Style: Aged Belgian-style pale / ABV: 6 percent
As he launched the brewing program at Von Ebert East, Sean Burke and his team wanted to establish an ethos that stressed the use of oak barrels, foraged ingredients and wild fermentation.
Heritage Beer is the philosophy they landed on after much discussion and a few darts thrown at possible names. It's tempting to think of Heritage as a series, but it isn't that at all, Burke says. It's more of a set of guidelines. At any rate, Known Presence is a Heritage Beer. It's also an Orval-inspired beer—basically a Belgian-style ale that's dry-hopped and fermented with Brettanomyces.
"Known Presence isn't an Orval clone," Burke says. "Orval makes the beer, dry hops and bottle conditions with Brett. Our approach is a little different. We want some oak influence, so our beer spends time in barrels. That's the main difference."
They started with a Belgian-style pale ale fermented in tanks with standard yeast. The batch was then transferred to oak barrels, where it aged for eight months with Brett. That was followed by one more move to a fermenter, where the beer was dry-hopped with Santiam and Savinjski Golding hops for several days. Months of bottle conditioning was the final step before it was released.
"The timing of packaging is crucial," Burke says. "We don't want to bottle it too soon. We like to see stability in residual sugar content before we move on. We consider flavor profile, too, but stability is our primary concern."
Burke is a big proponent of bottle conditioning.
"That's where a beer really rounds out. We could have used any simple sugar for Known Presence, dextrose being the most common. We chose cane sugar because it ferments a little differently—leaves a bit of sweetness behind. I like that."
The result with Known Presence is a balanced beer that is mildly acidic, has subtle oak and soft hop aromas and flavors. It's a triumph, and fortunately for local beer drinkers, there's another batch in barrels.