joaquin Valley.

Ramble on Rose
Ramble on Rose was aged in used wine barrels for 12 months with locally grown blueberries, rose buds, rosehips and pink peppercorns. Refreshingly tart and crisp with flavors of berries and the aroma of the American Beauty rose.

Stella Blue
Stella Blue is an American Sour Ale aged for one year in wine barrels with local blueberries, strawberries and rhubarb. Stella Blue was the first place Gold Medal winner at the 2015 California State Fair commercial craft beer competition. The delicate flavors of the springtime fruit are enhanced by the crisp tartness of the beers finish.

West Meets East
West Meets East pays tribute to the age old harmonious relationship of the Yin and Yang. We added fresh Kiwi and Kumquats, from the groves of California, to our Golden Ale that was aged in wine barrels for one year. The result is a bright and flavorful juxtaposition of sour and sweet with mystifying spicy and palate refreshing qualities. Let your third eye shine.

Le Petit Diablotin
Le Petit Diablotin, “The Little Devil”, is an American sour ale. The beer was aged in wine barrels for 12 months with local sour cherry & pomegranate juice. This beer is a delicate and precious treat for those who enjoy the subtle nuances of things from the “wild side”.

So, there you have it. Where it all began and where it is today. Cheers!