Making Motley

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Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

As some of you may already know, Motley Cru is our annual barrel blend that goes on sale each year (in and around April) to commemorate our anniversary. In 2013 we released our first version, a blend of barrel-aged Tripel and Quad, that at the time, was the most labour-intensive and pre-meditated beer ever created at Bellwoods. Showcasing leathery notes from Brettanomyces alongside cherry, red grape, and a muted tartness to offset the residual sweetness — it was an ambitious and rewarding project. And now in the final weeks leading up to the release of our 2014 version, we wanted to show you a little bit more about the process of making this much-anticipated beer.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• You can probably imagine that every beer, any beer, begins with a brew day. We can't age, taste, or blend something that doesn't exist, so first we begin with our raw materials -- the malted barley, hops, yeast, and water. At these initial stages in the process we try to keep an open mind and simply brew a variety of beer styles without design for their future. Sometimes we utilize a sour-mash method, sometimes we aim for specific traditional styles, but more often than not in these beginning stages, we take risks and experiment. And the great thing about a beer like Motley Cru is that its only two requirements (and even these are flexible because God damnit we made them!) are that it contain a blend of beers, and that these beers have been aging for around one year. Seems simple enough.

So after the initial brewing of beer (standard procedure), ordering of barrels (we’ve got an agent), and swelling of barrels (wouldn’t want to fill anything that has a crack!), we finally fill the barrels (after fermentation is complete). The barrels are then placed like tetris bricks in storage, where they stay to meditate, acquire wisdom, and ponder the meaning of life (for a long time). We've hired a gang of trustworthy, thuggish trolls that patrol them at all hours, keeping our worries at bay.

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_DSC0620

Though we moniter and top up barrels throughout the year, the real work begins once we begin to pick and taste specific aged beers. Through holes we drill in the bottom of the barrel, we’re able to pull samples without disturbing the fragile pellicle that rests on top. These samples are collected and catalogued, and then tested/tasted in varying blends. We take very meticulous quantitative notes, keeping track of obvious things like 'original spirit up-take' in the final beer or the 'intensity of Brett' in others, but also subjective qualities like "on a scale of not-at-all to yes/bingo/hitting-the-nail-on-the-head, would you describe this beer as 'da bomb'"?

motleymot
motleymot

The blending process can take quite a few days, as we attempt certain ratios, 'sleep on it', and then revise until we arrive on something we all agree is good. (Side note here — getting 5 people to unanimously agree on anything is quite a feat.) And of course it can sometimes be difficult to imagine how the flavours will change with bottle-conditioning. But onwards we persevere.

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makingmotley200

When the blend is finally settled, we pull the necessary batches and the beer is transferred from barrel to brite tank, where we then begin the bottle-conditioning process. This is the point at which we dose the uncarbonated beer with sugar and champagne yeast. Of course, the objective here is to make sure the beer has some new healthy yeast (the Champagne) to do any of the heavy lifting, and some delicious hors d'oueuvres (the sugar) to snack on. The end result? Beer that goes through one final conditioning in the bottle, attaining extra-fine carbonation, and a slightly drier flavour.

The last step on the assembly line is to take our lovely Doublenaut-designed labels and slap 'em on. After the requisite amount of time to condition, we always crack a bottle together and take a couple rushed sips, never quite allowing ourselves the time to enjoy one project before we begin planning the next...

But it is sort of crazy to hit pause for a moment and look at that little 500ml bottle, on the shelf with all the other 500ml bottles, that took 3 or 4 weeks to make. In the time that it took to brew, age, bottle, and condition Motley 2014, we released dozens of other beers, enjoyed summer, endured winter (pat yourself on the back), and Luke's toddlers doubled in size.

And while I'd love to divulge all the delicious details about this year's blend, today's lesson, oh patient pupils, is about the journey, not the destination. In a few days we'll let you in on the specific time, date, and tasting notes, for this complex beer unlike any we've ever brewed before. Motley needs a few more sleeps before we release it into the wild, but to hold you over until then, a sliver of what's to come...

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Untitled