Strange Roots Experimental Ales

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Strange Roots Experimental Ales (previously Draai Laag Brewing) is founded by Dennis Hock and has a production facility located in Gibsonia, PA.

Strange Roots Experimental Ales


Strange Roots exists at the intersection of farmhouse brewing tradition and creative, locally-driven experimentation. They are passionate about celebrating our environment through the use of local ingredients, varying fermentation methods and micro flora, and strive to create unique artisan ales inspired by our surroundings here in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. [1]

The Beers

The list of beers is far too many to keep up with and update on this page. We will rely on Untapped and BeerAdvocate for a listing

Philosophy and FAQ Highlights [2]

These are direct from Strange Roots Experimental Ales Website

What is wild beer?

Wild beer is a type of beer that is typically fermented with yeast, wild yeast (brettanomyces) and bacteria. The bacteria, often found in other foods like cheese, bread, and yogurt, produces acids that give the beer a tart and refreshing flavor profile. Most of our sour beers are aged in oak barrels for an average time of 9-12 months.

What is a coolship (koelschip)?

A coolship (koelschip) is a low lying, open, flat vessel in which beer naturally cools overnight (24-48 hours). During cooling, resident microorganisms (part of our terroir) inoculate the beer to initiate the fermentation. So, when we use our coolship, we don’t add yeast…it all comes from nature.

What is terroir?

Terroir is a term typically used in the wine industry to explain the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate. The specific conditions create characteristic tastes and flavors imparted by the environment in which it is produced. In the sour beer community, terroir is very important because the process is very much like wine making.

Are all their beers aged in oak barrels?

No, but most of them are. We believe that barrel aging is necessary for some beers, but other benefit from extended bottle maturation instead. Any beer aged in barrels is clearly identified on the label and explained in the description. Our barrel aged beers typically age approximately between 9-12 months. That being said, we do have a various barrels beyond 12 months but we don’t begin to taste them until 18 months. We have barrels aging from 18 months up to 4 years.

Specific Techniques and Shared info

This section contains direct and proprietary information from the founder of Strange Roots Experimental Ales, Dennis Hock. Milk the Funk appreciates his openness to sharing process information. It's this type of information and relationships that have made Milk the Funk possible and in turn made the entire craft beer scene more knowledgeable. This information is unedited and direct info from the brewer, breweries, or owners involved.

The Creation of Grand Blu

From Dennis Hock via Email To Ryan Steagall

In fall of 2015, we had a hypothesis concerning Penicillium roqueforti and whether it would influence a beer with a distinctive Blue Cheese funkiness. Initially, we thought it may go through fermentation because it is part of the monophyletic group, ascomycetes (which includes saccharomyces cerevisiae). However, after further investigation we realized most likely any changes to the beer would be primarily enzymatic, followed by molecular conversions which may influence the sensory characteristics.

Regardless, after outlining our goal, we reviewed Blue Cheese production for approximately two months. After speaking to some cheese manufacturers, we realized that the P. Roqueforti is typically added during the curd forming stage. The organism is encapsulated inside the cheese form but won’t develop the distinctive veins unless a microaerophilic environment is achieved. Thus, in Blue Cheese production, the wheels are “needled”.

Needling is when the cheese maker takes a stainless steel rod and pokes small holes inside the wheel, allowing micro-oxygenation, and creating a microaerophilic environment. Over time, the veins begin to grow and the distinctive Blue Cheese characteristics develop.

Our next step was to attempt the same microaerophilic environment as the needled cheese wheel, only using the properties of oak casks. We hypothesized French oak would suffice, considering it’s the tightest grain of oak used in coopering. We thought the tight grain would mitigate/minimize oxidation but allow enough micro-oxygenation that P. Roqueforti would develop.

In 2016, we inoculated a standard base beer in casks with P. Roqueforti. The base beer was mashed at a higher temperature with large quantities of oats and wheat. Our goal was to create a growth medium with the environmental conditions that promote P. Roqueforti development and subsequently residence inside the cask. This base beer was later discarded, as its sole purpose was to nourish the organism and allow the harborage of the population inside the selected casks.

The 2016 Grand Blu, was brewed during our spontaneous fermentation season (Late fall through early spring) when the outside temperature was below 47°F. Although it was inoculated with our Relic strain of yeast, we open fermented the batch for 24 hours. During the open fermentation, any resident micro flora, including acidification bacteria, joined the fermentation festivities. At approximately 5.1°P (1.020 S.G.), we moved the Grand Blu to the P. Roqueforti casks and waited.

The P. Roqueforti development took approximately 2-6 months and it added a distinctive blue/green color to the pellicle. The mycelium grew in various directions, including into the sub surface, and ultimately took over any exposed pellicle resulting from wild yeast and/or bacteria.

After the P. Roqueforti imparted its funkiness (which is subtle but both present aromatically and in the flavor profile), we moved it into steel and added the peaches. The re-fermentation increases the CO2 concentration and inhibits the P. Roqueforti from continuing to develop (at least that’s what we have experienced). When appropriate, we bottle and mature.

Since then, we have relied on using a solera method from those original casks inoculated with P. Roqueforti and blending, before going into steel to ferment with the peaches.

Grand Blu 2019 vintage has not been released, but we are hopeful it will finish maturation sometime in May.

See also:


See Also

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