Brewing is part hard work and part magic.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, we really like making fruit beers.
We’ve used everything from apricots to blackberries to Buddha’s Hand citron in our brews, but every June we go back to one of our favorite ingredients: Cherries.
The timing is no accident. We brew our Cherry Sour especially for the San Leandro Cherry Festival. If you’ve spent much time in San Leandro, however, you’ve probably noticed that it’s not exactly overrun with cherry orchards. So, why a cherry festival?
This celebration is a relic from San Leandro’s early agricultural days, when one of the top crops grown in the city was--wait for it--cherries. 1909 was an especially fruitful (pun definitely intended) year for cherry growers, and the city decided to celebrate with cherry-centric festivities. On June 5, 1909 the very first Cherry Festival was held. 25,000 people flocked to San Leandro from all over the Bay Area, and 15 tons of cherries were given away to festival-goers.
The fest was such a hit that the city did it again over the next couple years. By 1912, there were 75,000 people in attendance.
In the 1950s, the cherry orchards were replaced by neighborhoods and industrial parks to accommodate San Leandro’s growing population and booming manufacturing industry, but the annual Cherry Festival remains as a reminder of San Leandro’s agricultural roots (pun still intended).
We brew the Cherry Sour (not to be confused with our barrel aged Cherry Red) not only as a nod to our hometown fruit festival, but to create a beer that is super refreshing in the summer months. It’s tart, juicy, and fruity, big on flavor but light enough for warm days. Think flavors along the lines of cherry lemonade.
It’s worth noting that it’s very different from a Belgian-style kriek (pronounced “creek”). Sure, both Cherry Sour and typical krieks are sour beers with cherries, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Krieks are traditionally spontaneously fermented (brewers don’t pitch yeast, and instead let the wild yeast and bacteria in the brewery do their thing) and oak aged. Young and old beer is blended to create a light and effervescent, almost champagne-like, brew with characteristic Belgian funk and earthiness.
Cherry Sour, on the other hand, boasts a richer malt bill with caramelly malts. It’s also soured in the kettle instead of a barrel, like goses or Berliner Weisses, for a cleaner type of tartness than found in Belgian sours.
So if Cherry Sour isn't a kriek, what is it? Well... It's delicious, whether or not it neatly fits into a style description.
Yes, we are beer people first and foremost. But let’s talk about cocktails for a minute.
When we were lucky enough to inherit some barrels that previously held 209 Distillery’s gin, it took a little time to decide what we’d fill them with. There was only one beer style that immediately came to mind that matches gin’s junipery flavors, and… well, we made that too (link to Sahti post). But we had six barrels to fill and a hankering to do some experimenting, so we looked to our favorite cocktails for inspiration.
The top of the list was the Aviation.
This cocktail was all but forgotten until recently, thanks to a turbulent (pun definitely intended) history. The Aviation recipe was first published in the last US cocktail book before Prohibition ruined the party. According to Hugo Esslin, head bartender of the Hotel Wallick, a proper Aviation is:
1 ½ oz El Bart gin
¾ oz lemon juice
2 dashes maraschino liqueur
2 dashes creme de violette
We’ve added cherries and citrus to several of our beers, and we made several batches of Hibiscus Saison last summer so adding flowers to beer wasn’t completely uncharted territory for us. So we decided to go for it and brew our own version of an Aviation.
Aviato is a light wheat beer, with lactobacillus added to the gin barrels for the slight, clean tartness. We added the rest of the ingredients over the seven months this beer spent aging--cherries, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and finally, violets.
The finished beer is slightly tart, lemony, botanical, and… Well, a little weird, but in a really good way. While bourbon barrel aged beers tend to be heavy on the whiskey, the gin’s presence is much more subdued, balancing the tart and fruity flavors instead of dominating them. This makes for a delightfully light and drinkable barrel-aged brew.
It's not exactly the same as a cocktail, but it's pretty damn close.
The Bay Area is celebrating its ninth San Francisco Beer Week, with breweries and beer bars from Santa Rosa to San Jose (and everywhere in between) throwing beer-centric celebrations.
For us, this means a full week of events that aim to bring together East Bay beer drinkers with local artists and businesses.
Though we’re typically open Thursdays through Sundays, from February 10th through 19th we’ll open our doors every night of the week and invite guests to try special Beer Week brews and exclusive festivities.
Friday, February 10: Happy Hour, 3pm to 9pm
Couldn’t score tickets for the Opening Gala? Never fear, we’re hosting our weekly Friday Happy Hour from 4pm to 8pm, with some extra special SF Beer Week brew and food combos. Come kick back in our tasting room as we toast the beginning of the beer-iest week in the Bay!
Saturday, February 11: Yeast Affection, 12-9pm
We have yeast affection! We’ve teamed up with the zymurlogical wizards of The Yeast Bay to celebrate these often overlooked organisms and their role in turning sugar water into beer. Try two unique beers fermented with a variety of different yeasts and bacteria, including a brettanomyces-fermented Belgian Golden Strong Ale, and a sour dubbel fermented with a combination of yeast and bacteria cultivated by The Yeast Bay.
Sunday, February 12: Cherry Red Release, 12-8pm
One of our best loved barrel-aged beers is coming back just in time for SF Beer Week—Cherry Red. The 2017 vintage of this Flanders Red-inspired ale is tart with a touch of characteristic Belgian funk, aged in wine barrels with juicy cherries. Try this barrel-aged sour on tap while it’s available, and bring a few wonderfully age-able 750mL bottles home with you for later. And don’t miss special dishes from Canasta Kitchen!
Monday, February 13: John Casey x Cleophus Quealy, 5-9pm
Oakland artist John Casey is taking over our tasting room on Monday, February 13th from 5-9pm with his cadre of complex and whimsical characters, infused with dark magical surrealism. Enjoy some small bites and a pint of our special SF Beer Week releases while taking in Casey’s custom multi-media work. This will be your first chance to get your hands on an exclusive SFBW collaborative tee, designed by Casey just for us.
Tuesday, February 14: Beer + Chocolate Pairings with Dandelion Chocolate, 5-8pm
Dial up the romance during Beer Week as we partner with the chocolatier artisans of Dandelion Chocolate for an intimate evening of expertly crafted beer and chocolate pairings. Learn the ins and outs of chocolate making from one of Dandelion’s expert chocolate makers as they teach the process that brings this confection from bean to bar, and sample fresh chocolates crafted right in San Francisco. Please note that tickets are required and space is limited. Must be 21+ to attend.
Wednesday, February 15: Menagerie of Distinguished Drinkers member event, 6-9pm
We’re celebrating our membership club, The Menagerie of Distinguished Drinkers, with a private event filled with special Beer Week releases and the unveiling of exclusive Menagerie 2017 merchandise. You may only attend this event as a member or the direct guest of a member.
What is the Menagerie of Distinguished Drinkers? Only the finest cadre of tipplers, a community rooted in the principles of good beer, better friends, and exceptional experiences. Membership in this social club includes invites to exclusive events all year long, members-only swag, 10% off your tab until 2018, and good times with fellow Cleophus Quealy devotees over some of the finest libations this side of the Bay. There is still time to join, but spots are limited so don’t hesitate! Find more information at http://www.cleoph.us/membership/.
Thursday, February 16: Kibble & Sips, 3-9pm
To show some love for our four-legged customers, Cleophus Quealy Beer Co. and our neighbors at the East Bay SPCA are joining forces to help homeless pets. On Thursday, February 16th, bring a donation of canned/dry dog or cat food (preferred brands listed here), or any other item on the EBSPCA’s wish list and receive 15% off your beer tab. We’ll match that 15% in the form of a donation to the East Bay SPCA Shelter. Sip some of our Beer Week special releases, like the perfectly tart Cherry Red or experimental Yeast Bay collaboration Belgian Golden Strong Ale while also helping a worthy community cause. Tasty human food will be available from Canasta Kitchen. Dogs, kids, and well-behaved adults are all welcome!
Friday, February 17: Flashback Friday, 3-9pm
We have a few kegs of our most loved beers of 2016 that we’ve been saving for a special occasion, and what could be a more special occasion than beer week? For this very special happy hour, we’re bringing back Batch 24 / Quadrupel, the 2016 vintage of this barrel aged favorite, plus Batch 44 / Dubbel, our Belgian-inspired port barrel aged brew. Canasta Kitchen will be cooking up tasty tacos and tots to go with these vintage brews!
Saturday, February 18: Sour Celebration, 12-9pm
Sour beer lovers, assemble! We’re dedicating a day to our favorite, funkiest brews with a special sour-centric lineup, including our two Beer Week special releases:
Aviato - a delicate tart ale aged in gin barrels with cherries, lemon peel, and lavender to mimic one of our favorite cocktails: the Aviation.
2017 Cherry Red - a wine barrel aged Flanders Red-inspired ale, matured with a healthy amount of juicy cherries
Expect a few more sour surprises to round out our tart taplist. Kick back and sip on special sour flights, paired with culinary creations by our friends at Canasta Kitchen.
Sunday, February 19: Chilaquiles & Chill, 12-8pm
For our final event of SFBW 2017, we’ve invited Zocalo Coffee and Canasta Kitchen to help bring a brunch of epic proportions to the CQ tasting room. Our beloved coffee milk stout, Sweet Henrietta, would not be possible without the Columbian-grown coffee roasted by Zocalo. To celebrate this partnership, we’re offering special flights of beer and coffee and a delectable brunch menu from our friends at Canasta Kitchen. This is a family-friendly, dog-friendly, all around friendly event, so bring the whole gang and wind down after a long week of fabulous beer-centric celebrations.