253: Matt Van Wyk and Brian Coombs of Alesong Stay Focused on the Barrel


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Science teacher turns brewer. On paper, it makes sense. But Alesong’s Matt Van Wyk made the career transition long before many in the current generation of brewery owners made similar leaps. With two decades of professional brewing under his belt, Van Wyk has observed, and brewed through, many trends, but the love of barrel-aged beer led him and his partners (including Alesong production director Brian Coombs) to create Alesong with a deep focus on three threads—Farmhouse-style beers fermented with Brettanomyces, mixed-culture sour beers, and spirits-barrel-aged “clean” fermentations.

The results have been impressive, with industry recognition through medals, and a club-based customer base that supports their boundary-pushing work. But this brewery that looks and feels like a winery (and is, in fact, located on a small parcel next to one of the area’s largest and most significant wineries) is less concerned with creating hype and more focused on the slow, iterative process of making compelling and flavorful beer.

In this episode, Coombs and Van Wyk discuss:

  • learning fruit fermentation techniques from wineries
  • building complexity in stout malt bills with smaller amounts of a vast array of malts
  • creating the perception of sweetness in stouts with relatively low (8-8.5° P) finishing gravity
  • selecting barrels for flavor over marketing potential
  • tank cleaning regimen for working with both sour and clean beer
  • oxygenating Brett fermentations over three days
  • blending strategy for sour fruited beer
  • creating a perception of body in 0° P sour fruited beer

And more.

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