As a brewer, sometimes there is a beer project you’ve always had on the backburner, but for one reason or another never managed to get round to brewing. Pachamama is certainly one of those beers for me.
In my (rather crude) opinion, there are two main styles of beer which really suit barrel ageing: sour beers and strong stouts. Both of these styles are capable of withstanding the constant micro-oxidation which is part and parcel of the barrel ageing process. Of course, Pachamama doesn’t fit either of the above styles! However I have always thought that if I came up with a brown ale recipe which was robust enough to withstand the barrel ageing process, then we could create something really quite special.
The robust nature would come from a sufficiently high ABV, but also from the malt grist. One of my favourite styles of beer is Vienna Lager - the grist I use for making a Vienna produces a deep ruby chestnut coloured wort. It is packed full of Munich, Cara and Chocolate malts. So, essentially, I supercharged this grist and its proportions, adding a little Brewers Invert No.2 sugar to make a beer around 10% ABV. We fermented it with a blend of two different ale yeast strains to achieve plenty of fruitiness but also the desired level of attenuation, to ensure the beer had the right level of body and sweetness. We also used a significant amount of Goldings hops, balancing the residual sweetness, but not overpowering or upsetting the other aspects of the beer – one of which was several kilos of Orange Blossom honey from the Andalusian region of Spain. This delicious honey is quite mild in flavour, certainly compared with the Italian Chestnut honey we use in Bracia, with a noticeable floral aroma.
Lastly, we sourced some Pedro Ximénez barrels in which to do the ageing. Not only do these barrels give just the right level of wood character, but they also give the beer a significant edge of amazing dessert sherry notes. The barrels themselves are much larger than your average wine or bourbon barrel, which allows the beer to benefit from reduced levels of micro-oxidation. The beer took slightly longer than expected to mature to where we wanted – 9 months in total, so I think the larger size of cask was helpful in this regard.
Overall we’re really pleased with how the beer came out. It’s a really complex but enjoyable beer; not really a barley wine or old ale, but something much more than a strong brown ale! Look for flavours of candied fruits, dark chocolate and sweet floral honey as well as the classic PX raisin character.
Production Director and Head Brewer