Perhaps the most intriguing detail about the fall arrival of Blue Owl Brewing, an eastside venture from former Black Star Co-Op employees Jeff Young and Suzy Shaffer, is that the beers — which have names and can designs displayed beautifully (and tantalizingly) on the brewery’s Facebook page — will all be sour mashed, making Blue Owl the first brewery in the country to focus solely on that approach.
Sour mashing is a process that distillers use to produce most bourbon, but it’s also sometimes a technique for brewers to make sour beers without the long amount of time that brewing those types of beers typically requires. As Young and Shaffer noted on Blue Owl’s press page, “it’s a non-traditional approach to producing highly approachable beer.”
The brewing version of sour mashing results in “tart, fruit-forward beers that closely mimic their native style,” the press page said. In other words, a sour-mashed wheat beer still closely resembles a wheat beer, even though one part of the brewing process is altered to allow for some sourness to come through.
Essentially, the wort (the malty liquid extracted from the mash) is left in with some grains for up to several days after the mash, allowing bacteria naturally found in the grain to consume some of the sugars in the wort. That produces lactic acid, and that’s where the sourness comes from.
So Blue Owl’s brews will be “tart from the start, instead of being aged over years, often with the addition of fruit,” Young and Shaffer said in the press page. “(Sour-mashed beers) yield a highly consistent, straightforward product that can be easily reproduced, unlike barrel-aged sours that are by nature unpredictable.”
The two co-founders — who are currently getting the brewery on East Cesar Chavez ready to open — have tapped into this distinctive process for a reason. They believe their brewery is opening just at the cusp of a heyday for sour beers.
This style, they said, might be going the way of IPAs: sourness as a flavor is now a sought-after beer quality, rather like bitterness, which was itself once undesirable. Currently similar to the sorts of sessionable beers Blue Owl will produce are Austin Beerworks Einhorn and New Belgium Snapshot.
Blue Owl has four beers in the works. There’s Little Boss, a sour session wheat (Berliner Weisse); Spirit Animal, a sour pale ale; Professor Black, a sour cherry stout; and Van Dayum!, a sour amber.
These will be canned from the start. Beer lovers will have the chance to try them at the brewery’s on-site tasting room, as well at local bars and restaurants.
For updates — including an exact opening date — visit the Facebook page or blueowlbrewing.com. The brewery will be located at 2400 East Cesar Chavez St.