When he filled the barrels in September 2014, Ben Edmunds had no idea what to expect from Jouissance. The dry auburn ale was fermented exclusively using yeast found in bottles of French and Spanish cider, an experiment the Breakside brewer launched without predicting how it would go.
For a while, it went poorly. In fact, Jouissance came very, very close to going down the drain. There were some dark times during the three years that yeast adapted to fruit spent gobbling up malt, he says, like "a weird blue cheese phase," seesawing phenols and a period when "the carbonation level was really weird."
"I don't know that we would have the patience to sit on a beer for three years at this point," says Edmunds. "We would taste a bottle every four to six months and think that it was not ready, or that maybe it would keep developing, or think, 'This tastes gross, why would we release this?'"
Jouissance was brewed in 2014 as a special version of the brewery's annual Fall Apple Ale. They brewed two batches and inoculated it with different yeast blends harvested from their favorite continental ciders. Because the wild yeast came from cider and not beer, there was no way to know how it would develop in an all-barley product. The brewery aged each in neutral wine barrels for six months before bottling them in 750 milliliter bottles.
The first batch's yeast blend worked together fairly smoothly, with bottles that eventually went to Breakside's now-defunct cellar reserve club in 2015.
The second batch was a late-bloomer. In fact, it took so long to develop that it pre-dated the company's inventory management system, and briefly got lost in the back of the brewery's cold room.
By the time Edmunds and his team got around to tasting it again this past summer, it took them by surprise. Somehow, it'd matured into a gorgeous amber blend of light acidity, funky wild yeast character, with a dry, cider-like finish—and the closest thing we've ever tasted to wild old country cider in a beer bottle.
"We were like, 'Whoa, OK this finally has come around,'" recalls Edmunds, who eventually decided to release it in a collection of barrel experiments.
Perhaps it's appropriate that a beer named after the French word for orgasm took so long to develop and was gone in an instant. As of our interview, Edmunds couldn't locate a single bottle, even in the personal cellars of the brew staff.
When asked if he would make another cider-inspired wild ale, Edmunds gets a gleam in his eye.
"I don't have any bottles of it to taste, so I don't know," he says, "Someone will have to bring me one if they want to see it again."