The weeks leading up to a Motley release are a festive time of year at Bellwoods, and like any fine holiday worthy of celebration, this one is characterized by excitement, anticipation, and unhealthy doses of stress. Which is kind of silly when you think about it, given that this is a beer barely anyone notices or cares about, and certainly nobody critiques. And when you really boil it down, the only expectations are that it’s mind-blowing, better than anything we’ve brewed before it, and ready in an arbitrarily decided upon timeframe. What could be stressful about that?
There are a few different key components to the 2018 Motley story that I want to delve into today – like the ways in which the blending process has changed for us over the years, why “3C” was written on almost all the barrels that made it into this year’s blend, and what the actual percentages are of different barrels in the blend – but for anyone who doesn’t want the nitty gritty, and made their way here for the abbreviated version, I’ll direct you to the last paragraph. All the specifics about this year’s triptych of releases (yes, 3 barrel aged wonders for those of you ding dongs that don’t subscribe to our newsletter!), quantities, bottle limits, and what to expect on the big day is contained there. It’s the Coles notes to the Moby Dick that’s about to follow.
And now, esteemed nerds, right this way to the minutia.
2018 Motley is officially the first Motley to be brewed, barrel aged, blended, and bottle conditioned entirely within our Hafis production facility. This is significant because of the advantages that the extra space and organization has afforded us. In pre Hafis days our barrels were packed like sardine cans in an offsite storage, whereas now they’re arranged so that each one can be accessed, more or less, without moving it and others around. Aside from the maddening aspect of playing tetris with barrels, we have learned the hard way that it’s best to avoid moving them more than necessary and disturbing precious pellicles (you know, that intergalactic looking layer of good microflora that grows on the beer’s surface). “The hard way” is, of course, contaminating barrels with oxygen, which lead to the production of excessive amounts of acetic acid, which then requires us to dump beer down the drain.
The other important but potentially not obvious element to our Hafis barrel program is that it’s now getting ‘mature’, and while that word is almost always used as a euphemism for something bad, when it comes to barrel aged beer that’s not the case. To be frank, the breadth of styles and complexity of microflora in a 2 year old barrel program is not sensational – but give those bug blends, wild yeast strains, and epic spider webs several more years to meditate on what it means to be alive and you’ve got a much better palette to work with. 6 years ago we had little choice but to pitch freshly purchased yeast strains and bacteria right out of a White Labs or East Coast Yeast beaker into our barrels. A year and a half ago when we began this Motley, we had the luxury of using house bug blends that had been cultivated and fostered over a long timeframe. Which brings me to the meat of 2018 Motley, the common thread that ties together almost every barrel that we hand picked to be in the blend: 3C.
3C is perhaps not the most creative sounding house strain, and I won’t tell you what it stands for, but the name isn’t what’s important here. What you need to know, is that it’s a super sour, tenacious, and sassy cohort of bugs and yeast that we raised and nurtured from various small starters, to kegs, to barrels, to foeders, all the while adding and blending microorganisms we thought it would vibe with. It became a powerful force of lactic acidity too intense on its own but fantastic for blending. And it’s so very ready to be unveiled in this commemorative trio.
The last bit of nerdery that we wanted to break down is what exactly went into this blend, and then how that blend became 3 beers. It occurred to us that we haven’t really given percentages or revealed the sorts of ratios we used in previous Motley blends, so let’s take a peek behind the scenes a bit.
Motley 2018 is comprised of several beers that are brewed almost solely for blending purposes, and therefore have straight-forward/bordering on boring names. Bear with us. After preliminary beakers of this ratio passed QC tests and gained the necessary yum-town approval ratings, we went ahead with a blend of about:
- 41% Hoppy Brett (Decent hop character necessary to balance sours and wild stuff in blends, with nuanced, soft brett characteristics that we subjectively like. No crazy in-your-face horse blanket insanity)
- 30% Golden Sour (Pale grain bill, 3C heavy, intense acidity)
- 22% Amber Sour (Similar grain bill to the above but with the addition of some German crystal malt)
- 7% Wild Belgian (Some brett character, some bacteria, mellow and nuanced flavours that temper acidity and impart complexities)
All of this was blended into stainless, given time to stabilize, and then divided unequally into 3 parts to receive fruit – and somehow we’ve made it this far into a pretty dense blog post and still haven’t revealed what the hell Motley is this year. So let’s do that now, before all 3 of you who’ve made it this far finally succumb to sleep.
Motley Cru 2018 is a delicious blend of barrel aged wild ales with layers of complex acidity, nuanced brett character, and bold effervescence. The addition of Black Raspberry, Blueberry, and Pomegranate in the 3 separate fruit variants, elevate the unique microflora to new heights. Bright acidity is emphasized, tart fruity flavours are married with soft brett undertones, and traditional lambic-like yeast characteristics are present throughout. It’s an exceptional beer to reserve in your cellar for important life milestones, but it’s also a great way to add pizazz to a Sunday afternoon. (You are the captain of your own beer destiny, after all).
But before we conclude with the fine print on what exactly you can expect on the big day, it’s important to mention here that our aim is not to prove that each year’s Motley crushes everything in its past, but rather to communicate why each release is extraordinary in that moment. And hopefully we achieved that goal with this 10,000 word essay because, dear god, brevity is not my strong point.
For the June 9th Motley Cru day there are, split evenly between both locations: 3000 Black Raspberry bottles at a limit of 3/person, 1500 Blueberry at a limit of 2/p, and 380 Pomegranate at a limit of 1/p. Each bottle is $16, 500ml. We have fancy, commemorative glassware! It’s an ostentatious bulbous goblet! Glasses are $15 each with no limits. Both retail locations will open at 11AM. Cool Motley Posters to hang on your wall! Food trucks at Hafis! We’ll be offering bottle pours of all 3 in the brewpub and Hafis tasting room. The draft lists will be stacked. Word has it that a special Milkshark will make its draft debut, a week before its official bottle release. We can't wait to celebrate with you!