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Upland Brewing's sour ale program continues to grow

They're even shipping up to Boston

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Sour beers live in a sensory galaxy of their own. Upland has been taking a select following on this journey of discovery for the past decade. Now, Upland is flinging their recently opened state-of-the-art Wood Shop doors wide open for all comers to acquire a taste for the age-old Belgian Trappist brewing style. Utilizing wild yeast strains and secondary fermentation from a variety of locally-sourced fruits cozying up to the brew within barrels imparting their woodyness and vestiges of their original spirits-ingredients, Upland brewers have been fitting sours into Indiana’s beer culture since being one of the first U.S. breweries to introduce sours.

“We’re pretty excited about the expansion,” enthused Pete Batule, VP of Operations, as he described Upland’s newest sours thrust during a phone conversation on Oct. 18.

With no intentions of short shifting their standard brands, Upland intends to ramp up their sours leadership in Indiana and the Midwest along with taking their product to a broader national market already eager for Upland Sours, starting with Boston where a few Upland sours can already be found. Word-of-mouth over the years has built a ready market outside of Indiana.

But Upland also wants to grow the desire for sours right here at home, “and that means leading patrons through the experience of tasting these wonderful beers,” said Batule.

“We want to make sure we have a broad portfolio of sour beers. We enjoy these beers for different reasons as we move from light acidity to very complex layered high acidity brands. Our most recently released beers, “Hopsynth” and “Revive,” were produced with the same methods as our traditional styles and the base beer was aged for 4-8 months. Hopsynth is a select blend of foeder beer that we will then transfer to a stainless tank and age on hops one week before packaging. Revive is also a select blend of foeder beer that is aged on whole pineapple and whole chamomile flowers for one month prior to packaging. Both beers provide a wonderfully balanced acidity.”

Readers, please take note: “Foeder beer” [pronounced “FOOD-er”] is beer aged in a very, very large wooden vat. It’s traditionally been part of wine making, but sours brewers have seen the merits of this oversized vessel over aging in multiple racks of diverse small barrels that usually are passed along from spirits makers. Foeder crafters claim brewers can better control the quality of a brand aged in one large vat.
The Wood Shop Sour Facility - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • The Wood Shop Sour Facility
The Wood Shop allows Upland’s team of brewers to experiment with blending to create welcoming beers for the newcomer, along with blending to stretch the expectations of long-time sours patrons.

Blending from different barrels challenges a brewer to go beyond strict science to trust individuality of taste, something that grows with experience and a sense of daring. The brewer’s head fills with taste-memory as patience becomes the watch-word for maturing each barrel to the precise moment for the envisioned recipe to emerge.

“The Wood Shop allows us time to wait with the brew, and over time we come to understand and know when it’s ready to go. We put a lot of faith in the ability of our individual brewers to know [intuitively]. It’s a combination of training, time and experience and the passion to be better [at what we do],” explains Batule.

The challenge now is to establish sours production on a double track — continue making the beers for which Upland has a market, and develop brands to invite new patrons into the style.

“We want to tell the Upland story in meaningful ways,” explains Batule. That includes the way the beers are presented on tap or in bottles, in person by a server or on a shelf display with no human contact.

Before opening The Wood Shop in early 2016 Upland was producing 200 barrels of sours. Since opening The Wood Shop, production has been at 500 barrels. Projections for 2017 are for 1,500 barrels, with capacity anticipated to grow with the market, said Batule.

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Inherent with Upland’s Sours leadership is the Midwest Sour-Wild-Funk Fest and a growing roster of collaboration brewing with other craft breweries nationwide, who look to Upland as an innovator.

“We set out 10 years ago with a goal of emulating the depth and character of the traditional Belgian lambic brewers,” added Upland owner Doug Dayhoff. “Then we innovated with non-traditional fruits. And in the last couple years, we’ve begun to riff on new elements of process and ingredients to create unique beers entirely of our own signature.”

Upland Sours are available to the general public through a seasonal lottery:

Lottery releases for 2017 include: Vinosynth White, Vinosynth Red, Blackberry, Persimmon, Cauldron, PawPaw, Kiwi, Raspberry and more.

Secret Barrel Society patrons are privy to special blends on a seasonal basis.

Membership is open now through January 18. Find info about membership benefits.

Tasting at The Wood Shop is open to anyone 21+. The bar staff will talk you through what’s on tap. Upland staff will walk you through a tour of operations. Here’s what to expect during a visit to 350 W. 11th St. in Bloomington:

Free tours. Add a tasting experience for $5. See how Upland Sour Ales are brewed, aged and bottled at the Wood Shop. Taste some of 10 sour ales on tap, some of which are not available anywhere else. Sours bottle carryout is available.

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