Brewery News: OR: Block 15 responds to 2012 Pappy’s Dark developing ‘sour’ characteristics.

imageDespite the positives that are associated with the craft brewing industry there are occasional missteps. These missteps can be anything from a bad beer, inability to maintain distribution quantities, or employing a trademarked / copyrighted label name.

Unfortunately for Corvallis’ Block 15 they are the recipient of reports regarding ‘bad beer’.

First I need to clarify some myths associated with “bad beer”.

  • Myth #1. A beer that has little or no carbonation is a bad beer. The truth is there are beers throughout the area served with little or no carbonation. These are often associated with beers served from a cask engine or firkin. If you are someone that doesn’t enjoy a cask, firkin, or ‘still’ beer, then I suggest you stick to beers served from a draft.
  • Myth #2. A beer that is sour is a sign of infection. The truth is there are breweries like New Belgium, Russian River, Lost Abbey, Crooked Stave, and yes even Cascade that will – for lack of a better term, infect a beer by using wild yeast. The result of this purposeful infection is a beer that some have called desirable and delicious. This doesn’t always mean the beer isn’t infected. Instead we encourage you to try the beer fresh and ask the brewery as many questions about expectations associated with ‘aging’ beer.
  • Myth #3. A beer that is bitter is a bad beer. If the beer has names like India Pale Ale, Pale Ale, Double India Pale Ale, then it’s not a bad beer. More than likely your palate hasn’t adjusted to drinking beers like these. Before you jump to the conclusion the beer’s “bad” I suggest you ask the brewer for an explanation.

Ok, back to Pappy’s Dark. But first some background on ‘ol Pappy.

Brewery Description of Pappy’s Dark

… a specialty bourbon barrel matured strong ale. As with Super Nebula, we tinker with the recipe and process each year in hopes of presenting a better beer to you. Pappy’s Dark is designed to display the bourbon that was once matured in the barrels. By maturing Pappy’s Dark for about 3 months, the beer picks up more of the liquor character and a small amount of the barrel.

Sold since 2008, Pappy’s Dark is one of the brewery’s most anticipated bottled beer release. But as of this weekend the brewery has confirmed that a small amount of customers are reporting their, aged 2012 Pappy’s Dark, is producing a sour flavor. Recognizing there might be an issue the brewery sent a few bottles of their 2012 Pappy’s Dark to Wyeast laboratories. As one of the most respected suppliers of brewers yeast their expertise would help determine the root cause.

Frustratingly, the results associated with the bottles tested report no infection and therefore no explanation the source of the sour flavor. In fact the brewery has taken a step further and taste tested a few bottles from their brewery, just in case the issue is more common than thought.

We have tasted several bottles from our cellar and have noted that a small amount do taste tart . As our bottling and corking operation is simple, leaving room for error in packaging, there is a chance for isolated issues to occur.  After several reports, I think that the 2012 Pappy’s bottles do have more issues than what I would consider normal.  Troubling to us is at which point the issue occurred in our brewing/maturing/ and packaging process.

As a precautionary measure we have begun an intense system clean, sanitize, purge, and auxiliary equipment swap out.  We have temporarily suspended filling barrels until the purge is complete. 

Rather than dismiss a small number of complaints that (literally) left customers with a sour taste their mouth, the brewery is offering a mea culpa.

We would like to offer gift cards for those that have experienced an off bottle of Pappy’s Dark.  Additionally, if you have an unopened bottle,  you may if desired return it to the brewery for a refund or gift card.  If you are out of town please email for an electronic gift card. We will send gift cards for opened bottles through December 1st.  After December 1st an unopened bottle must be returned for a refund.

So far there isn’t an answer associated with the infection. As it turns out the issue might have been prevented if the brewery had a laboratory installed onsite.

Coincidentally, we have been planning for and have ordered all the necessary components to set up a lab in our cellar. Cellar man Dakota who is currently enrolled in OSU’s Food Science program is heading off the lab.  Soon, we will be able to track and test our beer from fermenter, to barrel, to bottle.  

Hopefully in the near future the brewery will have the equipment to prevent results, like the one reported.

Finally the brewery had this to say, regarding the unfortunate development, that resulted in some customers’ receiving an undesirable result from aging their beer.

I’ve always said that what I really like about working with barrels is the mysteries in them. They are porous and they are living, which leaves room for more error than working with stainless steel alone. Unless we pasteurize our bottles, I could never guarantee them to be perfect, however with our new plans we should get a hell of a lot closer!


Nick Arzner & The Block 15 Brewing Team

Thanks for stepping up making things right.


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