Frequent Flyer Program

Our Frequent Flyer Program is designed to reward our biggest fans – the folks that come into the brewery to share a few beers the most often.

Everyone is eligible. You just need to sign up for our mailing list (either here or at the bar). After that, earn tickets each time you come in and purchase a tasting tour. Here’s the breakdown:

  • A Half-Pint tasting tour gets you one ticket
  • A Classic or Growler Fill gets you two tickets
  • A Chalice or Brewery Tour gets you three tickets

Tickets are valid to be redeemed until the end of each season for the following list of prizes:

  • 4 tickets: One Can To Go
  • 5 tickets: Tasting Tour
  • 8 tickets: Growler Fill of Beer
  • 10 tickets: OG T-Shirt
  • 12 tickets: Season Beer Poster
  • 15 tickets: Trucker Hat
  • 20 tickets: Private Brewery Tour for Two
  • 30 tickets: Beer Party for 8 Peeps
  • 50 tickets: A Slim of Any Core Beer

Tickets have no cash value.

We hope you become a Frequent Flyer, and thanks for drinking Blue Owl!

What is a Sour Unit?

Our Sour Units© (SUs) are a measure of the level of acidity (and “sourness”) in a beer. During the sour-mashing stage of our beer production, we introduce wild cultures of bacteria into the wort and allow them to consume some of the sugars and produce acids. The dominant type of bacteria we select for is called lactic acid bacteria, which produces primarily lactic acid. As the level of lactic acid increases with time, so does the “perceived sourness” (more on that in a minute).

Our brewers sample and measure the amount of acidity in the wort using titratable acidity, an approximation of the total acidity of a solution that has long been used in winemaking. This measurement gives us the percent of acid (as lactic acid) in the wort, and we multiply the concentration by 100 to give us Sour Units. For example, a beer with 65 SUs means that 0.65% of that volume is lactic acid. Or,

%TA x 100 = SUs

0.65% x 100 = 65 SUs

Once the acidity reaches the target level for a particular beer, we stop the bacteria and continue the brewing process like “normal,” un-soured beers.

Sour Units are very similar to International Bitterness Units (IBUs) in that they measure the concentration of chemicals that affect your taste buds. As you would imagine, the more of the acid or bitterness compound, the more it affects the taste.  However, while SUs and IBUs can tell you something about the level of those tastes, but they don’t tell you everything. Your perceived sourness is something that changes with many other factors, like how sweet, bitter or carbonated the beer is, the types of acids it contains, and even what you ate or drank before you had our sour beer.

Our Sour Units are one of many tools for trying to give consumers some information about the beer they are about to try.  Simply put, SUs between 0-40 can be considered low sourness; 41-75 medium sourness; and 76+ can be considered a high level of sourness.

Don’t forget that our beers are constructed to have sourness be just one of many flavors in a beer.

Defining Sour Beers

HOW WE DEFINE OUR SOUR BEERS

Trying to define “sour beers” is both a hot topic and perhaps even a fool’s errand. There’s not even much agreement among brewers themselves, and that can lead consumers to feel a bit confused, or worse, misled.

As a brewery that defines its product as “sour-mashed beers,” Blue Owl Brewing is affected by the industry rhetoric surrounding sour beers as well as consumers’ understanding of what it all means. We want our consumers to know how our beers are made and to put a reasonable and relevant level of value on what we’re doing—no more, no less.

To that end, we want contribute to the effort to define sour beers with some sort of system that, even if it’s imperfect, can help explain the various methods we and other breweries use to produce sour beer.

Sour-mashing

Sour-mashing is a pre-fermentation, wort-souring method where natural bacterial cultures from grain produce a clean, yet flavorful level of acidity. We draw a distinction between wort-souring naturally from a wild source, like we do at Blue Owl, and wort-souring using pure cultures from a lab, which we call kettle souring.

This method leads to recognizable styles that incorporate acidity to produce an experience that is new, but retains the flavors of the original style. One of our flagships, Spirit Animal is a sour American pale ale, which means we combine a smooth level of sourness into a hoppy, clean beer that still has a sturdy malt backbone with stylistically accurate levels of bitterness and residual sweetness. It’s a refreshing lawnmower beer for people that like a little tartness and big grapefruit hoppiness, and it comes in a $10 six-pack of cans. Our other core beers are also recognizable styles – wheat, red and even cherry stout – with added acidity from the sour-mashing process.

Mixed Fermentation

After souring, classic brewers’ yeast produces a different flavor profile than it would without having acidity in the wort. But occasionally we go further than using typical saccharomyces yeast. For example, Saison Puede, a farmhouse-style ale, uses a wild yeast strain (brettanomyces) in a mixed-fermentation to add some mild funkiness to the tart saison for added complexity.

Barrel Aging

Many are familiar with aging beers in a particular spirit style to add barrel flavor. We make a version of Admiral Gravitas, our sour Imperial oatmeal stout, that is sour-mashed to 81 SUs, fermented with saccharomyces, and then put in a whiskey barrel to further age the sour beer and add whiskey (but not funk) character. We call it Lord Admiral Gravitas.

 

 

Sour Barrel Aging

Sour barrel aging is a post-fermentation process that uses bacteria and brettanomyces to add acidity and funkiness (spicey, earthy, horsey, fruity), as well as further age a beer. This spring we’re placing a portion of Saison Puede in wine barrels with various cultures to continue sour barrel aging the beer before it’s released in the fall. We’ll add fresh grape pomace to further enhance the flavor.

Wild Fermentation

Perhaps our most unusual (and least controlled) use of alternative brewing techniques is employed on beers named Wild Boss and Wild Animal. Wild Boss is a sour-mashed beer fermented 100% wildly by simply dumping the soured wort into a barrel that has a native, wild culture of yeast and bacteria, and then aging it in the barrels. The acidity produced in the sour mash protects the beer from harmful bacteria and allows any wild yeast present in the barrels to slowly ferment. The result is a truly unique, complex, refreshing, tart, funky beer.

 

So what will this look like in real life when you come try a new beer? This fall, we’ll release Saison Puede as a collaboration with The Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery. You could read on our website that it’s a farmhouse-style ale sour-mashed to 45 SUs, inoculated with a mixed fermentation, and sour-barrel-aged in cabernet wine barrels with freshly pressed red grape pomace.

Or, you could just check out these icons next to the name and get an idea of what you’re getting into:

And a third, equally viable option is just to order a delicious saison and enjoy it without thinking one bit about how it was made!

So where does this leave us in terms of trying to define our beers and inform our customers on the various efforts and techniques used to produce the beer they’re enjoying? Hopefully it leaves us with some common terminology that makes it all this science a bit easier to digest. And like I said, we know this isn’t a perfect system. We simply want to help move the conversation forward. I look forward to continuing that conversation with you.

 

Jeff Young

Executive Brewer

Tiny Barrels. Wild Beers.

Blue Owl Brewing’s Tiny Barrel Program began more than a year ago with three discarded 13-gallon Garrison Brothers whiskey barrels. Currently, we’ve got about 250 gallons of barrel-aged beer at any given time, which is “tiny” compared to most barrel programs.

With a program of this size, we are limited in our ability to blend barrels. Blending, an art form in and of itself, allows the blender the ability to temper the distinct character of each barrel to produce a product whose sum is greater than its parts. In our case, we only get one shot. This puts a lot of pressure on us, but also on the yeast to perform. Stressful but exciting stuff.

Over the past year, our barrels have begun to hit their stride. The mixed culture of wild and domesticated microorganisms native to our barrels have developed to the point where we can fully relinquish control and let the barrels direct the course.

Leading the charge on these small-volume experiments, I am happy to announce Wild Boss—the first beer to make it through our 100% wild barrel-fermented program. Fermented entirely in oak, this version of Little Boss has been exposed to two wild cultures: one found on grain through our normal souring process, and one native to our barrels.

BORN IN OAK

With successive fills, the extraction of the prior wine or spirit from a barrel will diminish, resulting in a “neutral” character. This natural progression, while free of the accents of that wine or spirit, allows the native microorganisms to take center stage, providing nuanced aromatics that augment the base beer. A relationship is formed between brewer and barrel with the various microorganisms directing the beer’s course.

With our most recent (and most exciting) process, we have released control to the barrel and the bugs within. Instead of sending the freshly boiled and chilled wort to a stainless steel fermenter, we sent the wort to one of our neutral oak barrels after a quick rinse of the prior beer. The only steel this beer touches is a keg on its way to the tap wall.

AND RELEASED INTO THE WILD

This beer spent five months in our three founding Garrison Brothers neutral oak barrels before being kegged and carbonated. It’s spicy, earthy, funky, and truly unique. I have long been eager to ferment one of our beers entirely on oak, and I am truly proud of the results. I want to give a special thank you to Jeff and Suzy for encouraging us to try new things and test out theories along the way.

See you in the taproom.

Davy Pasternak
Head Brewer

Dapper Devil in Bottles!

When we started Blue Owl, we decided to package our core beers in cans for a few reasons, including affordability, recyclability, and convenience. Our seasonals would be available on tap at the brewery and at bars and restaurants around town.

But a few of our seasonals really struck a chord with our customers, and seemed to be a good fit for a limited run of large format bottles. Dapper Devil, our sour raspberry Belgian-style strong ale, was the first to come to mind. Its higher ABV makes it ideal for a 660mL bottle that you can share with friends, or even collect if that’s your thing.

Our first bottle release will happen here at the brewery, out on the patio at noon on April 28th. We’ll have extra staff to handle sales separately from taproom visitors, so we’re hoping it’ll be an easy process to drop by and pick up a bottle or two. Or better yet, grab a bottle and then hang out in the tasting room and try Saison Puede, our newest seasonal (which could very well end up in a bottle pretty soon, too).

Dapper Devil 660mL bottles will be $12, with a limit of four per customer. It’s 8.9% ABV, 26 IBUs, and 62 sourness units.

A Peek Inside Jeff’s Sour Head

What “Sour” Means to Blue Owl. A Look at 10 Sour Beers… and What’s Next

I’m proud to say that we’ve made it through a whole brewing year and have explored the possibilities of what delving head-first into sour beers really means. We owe a huge thanks to everyone who has supported us, become fans, and been a part of this project with us. Without you, we’re just a few nerds and a pH meter! And without my team of creative, passionate brewers and cellarpeople, I’m an even lonelier nerd with a pH meter.
This whole thing has been quite a challenge and quite a risk. Doing 100% sour-mashed beers was very enticing when we started Blue Owl. Very little information exists on sour mashing at all, let alone on what challenges reveal themselves when trying to do it exclusively. We didn’t have a super clear picture of what Blue Owl was to become. We had our core four beers that formed a foundation of where we might go: a sour hoppy beer, a light sour wheat beer, a malty sour beer, and a bit of a wild card with our sour cherry stout. I think folks are pretty familiar with them now, but if we were really going to get our imagination flowing, we had to dig deeper into the edges of beer styles. We needed to invent new styles and reimagine old ones.

Annnnnd we had to make them good to drink.

DAPPER DEVIL – SOUR RASPBERRY BELGIAN STRONG ALE

As our first seasonal, we had to come out of the gates strong. Inspired by Duvel, Dapper Devil allowed us to play it a little safe with the raspberries (we knew that’d be delicious) while challenging ourselves to make it more than just a fruit beer. The Belgian character of the yeast, for some reason, is not as expressive at the lower pH. So we quickly realized we need to boost up the yeast character by adding some saison yeast to add a spicy contrast to the fruity flavors. The resulting beer was a real crowd-pleaser, and appreciable to those that want to dig a little more into complex Belgian flavors.

SAISON PUEDE – FARMHOUSE-STYLE ALE

For our first mixed-culture beer, we sour-mashed a typical saison malt bill and fermented with both saison yeast and a strain of brettanomyces. This year, we have a couple exciting tweaks to Saison Puede. The spring version will have meyer lemons and pink peppercorns added. Then for the fall, we’ll age and funk the main batch in Infinite Monkey Theorem wine barrels over the summer before finally mixing in grapes and pomace from the annual grape harvest. We released a version of this at last year’s Texas Craft Brewers Festival.

CZECH CZECH – SOUR CZECH-STYLE PILSNER

Ah, Czech Czech, possibly our staff favorite.  Who’s ever heard of a sour-mashed Czech Pilsner?  Who thought it would be so damn refreshing and perfect for Austin summers?!  Technically one of our most challenging beers, Czech Czech even goes through a decoction mash as well as weeks of lagering.

HOP TOTEM – SOUR IPA

This beer had to wait until we had a good grasp of what we call “The Peculiar Triangle,”  which is the balance between sour, bitter, and sweet. Three points on a triangle all trying to have some sort of balance. Hop Totem has a particularly difficult-to-balance Peculiar Triangle, as you can imagine, because both the bitterness and the sourness are so high. We have to hit our targets on IBUs and SUs just right and then set the residual sweetness in between them to make sure they play nice. But once we nailed it, what we got is basically a grapefruit IPA without the grapefruit!

WEE BEASTIE – SOUR WEE HEAVY

What happens when you amp up the maltiness and body in a beer and incorporate a smooth, rounded sourness? Well, we didn’t really know until we made Wee Beastie. An unsuspecting crowd favorite, Wee Beastie doesn’t fully makes sense on your palette, but you can’t get enough of it. Fruity, caramelly, sweet, sour, a touch of peat smoke…so great for the fall months.

ADMIRAL GRAVITAS – SOUR IMPERIAL OATMEAL STOUT

Ever since Professor Black showcased that sourness and roastiness could live together in harmony, I wanted to take it to the extreme. Big roasty malts, high alcohol, and a sourness balanced out by a smooth, sweet oatmeal backbone, the Admiral lives up to his name. We even aged a small amount in Balcones Brimstone whiskey barrels, which we called Lord Admiral Gravitas. Perhaps we’ll make a bit more of that this year.

So what does sourness mean to us? It means untapped possibilities, challenges, and rewards! No longer are we simply mimicking classic styles like berliner weisse, gose, and lambic. The added dimension of organic acids adding sourness to virtually any combination of ingredients and processes – that’s Blue Owl.

Want to keep talking about this sour business? Stop by the taproom and ask us over a glass!

Jeff Young
Executive Brewer