Name: The Rare Barrel
Location: Berkeley, CA
What you need to know: Jay Goodwin, who worked previously at The Bruery, and Alex Wallash started out as a homebrewing duo before teaming up in 2013 to open The Rare Barrel. The name of the brewery comes from a well-traveled barrel used to produce sour beers by New Belgium, Purpose, and other breweries. The focus of The Rare Barrel team is barrel-aged sour beers (to the near total exclusion of other beer styles), and they have quickly established a reputation for excellence, winning awards for their beers at both the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival. There is no brew house at the Rare Barrel, as they produce their wort at other breweries, then bring it back to their brewery for fermentation and barrel aging.
Beer/Food Pairing #1: Across the Sea (Sour / 6% ABV) paired with Ceviche with Calamari, Chili and Lime
Notes/Thoughts: Across the Sea is a golden sour aged in oak barrels with coriander and pink Himalayan sea salt, so it has some of the same notes found in goses. The combination of citrus and brine flavors in the beer are a natural fit for the ceviche, but the balance in the beer make it a good choice to just pick up and go as well.
Beer/Food Pairing #2: Wise Guise (Sour / 5.6% ABV) paired with Short Rib Grilled Cheese
Notes/Thoughts: Wise Guise is a blend of Rare Barrel’s multiple award winning dark sour beer with raspberries, Ensorcelled, and a golden sour. It is fermented with Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus, producing a tart sour with both raspberry and tropical fruit flavors. I am only so-so on the pairing, but the fruit flavors in the beer could match well enough with the cheese. This beer should also be worthy of consideration for any sour beer fans on its own as well.
Overall Impressions: I was fortunate enough to pour for the Rare Barrel as a volunteer at the 2015 Great American Beer festival, and I enjoyed all of the sours they were pouring, including Ensorcelled. The line only got longer as the time passed, and for good reason. I am excited that they won the lottery and are bringing two interesting and different sours. For sour beer fans coming to SAVOR, this table should be in your plans.