Eight years ago, Barrelworks unleashed its first bottled offering – Feral One. Over the years, Feral One has become our celebratory anniversary release and is our ode to the terroir of fermentation and those traditional farmhouse beers found in the lambic brewing regions of Belgium.
We asked Barrelworks’ Master Blender Jim Crooks to tell us more about Feral One and why it’s become our annual release marking another year of wild beer blending.
Feral One presents itself as an idea and is a very personal beer for me. It is created using my most important brewing tool, my palette. I have been refining what this beer means over the past eight years. Each annual release of Feral One is a blend of what I consider to be our most beautiful, charismatic barrels blended to make a beer that is more than the sum of its parts.
When sampling, the barrels picked for Feral One initially reveal themselves with a specific spicy aroma, one of musky citrus rind and pith, melded with fresh hay. The flavors that follow are of mild acidity, a crisp citrus pith, assertive vanilla and a flinty minerality. These distinctive flavors are what define a chosen Feral One barrel from the 1800+ barrels we have at our facility. These are flavors that are inspired by the famous Lambic Geueze beers centered around the brewing area of Brussels, Belgium.
Although Feral One has never been made in the traditional lambic style, using a coolship to bring hot wort down in temperature and also relying on a natural spontaneous fermentation, I have to say, this year’s release is my favorite to date and what I feel is most reminiscent of a Belgian lambic I’ve blended – ever.
— Jim Crooks, Master Blender
THIS FLAVOR COULD BE DESCRIBED AS A LEAN, BRACING EARTHINESS, FOLLOWED BY FRESHLY ZESTED LEMON RIND LAYERED ON OAKY VANILLAS WITH A DRY FINISH.
There is no specific recipe brewed to make Feral One, meaning there is no specific malt, hops or fruit added, no particular addition of bacteria or Brettanomyces (wild yeast) for fermentation. Feral One is not a batch of beer made to order. Feral One can also be blended from any specific barrel-style we have at Barrelworks: American, French, or Hungarian Oak, as well as any size barrel, be it a “small” 60-gallon wine barrel up to 1600 gallon wooden foeder. The blended component comprising Feral One have been as young as 18 months and as old as 50 months.
— Jim Crooks
IN A PURE SENSE, FERAL ONE IS CREATED FROM PUTTING BEER IN A BARREL AND LETTING TIME WORK ITS MAGIC, TO THE POINT WHERE THAT BARREL IS “DISCOVERED” TO BE IN ITS SWEET SPOT OF AROMA, FLAVOR, AND HARMONY.
We are always tasting barrels here, keeping our most important tool – our palettes – at work. Throughout the year we earmark barrels we find stunning for their individual character and set aside for Feral One. When time permits, all the chosen barrels are brought down onto the floor from their lofty racks and retasted. Sometimes barrels that had pure Feral One character months previous have evolved from their peak “lambic” state and are no longer ideal for this beer, and sometimes barrels that were leaning towards this character blossomed beautifully. I made the years blend using the barrels that voice our vision and am always floored by how dynamic these barrels can be.
This year’s blend rests upon the seminal shoulders of the mighty Agrestic Ale, which starts as a lightly hopped British Pale ale, transformed in barrel with Brettanomyces, and materializes from years in oak radiating notions of earl grey tea, light citrus fragrances and a keen Flemish accent. This year’s release lands at 6.1% ABV and is blended from the following components:
- 47% Agrestic – American Wild Ale
- 17% Bretta Weisse – Oak Aged Berliner Weisse
- 17% Tevis – Oak Aged Wild Saison
- 11% Pivo Pilsner
- 8% Velvet Mordred – Wild Oatmeal Sour Stout
Feral One is available for a limited time in 750ml bottles at our locations and online.
Wait there’s more!
With the release of Feral One, Jim and the Barrelworks team are releasing two very limited, Brewmaster’s Collective-exclusive wild ale collaborations.
Beerjolais: Wild Ale Fermented with Red Grape Skins, 6.4% ABV
Beerjolais was made in partnership with Whitcraft Winery, a multi-generational Santa Barbara Winery, and utilizes freshly pressed Gamay grape skins. These grapes are known for a deep dark skin color but white juice, and they were combined in French oak barrels with Barrelworks wild beer to create a beer with stunningly fruity and flowery aromatics, a subtle earthiness, and notes of raspberry and plum.
All Things Go: Mixed Fermentation Wild Ale with White Grapes, 8.5% ABV
All Things go was created in partnership with Jester King Brewery from the outskirts of Austin, TX. Utilizing white grapes from local Curtis Vineyards, these grapes were pressed and fermented spontaneously, then blended with Jester King yeasts and added to Firestone Barrelworks’ wild oak barrels where it matured for over two years.. The result is a full bodied wild ale with notes of white grapes, bold floral and vanilla character with a gorgeous lingering finish.