For those of you that missed the Taproom launch of our Ernest Sour, here's a bit of background on the beer, which is now available in can and keg.
This beer has been in my head for longer than any other beer at Iron Pier. When we first set up the business we went to see Hukin's Hops at Haffenden Farm as we wanted to secure a supply of Kent grown hops for our Bitter from a single farm. Ross took the opportunity to give us a sample of the Ernest he was growing in his Greenhouse, and was intending to plant out the following year. The hops had a wonderful intense aroma of Apricot that stuck with me. My initial thought was that it would need to be used in something fairly light to suit the Apricot character, maybe a saison, but a bit of acidity would bring out the fruit notes further. This really needed to be a summer beer, and consequently it was really something we weren't best placed to do until we installed our canning machine a few months ago.
In the intervening time between that first hop sample and this beer taking shape, Hukin's had grown a full field of the hops and were ready to sell the crop, which we knew we wanted part of. At the same time Lallemand had launched their Philly Sour yeast strain, which provides a nice pure lactic acidity without the hassle of kettle souring which ties up the brewhouse for a few days. My initial thought was that we would start fermentation with the Philly Sour, which is a slow fermenter and poor competitor, and then pitch in some Saison yeast when the acidity had developed, to help dry the beer out and add some complexity. After fermenting for a few days it became clear that the soft, clean, simple acidity of the Philly Sour really suited the Ernest hops and after a few of us had done some tasting on the fermenting beer I decided not to use the Saison yeast. The resulting beer has less complexity than I'd initially aimed for, but as a consequence it really lets the hops shine out.
Obviously the final part of the plan coming together was getting the beer packaged into cans, with some great artwork from Duncan Grant Our new Microcan Imp as been great so far. Whilst it's not a fast machine by any stretch, it is really simple to use and is perfect for splitting our batches out into a couple of thousand cans and putting the remainder into kegs. We also have a new labeller for it to feed into, which means we can now label and date our own cans and not rely on holding stocks of pre labelled cans.
Whilst this beer took a really long time to come to fruition it's also a great way to measure how far we've come, from that initial meeting when we didn't even have a brewery, to canning it on site and launching it in our May Avenue Taproom