This fall the Referend Bier Blendery in Pennington open it’s doors to the public. Twice a month, on the first and third Saturday, the Referend will offer public tasting of two or more Berliner Messe ales, and Alleluiavers ales aged on New Jersey peaches and nectarines, and Gloria, which features an American dry hopping.
The Referend Bier Blendery specializes in the production of spontaneously fermented beers. This is a style of beer making used by ancient beer making cultures and popularized by the modern lambic brewers of Belgium’s Pajottenland.
My wife and I took a short tour of the brewery hosted by Melissa Ducommun who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Melissa took us outdoor and showed us the stainless steel fermentation tanks into which Referend will be pumping wort obtained from local New Jersey beer brewers. The fermentation tans are large, shallow pans called a coolship, where wild yeast and bacteria will settle on overnight. The coolship, which was custom fabricated by Trenton Sheet Metal, sits in the back of a truck that will be driven from location to location.
The reason the coolship is outdoors is to reduce contamination to the breweries where Referend obtains wort. Most beer is fermented by commercially cultivated yeast. However, spontaneously fermented beer depends upon the unpredictability of the wild yeast and presence of microflora to impart upon it a singular aroma and flavor profile. The presence of wild bacteria would disastrous for any commercial beer batch that was infected by it.
Melissa explained that after the wort has cooled, it is put into aged oak barrels and racked in the blendery, at which point fermentation will begin. Apparently the wild fermentation process is lengthy. The Referend has obtained used Chardonnay oak barrels for the lengthy aging process.
This winter, The Referend will be brewing 500 barrels of wort to be 100 percent spontaneously fermented and aged in oak barrels, gradually coming to maturity between four months and four years, depending on the style of beer. Melissa told us that the first bottled offerings will finish conditioning in early 2017, and will be sold in traditional corked and caged, 750-ml green glass bottles.