While the current version of Grand Rapids Brewing Company (GRBC) has only been around since 2012, the original, dates back to 1893. Perhaps that is what makes GRBC the perfect brewery to revisit an old school brewing technique known as bottle conditioning. The company is set to release two of these specialty beers on July 14.
Bottle conditioning, sometimes known as bottle refermentation, is a process that has been around for centuries. These days, most beer gets its carbonation from the injection of exogenous carbon dioxide under pressure. Conversely, bottle conditioning involves bottling beer that contains little or no carbon dioxide, then adding priming sugars which yeast will ferment in the bottle. Essentially, it ages beer in a manner similar to sparkling wine. The bottles even feature caged corks in lieu caps, to keep the contents from popping open.
“Bottle conditioned beers have more depth and character than their draft counterparts and a finer carbonation and mouthfeel,” said Ernie Richards, GRBC’s Brewhouse Alchemist. “Plus, corks and cages are just fun and fancy,”
There will be 150 bottles each of the two unique beers. Sur La Lune, French for “on the moon,” is a golden ale that will also be available in its tap form for samples and drafts. Bottles will be available for $16.
Its companion beer, Sur Les Nuages, which is French for “on the clouds,” first appeared in the 2017 Beer City Pro-Am competition as a collaboration between GRBC and award-winning homebrewer Nick Rodammer. It comes from the same base recipe as Sur La Lune, but is force-carbonated, capped and fermented solely with a special Brettanomyces yeast isolate. The result is a floral, lightly tropical, golden ale with grapefruit notes and no sourness. Bottles will retail for $14.
GRBC mug club members will have exclusive access for two hours beginning at 10 a.m., on the release date of Saturday, July 14. The public can purchase them starting at noon, while supplies last. Guests will be limited to one of each beer.
GRBC intends to continue employing the process with other ales this summer. The plan is to release a sour stout named Ciel De Nuit, French for “night sky,” and a dry-hopped oude saison, called Petit Chouette, French for “little owl”, in the upcoming months.