One of the best things about being a food editor is that I’m always learning. I love learning. After all, I didn’t spring full grown from James Beard’s forehead.
Today I learned about as much as I ever wanted to about producing beer through open fermentation. The impetus for this learning came from this somewhat frustrating post, wherein I mentioned the tapping of a firkin of Upright Brewing’s #6 at Saraveza this evening, and the comments that followed.
There was only one thing to do, I figured, and that was to call brewer Alex Ganum of Upright Brewing and get the straight dope .
“I feel like a lot of people might confuse open fermentation with spontaneous fermentation,” Ganum said. “In open fermentation we’re still using one yeast strain—a French saison yeast strain. With spontaneous fermentation, associated with certain traditional lambic beers, they open the windows and let outside organism inoculate the wort.”
Ganum uses large, squat, open fermentation tanks, that are in a positively pressurized room with a UV filtered ventilation system which ensures that only his saison yeast will be allowed to affect the wort. It’s a fermentation process that he feels allows his yeast to express itself in a way that results in “fuller flavor.” He considers the technique to be more rustic, “an older way of doing things.” Though he readily admits that he can’t prove that open fermentation results in a difference in flavor.
Ganum told me that what most affects his beers flavor is the saison yeast. “It’s different from any other place in town,” he said. “Very very dry and very aromatic, a farmhouse style.”
Ganum also told me that Upright is dedicated to using local ingredients. “The majority of what we use comes from right here in Oregon. It’s the farmhouse tradition of pulling in things from right around the area.”
Tonight, Ganum will be showing off his cask conditioned #6, which will be out in regular kegs in a few weeks. “The six is our farmhouse rye,” he told me. “The four beers that we make year round we don’t make to a traditional recognized style. The six has a really nice malty quality; really nice body but very dry.”
He’s excited to find out how the number six will express itself out of the 11-gallon English firkin. “We’re really curious about what it’s going to taste like. We wonder what the mouth feel is going to feel like. It’s going to as fun for us as everyone else who’s drinking it.”
The keg will be tapped and gravity poured tonight at 6pm at Saraveza. Find Ganum and ask him to tell you about the hopless beer he’s bringing to the Organic Beer festival next month. It sounds amazing.