Council's Jeff Crane (background), Curtis and Liz Chism pose with a bottle of their first barrel-aged beer, Nicene
Perhaps no brewery that’s debuted in 2014 has arrived to such immediate and nearly unanimous fanfare as Council Brewing Company (7705 Convoy Court, Kearny Mesa). From hop-forward pale ales and IPAs to low-ABV English-style ales and an oatmeal imperial stout, public response has been so positive that the small operation is far ahead of its admittedly conservative Year One goals. And they haven’t even released some of the beers that have enthusiasts most enthused about the business. But that’s about to change. Council’s first sour beer will be available for pickup by pre-orderers from September 13 through October 18.
Dubbed Nicene, it’s a saison that was barrel-fermented in 20-year-old, medium-toasted, French oak Gewürztraminer barrels from Escondido’s Orfila Vineyards. Before opening, those oaken vessels were filled with a batch of Council’s Farmer’s Gold farmhouse ale brewed on April 28. The character of the wine comes through crystal clear along with some minerality, nuances of apricot and peach, peppery spice from the base beer, and a tame tartness mostly brought on by Council’s “acid beer.” That imposingly named concoction is an ale brewed to be “undrinkably sour.” Featuring a pH level of three (to put it in perspective, lemons generally come in at or a little over two), it’s carefully blended into creations like Nicene to impart base tartness.
As the beer ages, the pH will diminish, but that’s not all that will happen. Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus are present in the beer and will undoubtedly transform it into something very different as Nicene ages in its gold foil-adorned bottle. Council’s crew recommends tasting the beer fresh, then checking in with it at six months and a year. Of course, that depends on if you were in-the-know enough to pre-order the beer, which, at press time, were almost sold out online. Missed out? Arm yourself with knowledge for the next release, a barrel-aged Belgian-style tripel bottle conditioned with a fruity strain of Brettanomyces that should be available by San Diego Beer Week. At very least, it’ll be out before Thanksgiving as the brewers believe it to be “the perfect turkey beer.”