Excited to have one of three logs of Allagash Coolship Red in New Hampshire. This is a superb spontaneously fermented beer that is incredibly balanced, and has already become a new favorite of the team here at the Latham House Tavern. Pouring 10oz Drafts while it lasts.
This blend of spontaneously fermented beer is aged on local raspberries. Allagash begins brewing Coolship Red with Pilsner malt, 40% raw wheat, and aged whole-leaf hops. The unfermented wort is then transferred to a large shallow pan called a coolship, which allows the hot wort to mingle with wild yeast and souring microflora in the Maine air. After fermenting and aging in oak wine barrels for over two years, we add raspberries and let it rest for an additional four to five months. The finished beer is bright red in color with an aroma of raspberry and oak. Its raspberry-forward flavor is balanced by notes of light funk, apricot, and a tart, dry finish.
What is the Coolship?
Hundreds of years ago, there was no fast way to cool down beer. In fact, brewers didn’t even really know why they had to cool wort down, since Hansen and Pasteur had yet to discover yeast. (Sidenote: wort, or unfermented beer, needs to cool down because dumping yeast, a living organism, into nearly two-hundred-degree liquid doesn’t bode well for the yeast’s future). In those times, the fastest and most cost-effective way to cool the hot wort was for brewers to pump steaming liquid into large rectangular pans called coolships. The large, exposed surface area of the vessel cooled the beer (relatively) quickly. Improvements in cooling technology—like the Baudelot cooler, and after that mechanized refrigeration—caused pretty much every brewer to trade in their coolships for faster-cooling, more consistent methods.
Not in Brussels. Among the low hills of the Pajottenland and Zenne valley—where Brussels itself sits—a small group of breweries continued to use coolships. Except they didn’t just use them for cooling; they used them to make Lambics. While their wort sat in the coolship, they wanted it to become a home to the ambient yeast and microflora wafting through the Belgian air. Once full of this wild, unseeable stuff, brewers stuck the beer in barrels for an extended stay—up to three years. This method of fermentation, called “spontaneous fermentation,” produces a beer of singular taste: tart, funky, and unmistakably complex.
Allagash has been using the Coolship for 10 years to spontaneously ferment some of their most unique products.
Grains: Pilsner Malt, Raw Wheat
Hops: Aged Whole Leaf Hops
Spices/Other: 2-2.5 lbs-per-gallon of Maine Raspberries
Time to Fermentation: Two years
Serving Temp: 40-50°F
Ideal Within: Two years
Awards: Silver, Brussels Beer Star Challenge, 2013