Total Eclipse of the Heart

The Mattole River isn’t the biggest or most well-known waterway in California, but it’s an important one. The stream that flows through Humboldt County to the Pacific Ocean supplies much of the irrigation to the area’s redwoods, farms, even the occasional grape or two. The latter being the inspiration behind our new Tripel, aptly named “Mattole River.”

Sure, Humboldt county is more than 600 miles away, but for us, it’s closer than it appears. That’s because our brewer, Alex Kennedy spent much of his childhood near the river on his aunt and uncle’s chardonnay-vine filled vineyard. In fact, the wine they make was part of the inspiration for Alex to get into brewing. Last August, a few members of the ACB team road-tripped up to Oregon to see the Great American Eclipse. On the way back, Alex made a pit stop at the old vineyard with our Operations Manager, Renée Rubin (who he just so happens to be dating, by the way).

Take a look through the photos below to learn a little about the grapes’ origin and their journey from vine to brewhouse!

Before the harvest happens, a sample is taken and tested for brix, or sugar content. If it’s high enough, the grapes are picked. This hydrometer shows that we are good to go.

 

It’s crucial that the grapes are picked before the season drags on too long, otherwise they might plump up from autumn rains and become too diluted. Each of the bunches in Alex’s family’s 5 acres is picked by hand, and about 15% of that will end up in our Tripel.

 

Here’s Alex himself with a tray full of grapey goodness.

 

And here’s Alex’s Uncle and the owner of the Mattole River Vineyard, Jim Bowdoin.

 

Before the grapes can be juiced, they need to be destemmed. This machine does all the work automatically. The separated grapes go into the bucket below…

 

…while all of the bare stems go into the compost pile.

 

Next, the grapes go into this press to extract the juice. Gone are the days of stomping on the grapes with your bare feet: this machine has a bladder that pushes the grapes against the sieve on the side wall…

 

…squeezing all of this delicious grape juice out. In the wine world, this juice is called must, as in, “you simply must try this barrel aged Tripel.”

 

In the end, the team yielded about 40 gallons of must, which they carefully drove back to the brewery and threw in the tank with our fermenting Tripel. Once that was done, the beer went into Chardonnay barrels for about 6 months, where it picked up deep winey notes to complement those bright flavors you’d find in a traditional Belgian Tripel.

 

Here’s the whole happy family after a hard 2 days of picking and processing. From Left to Right: Alex Kennedy, Renée Rubin, Jim Bowdoin, and his wife, Roxy Kennedy.

 

And here’s Jim very happy to be standing in front of barrels filled with his grapes in late December.

 

…but not as happy as he was to hear that days later, Alex started off the year by asking Renée to get married. She said, yes, by the way… so long as there’s beer at the wedding!

 


Bottles of Mattole River will be available exclusively at the Public House starting February 23. Stop in and get yours!