There are four primary ingredients in all beer: malts, hops, water and yeast. Some brewers focus on the hops, some build up a very strong malty backbone to their beers. Barreled Souls – a weeks-old brewery in Saco – is all about the yeast.
As their name implies, Barreled Souls uses a unique system that involves barrels – but they are not just used for aging beer. Barreled Souls will be fermenting all of their beer in barrels as opposed to the traditional stainless steel or plastic tanks – and it isn’t to give it a whiskey flavor, but rather to reach back to an old brewing tradition.
The Burton Union System, as it is called, was invented in 1830 and can be very labor intensive compared to modern fermentation methods. The system features racks of barrels containing fermenting beer connected with piping. It’s purpose? To facilitate the harvest of yeast from batch to batch of beer. As the yeast grows and expands, it is forced into tubes that lead to a collection area where the yeast can be harvested later. In addition to saving the money of having to continually order new yeast, only the strongest and “best” yeast makes it out of the system to the next round – ensuring that the quality of the yeast continues to be high from batch to batch.
Unlike the large systems featured in England, Barreled Souls’ system currently consists of two barrels (see right) that can be coupled together with PVC piping, and is used to produce small batches of high quality beer in a variety of styles. In fact, having such a small system allows for a diversity of styles to be presented to customers at once – on their opening day, they were pouring a total of 11 different beers, ranging from deep, rich stouts to pale ales infused with fruits.
Brewery owners Matt Mills and Chris Schofield opened the space in the back of a house-like office suite (743 Portland Rd., Saco) – its sign featuring a barrel for it’s “Open” sign that invites passers-by driving on Route 1 a reason to pull in.
While we’ve seen an increase in the number and size of tasting rooms in Maine (Even D.L. Geary Brewing announced that they will be opening one soon to accommodate tastings), the tasting room at Barreled Souls feels different – and I love it.
When you walk around the back of the building, you walk through the area with the brewing and fermentation equipment, check out a wall of beer bottles from across the globe, and then turn the corner into the tasting room. The pumpkin-colored walls and barrel-stave constructed furnishings immediately make you feel as if you’ve stepped into another world.
There are cribbage boards, seats made out of old barrels, and a bench made out of reclaimed wood. Even the tap handles feature charred and repurposed barrel pieces. Some barrels like the side wall of the room, with more to come. A recently successful Kickstarter campaign will allow them to buy bulk orders of the barrels, which will soon fill the space. Somehow, this collection of barrel-themed furnishings manages not to be cheesy – it just feels comfortable.
There’s even a table-top shuffleboard, which Friday August 15 will be home to its first Shuffleboard tournament – a fundraiser for Benjamin Moore, a beer blogger raising funds to attend a beer writing conference. (For more details check out Barreled Souls Facebook Page).
So I got a little nervous when I was told that they’d be featuring 11 beers on opening day. But I have since had them all, and I can safely say that not a single one had a flaw, seemed rushed, or was anything other than solidly executed.
Some of my favorites:
Half Nelson – What would probably be described as the brewery’s flagship, if they had one, the Half Nelson uses Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zeland. These hops, which are added only during the last stages of brewing and not during the boil, gives the beer some really great aromas and almost a mango-like flavor. 5.1 % ABV
Space Gose – A weird style, Gose (pronounced “goes-uh”) includes the addition of salt to the beer – which adds a nice accent to its tart flavor (kind of the same reason that salt rimmed Margarita’s taste so good). These are hard to do well, and are a relatively rare style, and this one just nails it. Perfectly executed and neither too salty nor too tart. This isn’t one to avoid because it’s a style you don’t know- it’s one you should definitely introduce yourself to. 4.9% ABV
Citrus Pale Ale – Served up with a series of fruit infusions – including a Grapefruit, Orange and even a Kumquat version – this beer has a light backbone that can really let additional flavors play well with it. A great summer beer and just a bit different than what else is out there right now. 6.7 % ABV
Quaker State – This Oatmeal Stout is everything it should be and more. Dark, rich, opaque, and just beautiful in the glass and in balance of flavor. 5.5% ABV.
The other thing that sets Barreled Souls apart is that their tasting room hours aren’t just mid-afternoon 1-2 days per week, but are more bar like, providing a place for people to chat, sample beer and socialize together.
Wed – Thu: 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Fri: 4:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sat: 12:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sun: 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Growlers are coming very soon, but are not available as of this writing. Your best bet is to dry off after a trip to Splash Town USA and show up at their doorstop for samples and some Shuffleboard. The brewery also often invites food trucks to hang out, with food being welcome in the tasting room – always a good thing. So go forth, to Saco, and see what’s being rolled out tonight.