Blending this year's Le Terroir, due out Aug. 31
Wind the clock back more than a decade, way back to 2003. In those early days of the wood cellar program, just one foeder, No. 3 to be exact, housed Felix, one of the two base beers we use to blend our sours. And, quite frankly, wood cellar blender Lauren Salazar had no idea what to do with the stuff.
But during the hop selection that year, when Salazar came across the new Amarillo variety for the first time, she had an idea: The hop’s vibrant, pungent aroma of mango and peaches reminded her exactly of Felix.
“I asked Eric [Salazar] if we could dry-hop a sour beer, and he had no idea,” remembers Salazar. “So, I called [Firestone Walker’s brewmaster] Matt Brynildson if it was possible, and he didn’t see any reason why not. He was literally like, ‘Well, I can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t.’”
So, the next day, Salazar got her hands on a small amount of Amarillo hop pellets, put them in a little game bag—the kind you might use to cook quail—and steeped the hops in a carboy of Felix taken from Foeder No. 3. What she came back to a few days later was the prototype for a beer way ahead of its time: Le Terroir, a dry-hopped sour ale.
Check-ins on Beer Advocate date all the way back to 2004 (when small specialty kegged or bottled versions would “leak” out to Salazar’s favorite accounts, or low-key bottle share parties), though the beer’s changed a good bit since then. While the evolving flavor of Felix in our foeders has had an impact on those changes, the biggest influence probably came from Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo, who suggested Salazar add an accent hop to complement Amarillo (Note: when the brewer of Piny the Elder makes a hop suggestion, it's worth listening). That’s how Citra made its way into the recipe, giving the already tropical profile a bigger boost.
The original (and unofficial) Le Terroir label designed by Eric Salazar, which was often slapped onto bottles.
This year, the recipe’s changing even more. With a nod to its name—translated to “of the earth”—Salazar decided to swap out the accent Citra hops with whatever exciting hop popped up from the ground during hop selection. The newcomer? Galaxy hops.
“Every year is different: Rain, sunshine, harvests are good or bad,” says Salazar. “If the name of the beer is Le Terroir, why not keep that in mind when you’re at the hop harvest? Amarillo would be the beer’s signature flavor, but the other new or nice hops could be the accent.”
Those accent flavors also point to another change with the 2015 Le Terroir blend: Not only are we incorporating new sour beer from the wood cellar expansion, but the flavor profile of previous barrels is also changing, leaning more toward citrus and marmalade, which pairs perfectly with Galaxy’s passion fruit and tropical fruit notes.
While some things change, others stay the same: Keep an eye out for this beer to hit shelves and kegs by the end of August.
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