Sonder Stories Chapter 15: Coconut Tears

Chapter 15 - Coconut Tears

“Screw coconut tears, I’ll take onion tears all day over coconut tears” -  Luke

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Coconut Tears is our Brown Ale with toasted coconut, toasted cocoa, and vanilla. We brought it back and brewed more of it this time around because of how big of a fan favorite it became. It was one of our fastest moving adjunct beers, so it made sense to brew more of it this time around. It’s a fairly efficient beer for the team to brew because the base beer is our brown ale, Bird Watcher. Although, it is a timely process to add the additional flavors to this beer, and requires Luke to wake up pretty early on the bright tank day for this beer. He’ll get in around 5, and toast the cocoa and coconut on premise in the BrewRiver kitchen. It was 10lbs of coconut per barrel for a 10 barrel batch that gets toasted, and the first time around this was uncharted territory for Luke since he had never used coconut in a beer prior. He reached out to a couple brewing friends to gauge their ways of using coconut in their beers, and then just went for it and clearly it’s been a hit. The added ingredients sat in the bright tank with Bird Watcher for a couple days until Chase and Luke got the flavor they were looking for. Chase and Luke actually talked for a bit about the concern of too much coconut giving the beer a suntan type taste that often comes with coconut beers, but they let it sit for a bit longer than expected and it ended up being very good for the flavor of the beer. 

The original inspiration for this beer was to create the Mounds bar version of a beer, and the original name was supposed to be Sonder Joy. A funny and unique name for sure, but Coconut Tears ended up being the better story because of what happened the first time Luke toasted the coconut. He had never toasted coconut before, and he found out the hard way that toasted coconut will really make your eyes water during the process and Luke actually said, “Screw coconut tears, I’ll take onion tears all day over coconut tears!” The moment was too perfect to not have it play into the name.

Sonder Stories Chapter 14: All In

Chapter 14 - All In

Luckily we didn’t use dirty water for this beer

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The phenolics of this beer are the main reasons for why it is a saison, and it also uses a famous saison strain commonly used by producers of the style. The origin of this style of beer comes from farmers brewing dirty water to purify it to make it drinkable, and then adding ingredients like flowers and spices from around the farm to add flavor. This was a style of beer that Daniel was excited about having the team brew because of the combination of sweet and spice flavors that creates a full bodied beer along with good hop characteristics you would expect with the flavor profile.

Something you’ll commonly see us do is add fruit to some of our staples calling them the fruited version of the base beer. This is the case for Fruited All In where Lemon and Lavender were added to this beer, paying homage to the original creators of this style using ingredients like flowers and fruit to add flavor to beers. The lemon and lavender being added creates a very refreshing beer with a spritzy tang to it. Adding unconventional ingredients, like lavender, to a beer is one of the ways our brew staff will be consistently testing the boundaries of what a beer can really be.

The name of this beer comes from Justin and Chase picking up hobbies, committing to them, spending a bunch of money on them, then getting bored shortly after and dropping them. It drives their wives insane, so if you hear them talk about being “All In” on something you may need to confirm at a later date that they are still in fact “All In” on whatever that was.

Sonder Stories Chapter 13: Blanc

Chapter 13 - Blanc White Ale

“A beer so beautiful it deserves a name like Blanc” - Haley

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A beer that you will always see on the board, Blanc White Ale is one of the first beers Chase created for the group and is our most mysterious beer. A fondness for some other belgian wit style beers from the owners was the driving force behind this being a staple beer for Sonder. Wheat style beers are a particularly favorite style for Daniel, and he loves the flavor profiles of Blanc that compare to beers like Allagash White and Avery White Rascal, but the spice, fruit, and acidity of this beer makes it a unique creation that stands on its own. Daniel will also be the first to tell you that if you’re looking for a Sonder beer to pair with food, Blanc is your best option for almost every scenario because how well the spice elevates the flavor profiles of the food you’re eating.

The true beginning of this beer happened in Justin’s basement, where a lot of meetings early on took place, and the four owners wrote down five of their favorite beers as a way to kick start the conversation about what beers would be sold year round in the taproom. Turns out that Justin, Chase, and Daniel all had Allagash White on their list. Jen had never had it before, but loved it once they were able to get her a bottle of it. Justin actually tried to brew an Allagash White clone when he was living in Chicago, but it was horrible and turn into a clove bomb that no amount of citrus peel could save.

The mysterious part about this beer is twofold,  the ingredients and the brewing practices. It’s hard to speak to the brewing practices, but just know that this beer gets a bit more love during the brewing process than any other. It ends up being a bit more work for the brew team, but the final product is worth it. As far as the ingredients go, only Chase, Luke, and Jeff know the full recipe of Blanc. Daniel has scavenged through trash cans and Justin has guessed relentlessly about the recipe, but now they’ve both accepted their fate as blind consumers and have just grown to accept it as part of the story. The only hint you’ll hear from Chase is that there is no coriander in this beer. The only reason being is personal preference from Chase, but it also results in a unique to style beer because most Belgian Wits will include coriander in the spice mix.

Haley came up with the name of this beer, and it came about when the owners and Haley were blind tasting Blanc versus other beers of the same style. All five ended up preferring Blanc compared to the other beers, and when describing the beer words like beautiful and delicate were used. This gave Haley the idea of mimicking those descriptive words with a beautiful name like the word Blanc, which is white in french. The name is perfect and fits the beer so well that the owners are bit jealous to this day that they didn’t come up with it themselves.

This was the first beer to make its way into cans, and everyone at the brewery loving this beer and truly believing in it was the reason for that. It’s a beer that drinks well year round whether you’re enjoying the spiciness of the beer during the winter or the citrus in the summer. It is also the best food pairing beer we have to go with any meal you’re cooking up, and will be a hit at your next dinner party.

Sonder Stories Chapter 12: Saison de Punch Em Blend One

Chapter 12 - Saison de Punch Em

“I say a lot of things wrong” - Chase

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The barrel program is something that Luke is very passionate about, and this beer is the first of many that will be coming from our barrel room and calling it a uniquely crafted beer is an understatement. This is the first blend of our Saison de Punch Em series where one of our saisons gets aged in a french wine puncheon. A puncheon is a very large wine barrel, 132 gallons to be exact. Luke chose a puncheon over a traditional barrel because you get a bit more bang for your buck, and a faster aging time due to the thickness and the permeability of the wood on a puncheon. This is the first of four barrels with this beer in it, and this specific barrel is the saison strain with brett added to allow spontaneous fermentation, and Luke knew this would be the fastest turn around of the four puncheons. This beer sat in the barrel for four months, and once the beer got to a place where he liked it the most he back blended it with another Sonder creation to bring the acidity down and be a bit softer. The mixed culture program is going to always be an evolving program for Sonder, and Luke will always be shooting for a style or flavor with these barrels but ultimately will adapt the barrels to what he is looking to create. Blending, balance, layering, and complexities are the focus with this program, so every beer from this mix culture program will be different and unique.

There’s a lot to be excited about with this program, and in the future there will be very limited release bottles of these beers to go along with draft. Chase is looking forward to bottle conditioning these beers to allow for 100% natural carbonation. These beers will have more carbonation to them than a normal beer typically would, allowing for more of a spritzy and champagne feel to them. This beer won’t be overwhelming, it brings a good balance of saison and brett characteristics without overdoing the acidity.

The name of this beer is a unique one, and it comes from Chase thinking that puncheons are called punchems. Justin for a while thought that Chase was just messing with him calling them punchems, but after a month Justin wasn’t so sure so he finally asked and found out that Chase has been misinformed this whole time on the correct pronunciation. As you know, this couldn’t go unnoticed and needed to be part of the name of this beer/series of beers from the puncheons. Anything coming out of this program is going to be special, so make sure you check it out whenever available!

Sonder Stories Chapter 11: Mella

Chapter 11 - Mella

The long anticipated sour from Sonder definitely didn’t disappoint

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An oak foeder aged sour ale with passionfruit is a bit of a mouth full for a beer description, but it shows that this beer doesn’t lack uniqueness. Chase and Luke are both well versed in quality sour beers, and the anticipation for this beer was high with most of our consumers knowing this. The pressure was on, and they knew that they were going to deliver. It took months for this to come to fruition because they wanted to be sure to do their sour program right. The beer sat in the foeder for a little over a week, then once it was pulled into the tanks they decided to add passion fruit to it. Lactic acid from the house culture was added while in the foeder but taken out once transferred to the tanks, and along with the passionfruit in the tank it gives a well rounded citric and acidic bite with some oak flavor on the end.

The name Mella comes from Chase and Haley’s nieces, Ella and Mia. The entire family was hard for them to leave behind when moving to Cincinnati, but these two were especially hard to move away from. Ella and Mia came up with the name, have been asking Chase and Haley to name a beer after them, and this was the one that made the most sense for them. The beer is fruity and wild, and that fits the mold. They actually have a list of beer names they’ve come up with for Sonder, so we may be reaching out to our independent beer naming contractors Ella and Mia the next time we can’t come up with a beer name.

Sonder Stories Chapter 10: 92 Dayz

Chapter 10 - 92 Dayz Hefeweizen

There’s 92 days in both spring and summer, and that’s the time of year when you’ll be able to enjoy this gem of a beer

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In typical Sonder fashion, this hefeweizen is very true to style as a Bavarian Hefeweizen. This recipe was written by Chase a couple years prior, and was a good challenge for him. He had fun with it because the recipe was not really solidified until the day they actually brewed it. He was sure to select the right German yeast, and was going for a hefeweizen with less banana notes than normal and lean heavier into the clove flavor. Also being true to style is leaving the beer non filtered, and the beer has a full body mouthfeel while still giving you that option of having a couple without filling up. Chase was always very confident in brewing a beer like this, and will be a seasonal beer for Sonder every year.

The name 92 Dayz comes from there being 92 days in both spring and summer, the time of year when you’ll be able to drink this beer at Sonder. Fun fact, it’s also the year Jen graduated from high school. She did share this openly, and is cool with it being published in this blog and podcast. Be sure to grab this one when it’s available, and in the future this one will hopefully be bottle conditioned to see how some aging will affect this beer. It may also end up in cans down the road.

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2019 Ohio Craft Brewers Cup Silver Medal Winner for Tradition German Ale!

Sonder Stories Chapter 9: Jeff Parker

Chapter 9 - Jeff Parker

From bartending to brewing, Jeff has been one of the easiest additions to the team and is now family

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Jeff is the third member of the brew team, but has more importantly quickly turned into part of the family. He started in the taproom, but phased into the back of house as Luke’s right hand man running the cellar. JP has always had a fondness for beer, and it started out of college bartending and serving. He never liked the typical beers getting drunk in those places, and was always the guy trying the new and unique stuff that would come in. In 2008 he got hired a BJ’s bar and restaurant, and was a front of house manager. He got noticed by the Director of Brewing Operations at BJ’s, and loved Jeff’s enthusiasm for beer. He quickly started growing hops and home brewing, and it wasn’t long before the brewing bug really kicked in for him. He decided to leave BJ’s, and start his own brewing project. It started with a farm in central Ohio where they were growing hops, and then started brewing at a brewery which they called Paradune. It was a three barrel brewery that built up an awesome community of people stopping in after work from local farms. Unfortunately they aren’t brewing up there anymore, but they are still growing hops and have future plans with the farm.

Chase and Jeff had met a couple weeks prior to Sonder opening at an event both of their wives were involved in. The event was actually prior to an investor meeting, so Chase and Jeff snuck out to the car and tried a couple of the crowlers Chase had prepared. Once Paradune was starting to head more towards growing hops and less from brewing, Jeff was interested in bartending at Sonder to get some additional income. It was an easy yes for the team, and Jeff’s personality quickly stuck out as a perfect fit for the team. Chase even remembers the conversation between the two where he basically gave Jeff two options of becoming a bar manager and being a huge part of the front of house, or coming back to the brewhouse and running the keg line. Chase was skeptical about the decision because getting promoted to a manager position seems a lot better than doing manual labor on the keg line, but Jeff knew where his heart was and saw an opportunity to work in the back where he enjoys himself a lot more. Jeff learned the keg line quickly, and showed off his ability to learn and adapt quickly which caught the eyes of Chase and Luke. They gave him a shot in the cellar where he would be flipping tanks, washing tanks, and monitoring the progression of beers over time. He now brews beer from time to time too, showing how valuable of an asset and person he is to the team being so versatile. Jeff now owns the cellar work, is Luke’s right hand man, and is ingrained in the brewhouse work that is pumping out some high quality liquid.

Going from working on a three barrel system at Paradune to a thirty barrel system at Sonder has been quite an adjustment for Jeff, but it’s a challenge he’s accepted and he continues to learn from Chase and Luke everyday.  Jeff picked up the cellar so quickly that it’s allowing Luke to really focus on brewing the beer and owning the brewhouse portion with Jeff’s help. Chase speaks to the versatility of a brewery and maximizing everyone’s skills, and he says, “Breweries often make this mistake where they delineate between the brewhouse and cellar work. I prefer to have all the brewers do multiple tasks and learn every aspect of the brewhouse. It’s important for the product itself, allows the brewer to know what’s going on everywhere, and they can catch mistakes to gain an advantage of attention to detail because of the training. A brewer is a brewer whether you are working in the brewhouse or cellar because every person is just as important as the other.” This allows for the team to be able to fill in for each other, and not be concerned with someone being out for an extended period of time.

It’s easy to spot the brewers around Sonder, and Jeff is typically the one with a stein of You Betcha! New England IPA. He’ll tell you that his favorite Sonder beers have been You Betcha!, Hunter’s Sword Double IPA, and Imperial Otto Double Tiramisu Stout. He’s a hop head who also dips into the heavy stouts too. His one beer for the rest of his life would be Head Hunter IPA from Fat Head’s Brewing. He also is a big music guy, and sometimes fills in on Acoustic Wednesday for a couple hours in the taproom. Music is a fun thing that he does with his wife and two kids, and you’ll often see the whole family at live music events.

Sonder Stories Chapter 8: Voss

Chapter 8 - Voss Kolsch

A beer that pays homage to a family ingrained in Sonder roots

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Number one on the tap list and a beer that has a special place in Justin’s heart, Voss will always be a Sonder Brewing staple. Voss, a German kolsch, gives fruity esters to the nose and a malty finish. This beer does get lagered, which means that it sits longer on the cold side after being brewed to let the beer slowly ferment into the desired finish. A beer with low bitterness that falls into the “crushable beer” category that you often hear us talk about.

Voss is Liz Neff’s maiden name and also the name of Justin and Liz’s son. The beer pays homage to Liz, Steve & Jody who are Liz’s parents, Voss Neff, and the entire Voss family who have played an enormous part in Sonder’s history.

This beer is always a top seller in the taproom, and it’s additionally helpful that this beer gets used for another one of our core beers, Kato Coffee Kolsch. Some of Voss gets pulled off whenever it gets brewed, and coffee is added for a couple days to create another uniquely crafted beer. We also are able to create adjunct beers like Fruited Voss with Cucumber and Lime to give unique spin offs of beers that people already really like. Fruited Voss was a hit, and will come back from time to time with other fruit, so be on the lookout for whenever we get creative with a fan favorite.