New to our Barrelworks lineup is Frazzle Sass – a fruited wild ale made in collaboration with our friends from Fonta Flora Brewery in North Carolina. We teamed up with Fonta Flora to embark on this ambitious project starting in 2019, using their proprietary mixed culture to create a blend of barrel aged golden saisons co-fermented with Central California apricots and nectarines. The result is a fruit bomb brimming with collaborative goodness. We sat down and chatted with Fonta Flora head brewer Jeremy Inzer and Barrelworks master blender Jim Crooks to discuss the collaboration and learn more.
MEETING OF THE MINDS
Some of the most enduring friendships start from simple admiration. While poking through brewer tents during our 2017 Invitational Beer Festival, Jim Crooks happily came upon Fonta Flora where owner Todd Boera and his group of enthusiastic North Carolinians were pouring a strawberry sour beer which blew him away. Jim recalled:
“I hung out at the Fonta Flora tent, trying beers and talking about their setup and philosophy. By the end of that conversation, I was a huge fan of what they’re making, especially the strawberry beer they were pouring which is just a perfect, perfect rendition of a strawberry sour beer. I proposed at that point, I would jump at any opportunities to work together down the road.”
Fonta Flora is known for incorporating traditional brewing practices while using local Appalachian ingredients. They’re deeply connected with the local agricultural and farming community, where they source all their ingredients they can. This ethos carries over to their wild ale program, which is a huge part of their identity – navigating new fruit and botanical combinations while maintaining a sense of place in Western North Carolina.
HATCHING A PLAN
Jim and Jeremy arranged to collaborate two years later in the spring of 2019, just before Fonta Flora returned to pour beer at the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival. While California is ripe with all varieties of fruit, North Carolina has a slightly narrower local offering. Fonta Flora head brewer Jeremy Inzer shared:
“We unfortunately have never used apricots in our own brewery; they are challenging to grow in North Carolina. That was part of what made this project with Barrelworks so exciting, to use a fruit we ordinarily don’t have access to.”
A VISIT TO BARRELWORKS
Barrelworks is a cathedral of barrels. Within are an array of different base beers, yeast strains, and vintages. Jim pulled down over 30 different lots of beer to taste through to find the perfect base for this collaboration. After having settled on about four different blond sour ales as the base beer, it was time to process fruit. Jim arranged over 1000 pounds each of freshly picked apricots and nectarines to arrive right when Fonta Flora was visiting. Jim, Jeremy, and a handful of helpers spent two full days pitting and quartering fruit, preparing for its fermentation and integration into beer.
After the fruit was ready, it was combined with the selected concoction of blonde sour ales. With a nod to the beautiful wild beers of Fonta Flora, their proprietary mixed culture of yeast and bacteria was added to the fruited blend and then was allowed to mature for over a year in French oak barrels.
“Over time we’ve had a few proprietary yeast strains we’ve worked with,” Jeremy shared. “The strain in Frazzle Sass is the same we use in our Appalachian Wild Ales, we call it ‘the OG.’ This strain has changed very little since day one, comes off incredibly clean and in a lot of ways quite simple. The focus of flavor has a lovely Belgian tartness that has notes of citrus and bright fruit, with a more restrained wild yeast barnyard funkiness.”
Needless to say, we’ve all been eager to share Barrelworks latest creation with the world.
TASTING FRAZZLE SASS
With ripe fruit aromas – vibrant, fresh, and loaded with stone fruit flavors – the beer is a brilliant melding of sun-kissed apricot and Nectarine.
“It’s pure, fresh fruit – like biting into a fleshy piece of nectarine,” Jim shares. “To me, its aromatically refined and the flavor is like you’re drinking nectar. It’s beautiful. I love it. It’s just fresh fruit all the way through.”
“Creating this beer was truly a meeting of the minds and collaborative in every sense of the word. I really appreciated Jim’s eager and open mind to create something that would be truly specific to both of our brands. Many ideas were tossed around, but ultimately this apricot & nectarine fruit combination using both of our in-house proprietary yeast strains was what we felt defined us the best. We’re eager to share it.” – Fonta Flora head brewer Jeremy Inzer.
Frazzle Sass (6.3%) is a limited collaboration available only at select retailers in North Carolina and at our three CA locations. California residents can also purchase online here.