Drive North from the Tampa Bay area for about an hour and you come to the quaint village of Brooksville. It’s a sleepy community, hosts an annual blueberry festival each year, and sits relatively close to Weeki Watchee and its famous mermaids.
Pretty soon, it will also be the home of Inoculum Ale Works, a new brewery with two very interesting differences: The will only brew sour beers, and their primary method of distribution will be shipping directly to consumers.
For more information, I recently sat down with Nick Moench from Inoculum to discuss beer, corroding cans, green tea, and dinosaurs.
FBB: To start, before we even talk about the beer, can you tell me about your E-Commerce model?
Nick Moench: We have a brewery that’s great for making sour beer, but unfortunately the market space it’s in (Spring Hill) might not be the most receptive of sour beer. Because of that we started looking into selling our beer online instead. It started out as a solution to a problem, but grew into something we wanted to do under any circumstance. The e-commerce sales model allows us to build a following based off of passion instead of geography and that’s incredibly important to us. When the beer launches in the next 14 days, you’ll be able to go onto our website and order it to be shipped to your home or work place. Inside of Florida you’ll have it next day, 2nd day in the rest of the country.
And it’s all legal?
Yes, what we’re doing is 100% legal. My partner and I have been working on this project for just shy of a year now, and nearly all of that has been legal structure. We are well within the three tier system, and we are not exploiting any loop holes.
How do you intend to connect with beer drinkers, if they aren’t coming to you directly?
All the barrel aged beers will be filmed from brew day to blending to packaging. That content will get cut together in to a nice video which will be accessible from the label – you’ll be able to see the beer in your hand being made. If we can’t bring consumers into the brewery, we’ll bring the brewery to them. We also have intentions to get a lot of collaborations done, basically extending the intimacy that other traditionally retailed brewers have to us, as well as extending the benefits of our model to other brewers.
Do you have any collabs lined up right now?
Currently we’re working with an awesome tea blender out of Winter Park called ‘Do You Tea?’. They have this exceptional Japanese Green Tea that we’re going to brew a farmhouse ale with. They were over this past Saturday and we were doing some titrations together and it is going to be so good! Genuinely, I am so excited for that beer, what we were doing on Saturday was phenomenal. All due to the tea, of course. We’re going to film that project together.
Okay, so, tell me a little about the process of brewing your beers.
So we have the old Saint Sebastian system, and most recently it was Brooskville Brewing Company. It’s an ideal system for brewing sour beer. The way it’s designed gives you great control over the chemistry of your sugars, which is hugely important for sours. The rest of the building is 12,000 sq. ft. We’re gutting that and filling it full of oak. We can house a genuinely ridiculous amount of aging beer in that space.
Are your first beers aged, or are you starting off with non-aged first and going for aged releases later?
The first beers to come out are our microbially stable canned beers. These beers are kettle sour’d, which gives you a ‘clean’ beer. The ‘true’ barrel aged sours simply aren’t mature enough yet – I expect them to start coming to maturation around October. Once they’re ready to blend they’ll be packaged in 750ml corked, capped, and waxed bottles.
In regards to our beer, our primary flagship is ‘DREX the Lactosaurus Rex.’ DREX is an American styled sessionable canned Berliner. I see sours taking off, and I expect the market to start demanding sours that are both sessionable on the palate and the wallet; DREX is that.
We’re also putting an American sour brown called Mother Ursa in cans – sort of an Americanized oud bruin. The third and final canned flagship is Dream Catcher, which is our canned farmhouse ale. It’s important to note that all of our canned beers are microbially stable, which is to say they are not going to ‘develop’ with age. They’re designed to be had fresh.
How are you canning a sour? I’ve spoken to other sour-brewing breweries, and they said the beer eats right through a standard can liner.
Yes, an extremely sour beer can be a problem with a can liner, but it’s complicated. After all, Coca Cola is 2.5pH, which is incredibly acidic, and it does fine. There are different kinds of liners and different kinds of acids.
For us it comes down to two things. One, the beer we’re putting in cans is soured with lactic acid bacteria in such a way that you get very clean and very ‘soft’ lactic acid. That beer is also microbially stable, which means it’s not going to sour any further in the can. If we know that the beer is safe for the can when it’s packaged, we can trust that it will stay that way for a long time. Two, we work very closely with our can manufacturer to stay within specs. We have corrosivity guidelines we have to maintain and we ensure we’re doing that by running a lot of tests on every batch as well as sending samples off to a real lab.
Yeast is, obviously, pretty important for a sour beer. How are you getting yours?
I’m incredibly passionate about microbiology, and we have a pretty serious microbiology lab. We do not buy our yeast/bacteria from the big labs any longer; we produce all of that in house. I’ve been cataloging strains in our cryofreezer for a while now, so I have a good chunk of all commercially available microbes in house.
We’re also going out into the woods of Florida on our mountain bikes and swabbing wild trees/fruits/veggies, taking that back to the lab, running a bunch of tests, and cataloging ‘wild’ yeasts and bacteria that no one else uses (yet). Exciting stuff. Not only that, but we’re also doing plenty of work to intelligently generate desired mutations in existing strains, genetic modification through a handful of methodologies. We just purchased our first DNA sequencing machine, which I am incredibly excited about. Our inoculum (microbes we inoculate the beer with) is so incredibly important to us that we named the brewery in their owner. In that spirit it’s our intention to generate an incredibly innovative and exciting brewing laboratory.
Inoculum is getting close to being open for business. Keep an eye on them and FloridaBeerBlog.com for more details.
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