Booze is kind of a nebulous term to describe fermented and/or distilled beverages. So it seems fitting that Vista beer company, Booze Brothers Brewing Co., would spin-off a brand of beverages that hang at the fringe of defined beer styles.
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Booze Brothers recently launched Owl Farm Unique Fermentations with three draft and can releases, including a so-called Gin Gose that takes the tart, saline German beer style and gins it up with the unlikely additions of juniper berries and dill. There's no distilled spirit, but there is coriander and lemon zest.
It makes a striking first impression to the Owl Farm brand, one that doesn't match the Booze Brothers portfolio, which is well stocked with relatively traditional IPAs, stouts, and malty ales. To hear general manager Kris Anacleto tell it, devising the Owl Farms brand gives Booze Brothers the freedom to market experimental beers, without the risk beer buyers would assume Booze Brothers had gone a new direction.
"We didn't want Booze Brothers to change when we did stuff like this," says Anacleto, who labels Owl Farm offerings as "unique" or "off the wall." Rather than approach a wholesale account with ten disparate Booze Brothers beers, it allows the company's growing sales team to offer two distinctive product sets. "We realized this could be a whole other market for us, and we could do the branding differently."
Owl Farm takes its name from the 42-acre Colorado property where iconic gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson famously fired his collection of heavy artillery and wrote iconic counterculture literature such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. To match label artwork with Thompson's sense of surrealism, Owl Farm tapped Arizona skateboard and rock poster artist Clay Halling.
Anacleto says he and Booze Brothers partners Donny and David Firth plan to keep at least three Owl Farm beers in constant rotation. Also in currently in release is Blackberry Cruiser, a fruited ale including lemon and oolong tea, and Peachy Monkey, fermented with six strains of brettanomyces.
Both of these beers feature honey, as does the next unique fermentation on deck: Ginger Bloom. That will be the first Owl Farm release that directly replaces a regular Booze Brothers release, the Honey Bloom braggot. Anacleto describes Ginger Bloom as drier than its predecessor, with the addition of pureed (but not fermented) apple, as well as ginger.
Made with malt and honey, braggot is a sort of mead and beer hybrid. Honey Bloom was added to the Booze Brothers menu after the company brought aboard lead brewer Maurey Fletcher, who had previously worked at Oceanside meadery, Golden Coast Mead, where he gathered a slightly different perspective on brewing.
The Owl Farm concept has been under wraps more than a year, and several iterations the canned beers had surreptitiously been shared with tasting room customers during last year's Mondays with Maurey events. Monday nights, Fletcher would take over the tasting room's outdoor bar and pour the experimental brews, the direct feedback of customers serving as product research.
Anacleto suggests if any particular Owl Farm release strikes a particular chord with consumers, it could become a year-round release. However, til then, other far out fermentations are under development. Fletcher and Booze Brothers cofounder Donny Firth are reportedly working to fine tune a kombucha beer.