Blending up something entirely new

Pure Project Brewing applies méthode traditionnelle to barrel-aged imperial stouts

Vista-based Pure Project Brewing produces all manner of beer. Perhaps the most skillful of them all is Lief, which is built off wort that is left outside to spontaneously ferment in different locales each year in spots that have included Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Mount Laguna and the company’s Miramar brewery. After taking on bacteria and wild yeast, that base is then transferred into barrels. After a lengthy slumber, these American lambics are unearthed so that Pure Project co-founder Winslow Sawyer and his brewing team can blend one-, two-, and three-year-old batches into the balanced, tart and funky Lief. This practice is utilized by European lambic breweries to produce multiyear blends called gueuzes, and is referred to on this side of the Atlantic as méthode traditionnelle. Recently, and for the first time ever, Sawyer applied this methodology to some of his hefty, barrel-aged imperial stouts, and later this week Pure Project will release the resultant blend, Enchiridion.

“When (Director of Brewery Operations) Jensen Atwood and I were blending Lief for the first time back in late-2018, we were tasting all the differences between our barrel stock and vintages, and we thought it would be really cool to replicate the same process but with stout,” says Sawyer. “We had noticed from our stouts that, by the time we triple-barrel-aged them, they had some amazing notes to them but could not be packaged unblended, which is very similar to the three-year portion of Lief. We jokingly made sure we didn’t tell anyone about the project until we were close to packaging it this year, so no other brewery would do it before us. I can’t believe we were able to keep the secret for so long.”

Enchiridion is A 13.7% alcohol-by-volume mélange of single-, double- and triple-barrel-aged stouts. While the process behind it closely mirrors that of Lief, there are key differences. Lief is aged in neutral oak barrels while bourbon barrels house the Enchiridion stouts. Also, rather than remain in the same oak receptacle over their entire lifespans, vintages of the stouts aged for multiple years are transferred to different bourbon barrels every 365 days.

In this case, the two-year version started out in a Breckenridge Distillery barrel before being racked into a Blanton’s barrel, while the three-year version went from a Breckenridge barrel to a W.L. Weller (Buffalo Trace Distillery) barrel to a Barton 1792 barrel. The goal with this level of circulation is to bring in as many oak and spirit influences as possible to color the eventual blend.

“Lief is a living organism that continues to ferment for three years, whereas Enchiridion is a celebration of bourbon barrels,” says Sawyer. “For this beer, we are looking for the contribution of the barrels; tannin, bourbon character and long-term mellowing of the stout.”

Like Lief, the release of future editions of Enchiridion will be an annual tradition. When asked for impressions on how the inaugural vintage turned out, Sawyer notes complex bourbon notes evocative of crème brûlée, wildflower honey and cinnamon crumble, along with the beer’s inherent flavors of caramel, fig and chocolate ganache. Brown sugar, toast, coconut and vanilla from the barrels are also present.

Bottles of Enchiridion will go on sale at Pure Project’s quartet of tasting rooms in Vista, Carlsbad, Miramar and Bankers Hill at noon on Thursday, December 9. They may be purchased in-person or online (along with another special-release beer and a variety of barrel-aged coffees) beginning at 9 a.m. on Thursday, December 9. Online purchases allow for shipping throughout California.

Pure Project Brewing’s tasting rooms are located at 1305 Hot Springs Way in Vista, 2825 State Street in Carlsbad, 9030 Kenamar Drive in Miramar, and 2865 Fifth Avenue in Bankers Hill

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