D9 Brewing in Cornelius will release its first bottled beer this Saturday at noon, and you won’t find any mention of hop varietals on the label. It’s not brewed with any.
Instead you’ll find the cartoon rendering of a bearded Viking, a flower-horned helmet perched above his scowling face.
This juxtaposition makes perfect sense given the beer’s contradictory nature. It is a touch floral and sweet, yet assertively sour. It is part Scottish ale, and part gruit.
What’s a gruit? Today, we know beer to have four main ingredients: water, malt, yeast and – everyone’s darling these days – hops. The latter imparts bitterness and keeps the beer from being cloyingly sweet. Hops weren’t always the popular bittering agent they are today, though. A thousand years ago, it was customary to use herbs and spices instead.
Viking Fraoch, the first in the brewery’s new series of Ancient Sours, relies on the heather flower instead of hops. And while brewing with heather is an ancient technique, the brewery has some proprietary tricks that help achieve this beer’s mouth-puckering sourness.
“We basically create an environment that is perfect for conducting the souring process we want,” said Bora Okay, D9 Brewing’s sales manager. “We set up the temperature and the pH so that the souring process occurs naturally. The bacteria is pulled from the ingredients naturally so that we don’t have to inoculate.”
That’s about the most the brewery will divulge about its secret technique, which allows the brewery to produce a sour beer in about a month’s time. That’s unprecedented compared with some sours that require many months in a barrel to achieve similar results. The brewery doesn’t refer to the beer as a wild ale, as so many breweries do, but as a “spontaneous sour.”
“It took them a few years for them to figure out what was happening and to actually perfect the process,” said Okay of D9’s brewers. “It was one of those mistakes that ended up being great type of creations.”
The beer was popular at D9 Brewing’s original location, a single-bay warehouse space in an office park.
“The reception has always been positive,” Okay said. “For a lot of people it might be their first time having a sour beer, yet they really enjoy it.”
The beer has also proved popular among wine drinkers and sour beer diehards, said Okay. D9 ramped up production after moving into a much larger brewery and taproom last September. At the grand opening for that facility, they sold gold bottle crowns as tokens that could be exchanged for a glass of Viking Fraoch or any of its other beers.
So it makes sense that these gold crowns will be used to cap the first run of Viking Fraoch bottles, which the D9 Brewing crew will also number and sign. The 500 ml bottles will retail for $11.99 each, with a four-bottle limit at the brewery. Expect to see them hit area beer stores in the next month or so.
The next beers in the brewery’s Ancient Sours series should be available around that time as well. One will be a blonde sour, and the other a black sour brewed with dates and honey.
Event of the week
The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (4150 Yancey Road) will serve a Father’s Day special this Sunday. Dads can choose either crab cakes or a 10-ounce prime rib with sides for $27, which also includes a six-pack to take home.
DETAILS: 704-525-5644; www.oldemeckbrew.com.