Interesting topic ;-)
Why a sour beer ? Why a black sour beer ?
Craft beer is approx 2.5% of the beer market in Australia. There are lots of entry level craft beers. Pale Ales, Pilsners etc. Which is great, they provide a gateway for mainstream drinkers to transition to craft beer.
I don't produce mainstream or gateway beers. I produce beers that are aimed at the already converted craft beer drinker and those that are probably in the top 0.5% of the craft beer segment.
Have you noticed that the majority of my beers are beers that are either historical or a blend of two styles and usually higher alcohol ? Black IPA (2010) Black Saison (2011), Belgian Oatmeal IPA (2011), Belgian Black IPA (2012), White IPA (2012) and Double White Ale (2011,12,13). These have been/are the main seasonals.
For mid-seasonals I try to really push the envelope and make something that is a little more polarising and will be a limited small release for only the craftiest of beer venues, and those seeking something different. Defibrillator (Weizen Doppelbock on Bourbon Oak), Night Nurse (Stout White Stout) and Cephalopod (Black Berliner Weisse) are the offerings so far.
Back to Cephalopod. Doing a sour beer is a gamble. Doing it commercially is a bigger gamble. A no-boil, sour mash and ferment with yeast and cultures is even more of a challenge. This could have been a drain pour in the early stages. Having 700L of spontaneously fermenting mash at 50degC in a mashtun after 24 hours is quite a sight . However that wasn't enough for me to push the boundaries. Simply looking at a cloudy sour/tart golden wheat beer with no-head wouldn't have made people actually think about it. It would have just been a nice please sour/tart ale. Making it black however makes you think twice and then attempt to deconstruct it and analyse its elements. Remember doing that when Black IPA's and Black Saison's first hit the market ? I do.
Using those techniques to make a Berliner Weisse black however were not available. Remember no boil and I didn't want any roast period. So squid ink was my answer. It adds minimal if any perceptible flavour (if you have your eyes closed and don't let them tell you what you should be tasting) and creates quite a visual. Note: It actually settles out a little after 5-6 days. The kegs need to be stored upside down before tapped and rotated after ~days to keep it on the darker side of grey rather than green (although flash photography always shows the green side).
It is great to see that many of you have enjoyed it and embraced it. It is also great to see that many haven't enjoyed it, or have a preconceived idea about it just seeing it and won't try it. This cements that my ethos of pushing the envelope to produce such a beer that is embraced by the ~0.5% and will be a journey for the rest.
Have I jumped the shark ? Maybe. Will I be doing another sour beer anytime soon (probably not, but never say never). Not because I can't, but because I have done it and am happy with the result. I also have many other creative ideas still to bring to reality.
Normal production has resumed. Iron Lung will be out the end of this month making its Autumn return. Black Imperial Pilsner at 7% alc with all the awesome hoppieness you've come to expect and normal brewing techniques ;-)