Sudwerk Brewing - Microfauna
Serving Temperature:50–57° F
Suggested Glassware:Tulip or Chardonnay Glass
We’re excited to have another Sudwerk release as one of our two featured beers this month, and some of our longstanding club members might recall Fünke Hop Farm—an absolutely delicious dry-hopped sour saison that we featured from these folks around five years ago. It was one of the most surprising and memorable beers that we’ve had in recent memory, all the moreso given that the brewery had just recently pivoted away from focusing on German-style lagers. This month, we’re excited to return to the work of Sudwerk with the brewery’s Microfauna: a barrel-aged golden sour that’s aged in American oak barrels and dry-hopped with Mosaic hops. There’s a bright and complex mixed-fermentation sour at the core here, with the oak providing helpful vanilla and tannic structure, and the Mosaic dry-hopping contributing tropical elements that meld seamlessly and take this to a whole other level.
Like Fünke Hop Farm, Microfauna offers up a nicely detailed mixed-fermentation character from its contributing yeast and bacteria, plus assertive dry-hop expression. With this latest featured beer, we’re also able to experience just how far Sudwerk’s barrel-aging program has progressed over the past five years. We absolutely love dry-hopped, mixed-fermentation sours—and this one totally hit the spot. Sudwerk’s Microfauna is a Rare Beer Club exclusive; this golden sour will be available only through Rare Beer Club and Sudwerk’s tasting room.
Microfauna pours a well-hazed, peachy golden color, capped by an off-white layer of foam that contributes strong lacing around the perimeter of the glass. There’s a wood-tinged hue to this that seems to hint at this beer’s barrel time. This is honeyed and bright in the glass.
This golden sour leads with a generously tart aroma: peaches and sweet lemons and a touch of grapefruit. There’s definitely firm acidity here, but it’s quickly apparent that this beer isn’t solely focused on its tartness. Vibrant fruitiness is, for sure, a key focus: we found strawberry and loads of tropical notes (lime and passion fruit, especially), and that Mosaic dry-hopping certainly contributes here, pairing well with the mixed fermentation’s citrus expression. The overall impact is a robust citrus tartness, along with plenty of grass and tropics.
Medium carbonation levels and fine bubbles provide some subtle lift here. There’s a clear balance of lemony acidity, subtle oak tannins from the time that this beer’s spent in barrels, and the grassy tropical angles from the dry-hopping. One of the elements that we tended to appreciate most from Microfauna is how well each of its core aspects gets expressed in the final beer. The mixed fermentation yields complex and inviting acidity, plus a hint of salinity, emphasizing bright fruit over lambic-like funk. The oak-barrel treatment contributes tannic elements along with hints of sweet almond—providing key roundness and structure. And the Mosaic dry-hopping brings in delicious secondary notes of grass, lime, papaya, mango, and passion fruit. The overall character of Microfauna celebrates all three of its key parts.
Sudwerk’s Microfauna could tolerate some additional cellar time, but given the dry-hopping we encourage folks to enjoy these in the near term for best expression. That combo of citrus and tropical fruits suggests pairings with citrusy summer salads, burrata, or grilled seafood.
Sudwerk Brewing in northern California has undergone 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 a 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, and their more recent adds like California Hoppy Lager and The Big DIPL have been great. 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 seven years ago, the brewery changed ownership. For those paying attention to the beer and less to the 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 sorts of beers, given the German focus that the brewery had started with, were so not what we’d been accustomed to seeing from Sudwerk.
But they were good—really good—and we’d started paying much closer attention. (Recently, we’ve been especially digging that flagship dry-hopped lager, with its Cascade and Simcoe.)
The Master Brewers Program at the University of California, Davis is basically right next to Sudwerk, and the brewery maintains an interesting symbiotic relationship with the university. UC-Davis’ program, one of the premier brewing schools in the country (of which there are, like, a very small handful), 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. In addition to their featured beer, Microfauna—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 land intermittently, some of which don’t see wider release beyond Sudwerk’s Brewers Cut club. During the quarantine, Sudwerk has been offering beer pickups (with orders being placed online) as well as shipping within California (currently for $20 a case). You can find more info at sudwerkbrew.com.
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