Sudwerk Brewing Company - Fünke Hop Farm
- ABV: 6.5%
- Serving Temperature: 45–52° F
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip, Chardonnay glass, or Flute
Sudwerk went all out for this second batch of Fünke Hop Farm. Where to begin... This beer is brewed with oats and wheat, and fermented out with two strains of saison yeast. It spends about six to nine months in an assortment of barrels—Petite Sirah, Grenache, Chardonnay—while being fermented with Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and a house yeast culture from the brewery’s in-house solera system. (There’s more!) These various treatments are then blended with an all-Brett beer that’s barrel-aged separately, bringing in more tropical and guava notes.
For good measure: It’s dry-hopped at 1.5 pounds per barrel with Simcoe, Nelson, and Citra.
And yes: the name’s an Arrested Development nod.
This has only been released once before, and we’ve snagged Batch 2 as an exclusive offer for our Rare Beer Club members (and as an example of what we'll be featuring in our new Hop-Heads Beer Club. We found this even superior to the first batch, which was the reason we had our interest piqued. It’s one of the most delicious sours we’ve had in a while.
Fünke Hop Farm pours a deep orange-golden color, capped by bright white foam. There’s a rich mix of yeast and hop aromatics even straight from the fridge: grapefruit, passion fruit, a nice pulpy hit of guava, lime, and pith. The Citra elements and wild yeast align perfectly, with a mouthwatering citrus and grassiness that grabbed our interest even as we were pouring this one. Orange juice. Fresh-squeezed grapefruit. The aroma had us remembering epic mimosas.
As this warms, you get a bit more of the vanilla and light oak tannins from its time in barrels.
Kaffir lime leaf... Subtle notes of fruity red Grenache...
All of this comes together perfectly in that first sip. There’s no Brett off-notes, no sloppiness in the ferment even despite the meandering paths and barrels and blends that went into what we’re pretty sure is one of the most elaborate beers we’ve featured in recent years. That first sip is dead-on engaging sour beer: a jolt of citrusy acidity, enormous features of tropical fruit and red-fruit undercurrents, plus some buttressing structure from the oaky tannins and slight touch of bitterness. The tartness is upfront and fully developed, but never close to abrasive.
We found ourselves continually returning to the aromatics: tropical, torrential, so expressive.
“This is a Sudwerk beer,” we reminded ourselves, recalling a pinpoint Märzen and restrained, almost steely pale lagers. This is a Sudwerk beer. What a great new direction for these folks.
This is bottle conditioned and can definitely spend some time in one’s cellar comfortably. Its hops will fade out a bit after a few months in. But the brewery suggested that revisiting after a year or so should be very interesting, as the Brett conditioning is given a bit more time. We found this excellent as an aperitif. That zesty carbonation and lemony bite should also pair up nicely with seafood—breaded scallops, buttery lobster—zipping through oils and refreshing.
Sudwerk Brewing in northern California has been undergoing a dramatic shift in recent years while continuing to (mostly!) focus on world-class lagers. That’s how we came to be familiar with, and fans of, what they were up to in Davis. Their Helles is exceptional, with its toasty Pilsner malt core, spicy noble hop character, and dead-on lager fermentation and packaging. Ditto as far as their Märzen, Maibock, Hefeweizen, and other German-style beers go. So many newer brewers don’t quite give these slower-fermenting beers the proper attention required for that clean, crisp lager character. We’ve got a lot of respect for those who do such beers properly.
About two years ago, the brewery changed ownership. For those paying attention to the beer and less attention to press releases, their shift into more adventurous territory was becoming apparent on the shelves, at least. Something was up. Sudwerk’s Cascaderade IPL, with its big presentation of Cascade hops, started appearing in bombers. Ditto for Three Best Friends: a dark lager brewed with roasted coffee, sweet cacao nibs, and a touch of vanilla bean. These, to state the obvious, were so not what we’d been accustomed to seeing from this brewery.
But they were good—really good—and we’d started paying much closer attention. (Recently, we’ve been especially digging their flagship dry-hopped lager, with its Amarillo and Simcoe.)
Mike Hutson currently serves as Sudwerk’s brewmaster. He’s worked at Anderson Valley as well, and graduated from the Master Brewers Program at the University of California: Davis, which is basically right next to Sudwerk and with which the brewery maintains an interesting symbiotic relationship. The program, one of the premier brewing schools in the country (of which there are, like, two or three), actually holds classes just above Sudwerk’s tasting room. And those attending the UC Davis program serve as mentors on the brewery’s pilot system.
Best way to keep an operation focused? Have a ton of visiting brewers watching over them.
One of the coolest parts of the recent transition, though, has been the huge expansion of the Sudwerk barrel-aging program. Phillip Emerson serves as that program’s manager. He noted that, as of around two years ago, they were limited to around three barrels that were used for experimental batches only. Today they’ve got about 100 barrels—which is still a tiny sliver of their total output for sure. But it’s what we’ve been most excited to share with our members.
In addition to the below featured beer—which we’ve managed to snag as an exclusive to The Rare Beer Club!—these folks have a bunch of stellar stuff coming down the pipeline. Barrel-aged and solera-style blends will be hitting intermittently, some of which won’t see wider release beyond Sudwerk’s Brewers Cut club. They’ve got a new gose and floral-hop maibock on the way. A hoppy, citrusy wheat. What we’re saying is: keep an eye out for this new Sudwerk.
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